Miyaichi and Afobe the (lack of) story so far

WTTGT Writer: Matt Mace

With the entirety of last summer frantically spent on the impending transfers and replacements of crucial midfield duo Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas; many fans and pundits alike failed to note the prominent rise of youngsters Ryo Miyaichi and Benik Afobe during pre-season. Those who did take notice of the two extremely exciting talents may have been forgiven for their optimism as to the impact that they could have on the Arsenal first team. Yet as we approach December we have seen very little of these potential superstars.

Having been granted a work permit in this country on the grounds of him being an “exceptional talent” Miyachi was included in the 23-man squad to play Udinese in the Champions League qualifying matches but was unused over the two legs. In fact the Japanese speedster has mainly been used in the reserves. His only notable achievement with that team was his 83rd minute strike against Wigan. However Miyaichi has been given a taste of first team action, in the manner that many young players are opened up to the first team under Wenger, the League Cup. He came on as a 71st minute substitute replacing South Korean striker Park Chu-Young.  He made his second senior appearance in the same competition replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 2-1 over Bolton. Unfortunately for Miyaichi, he was injured in a recent reserve’s match against Fulham on the 7th November and is currently ruled out for up to 6 weeks.

Afobe, another teenager with a lot of promise has also found first team outings hard to come by. Despite impressing on loan and promotion chasers Huddersfield last year the England U20 international has yet to feature in Arsene Wenger’s first team plans. Overall the centre-forward has played 6 times for the reserve team failing to score. But as Afobe proved during his loan spell he can be a handful in the wide positions as well as down the middle.

So why have these two exciting teenagers failed to make inroads this season?

My belief is that it is simply down to other players finding form. In Miyaichi’s case he finds himself behind the likes of a rejuvenated Theo Walcott, the impressive Gervinho a promising Oxlade-Cahmberlain and the cultured yet frustrating Arshavin, all of whom are capable of making a big impact on a game compared to the still raw talents of Miyaichi.

Looking at Arsenal’s current squad I’m actually surprised that Afobe hasn’t seen any game time. Despite the red hot form of van Persie, Arsenal’s other striking options Chamakh and Park Chu-Young have been peripheral figures in comparison. I’m therefore intrigued as to why Afobe hasn’t at least been given a few substitute appearances. But in Wenger I trust.   

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