The sacking of Unai Emery could be a blessing for Nigerian youngsters plying their trade at Arsenal football club. Arsenal has had a reputation of nurturing young Nigerian players at their Hale End Academy to first team materials, and that trend is unlikely to end anytime soon.
The likes of Alex Iwobi, Semi Ajayi and Chuba Akpom are some of the illustrious names that have gone on to do big things after starring for the club’s youth sides.
With the departure of head coach Emery and the installation of caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg who has worked with the youth teams, it is expected that the former Arsenal midfielder will bank on some of the starlets to he has closely worked with to make it into the senior team.
Prominent among these Nigerian youngsters who could become regular first teamers are the likes of Tolaji Bola, Joseph Olowu, Folarin Balogun, James Olayinka and Arthur Okonkwo.
Ljungberg is more a mentor to these starlets. He will want to take these players under his arms as he knows what it means to them to make senior debuts at the Emirates Stadium.
Moreover, most of them do take him as a role model due to the legendary status he carved out for himself at the club during his playing days.
He has first-hand knowledge of their capabilities. The Swede started out his managerial career with the club’s U-15s in July 2016 and was serving as the reserves manager up until he joined the senior backroom staff.
Having observed at close quarters these young players during his time in the academy, he knows best what they can produce and when to unleash them.
It will be a big achievement on his side to produce a young player who goes on to become an integral part of the team. Despite Emery’s shortcomings and stiff-necked approach to managerial tactics, one of the unhidden successes of the Spaniard’s tenure was the production of youngsters the likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson who have all established themselves as important figures in the senior team.
Ljungberg will attempt to take a leaf out of his books and make his mark in that regard, and it will be one or two of these Nigerians who benefits from it and breaks through the ranks next.