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James Olayinka: Meet Nigeria’s next star at Arsenal

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By Toby Prince

A young Arsenal side beat Colorado Rapids 3-0 in Denver in the first match of the club’s pre-season tour of the US.

In what was effectively a U23 side Unai Emery’s young guns eased past the Rapids with goals from Bukayo Saka, James Olayinka and new signing Gabriel Martinelli.

It was instructive during the match to see a number of promising young Gunners play with composure and maturity, albeit against a side that was nowhere near Premier League level

Being an Arsenal fan isn’t as much fun as it should be at the moment. With concerns about meagre transfer budgets and absentee owners, it is easy to forget just why we all love football.

Yet one look at Olayinka’s face after he scored against the Rapids reminds you of the joy the beautiful game can provide.

Olayinka’s goal means he is an overnight sensation – albeit one that Gunners fans will know took 12 years to reach this point, having been with the north Londoners since the age of six.

Having started at Hale End as a winger, after being spotted by Arsenal scout Steve Higgins when he was seven, he was then pushed back into midfield. His technical ability is good, while his temperament is excellent – all of which means there can’t be a single Arsenal fan on the planet who would have begrudged his success in Denver.

He describes himself as a box-to-box midfielder with stamina and determination, but he is also a craftsman, as witnessed by his excellent top corner effort in Denver.

While possessing vision and creativity he is also adept at interceptions, with a feature of his play at U23 level being his excellent anticipation in the tackle.

What is striking about the talented teen is that he is learning all the time, having impressed observers at U23 games by cutting out errors that had been a part of his performances at U18.

A big season beckons for the youngster, even if there is a two-word caveat: Gedion Zelalem, another who excelled on a first-team pre-season tour but failed to kick on.

However, there is plenty of time for Olayinka to continue his upward trajectory, but for now, he should simply enjoy his moment of delight.

After a troublesome summer head coach, Emery certainly will, for a few hours at least.

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Support our journalism with a contribution of any size

Nigeria's media space is swamped with falsehood, deceit and delusion. Just a handful abides by the truth. TheNigerian is one of the unique platforms helping to shape the global narrative about Nigeria and her citizens across the world. It's quite costly to maintain this brand of journalism, however.

Readers from around the world, like you, make TheNigerian's work possible. We need your support to deliver quality, investigative journalism – and to keep it open for everyone. At a time when factual, honest reporting is critical, your support is essential in protecting our editorial independence. Every contribution, however big or small, is so valuable for our future.

Our brand of professional citizens' journalism requires a contribution from members of the public, patronage and sponsorship to thrive. We rely on this financial support to be able to carry out our numerous obligations of training, running cost, production, printing and general services. We also embark on Corporate Social Responsibilities through educational programs on our TV, newspaper and blogs.

Make a token donation to support us:
Account Name: Patriot and Sage Digital Communication Ltd
Account No: 1015619537
Bank Name: Zenith Bank

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