Benik Afobe – the best buy of January?

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Despite being offloaded by Arsenal after countless loan spells, Benik Afobe has finally landed himself  in the big time, a move to Premier League newcomers AFC Bournemouth.

The 22 year old striker joined the Gunners in 2001, graduating from the Youth academy at the age of 17 in 2010. He failed to break out of the reserves on many occasions, which saw him shipped out on loan year after year. After brief tenures at Huddersfield, Reading, Bolton, Milwall and Sheffield Wednesday; Afobe’s first noteworthy loan spell came in the 2014-15 season when Milton Keynes Dons expressed their interest in taking him on for the season, and it was safe to say he arrived at the club with a low expectation of succeeding. The youngster hit the ground running and this stint turned out to be the move that kickstarted his career, scoring 19 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions including a stunning brace in the Dons’ shocking 4-0 annihilation of Manchester United in the League Cup second round. 10 of his goals came in the league; a season which saw MK Dons promoted to the Sky Bet Championship for the first time in their history.

Afobe’s short spell ended on the 14th January 2015 when Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers snapped him up on a three-and-a-half year deal for a reported £2 million and he couldn’t have got off to a much better start, scoring on his debut in a 2-0 home win against strugglers Blackpool.  He then went on to take the league by storm scoring an additional 12 goals in just 23 games which saw Wolves narrowly miss out on the play-offs in a steady 7th place finish.

By this stage, Afobe had been performing consistently at a respectable level for the entirety of the 2014-15 season which saw speculation mount over the summer of 2015, being subjected to the likes of Premier League new boys Norwich City.  In response, Wolves issued a statement to say that “neither Benik nor any of Wolves’ first team forward players, will be sold this season.” Despite the rumours off the pitch, the Wolves striker picked up where he left off netting on the opening day of the 2015-16 campaign in a 2-1 away win at Blackburn Rovers and proceeded to score nine league goals for his side before the turn of the year.

But, at this stage of the January transfer window, Afobe’s name had been knocking on the Premier League door for a while now and the persistence from the clubs had finally paid off. AFC Bournemouth where the ones to prevail when Afobe joined the Cherries on a four-and-a-half year deal for an undisclosed fee reported to be a club record £10 million.

Coming to a club fighting to survive in the big time, who are struggling with injuries and you have a hefty price tag to carry on your shoulders, all the odds were stacked against Afobe. Stepping out onto the Vitality stadium pitch for the first time, making his debut in a 3-1 defeat to West Ham, Afobe was unable to find the net but attracted special praise from his manager Eddie Howe; who after the game said: “I thought Benik did well and worked extremely hard, he had a couple of really good openings and it is great to see strikers be on the end of chances.”

Just one week later Afobe broke his Premier League duct in a comfortable 3-0 home win against fellow BPL newcomers Norwich City and the following week found the net for the second consecutive game against strugglers Sunderland.

Branded a Callum Wilson 2.0, he’s strong, pacey and has a clinical eye for goal. In a recent interview, the keen and eager striker stated he would like to emulate the form of Jamie Vardy and Odion Ighalo, believing that he “has the tools to be a top player.” Can he make his mark in the top tier of English football? Despite the heavy price tag for a player who has never played in the Premier League, I believe his peak has arrived at the perfect time and, in years to come, £10 million will be an absolute steal, easily one of the sensational buys of this January transfer window.

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