Arsenal Twitter was abuzz with the club’s attempt to sign their next great striker. The new hot rumor is that Kylian Mbappe has been offered £87m to leave Monaco, an enormous sum for a massively talented player. However, while the press’s focus on the man Arsenal want, they are overlooking the man Arsenal have who could be a key to long-term future success for the Gunners.
The club agreed a fee for Henry Onyekuru this week, for a fraction of what Mbappe may receive from his future club. When it was announced, many fans either questioned who this player was or if Arsenal was returning to its spendthrift ways signing young players for the future. You can understand the reaction based on a skim of the Nigerian’s resume. Onyekuru played this season for Eupen in the Jupiler Pro League, aka Belgian first division. They were promoted the year prior and finished in the lower half of the table, but Onyekuru made them relevant by leading the league in scoring. Granted, the Jupiler League is not the world’s greatest league or most talented, but 24 goals and nine assists resonates in any league.
Read further and the Nigerian’s resume is perfect for Arsenal. His favourite footballer is Thierry Henry, who is he is named for. He’s a smaller player (5’9”) and relies on his speed and skill to create space with defenders. His game is a mix of the original Henry’s with some of Alexis Sanchez’s ability to break down defenders despite his stature, according to press reports. The player Arsenal is getting is raw but over the past twelve months has gained first league and international experience. He is coming into a club that may have a vacancy for a young player in the starting rotation, either up top or as an advanced wide player to replace Alexis Sanchez.
The FA Cup showed that Arsene can still take an undervalued young player and place him in a position to succeed (hello Rob Holding!). Yet Gooners are always wary that a young attacking player can turn into the next Joel Campbell. You may remember the Costa Rican, who is still on the Arsenal books but featured this season for Sporting Clube de Portugal. Despite being a key cog for his national team, Campbell by the year looks less and less likely to play a key role in Arsenal’s future despite the aforementioned need at his position.
The new Henry could one day fall into this trap that so many young Arsenal signings have. And yet he is a little too perfect in my view. Between the name and the story which sounds like the story of Arsene’s greatest signings, I think we will look back on this signing as one of Arsene’s best in the latter part of his career.