Benik Afobe has got off to a lightening start in the 2015/16 season, scoring three goals in Wolves’ opening six games.
As a result of his form, the 22-year-old has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs including the likes of Newcastle and Norwich, despite only signing a permanent contract with Wolves in January. The ex-Arsenal striker has been valued at £14 million by Wanderers due to his prolific goalscoring record and, after grabbing the headlines consistently for weeks, could well earn himself an England call-up before the year is out.
Afobe was just six years of age when he got spotted playing for a Sunday league team in Dagenham by Arsenal scout Gary Nott. He spent nine years in the academy and produced some impressive displays during this period. After scoring 40 times for the under-16s in the 2007/08 season and subsequently netting 21 goals in 24 appearances for the under-18s two years later, he was named as The Gunners’ young player of the season for 2009/10.
During this time in Arsenal’s academy, the six-foot striker got international recognition in several forms. Afobe captained England under-12s at the Junior World Cup in 2005, scored four goals in three matches as the under-16s won the Victory Shield and was a part of The Three Lions’ under-17 squad that won the 2010 UEFA European Championship. He ended up scoring 11 goals for this age group and continued his form for the under-19s where, after just 10 appearances, he netted seven times.
After earning himself a professional contract with Arsenal in the February of 2010, he got loaned out to Huddersfield for experience later that year, despite reportedly being targeted by Barcelona. The striker scored his first goals in senior football after netting twice as The Terries beat Rotherham 5-2 in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. From here he got a run in the team, picking up four man-of-the-match performances in a row, and helping the League One side go unbeaten for 24 games.
Since his time at Huddersfield came to an end, Afobe has spent the majority of his career on loan after failing to break into several strong Arsenal line-ups. He’s made an impact at clubs such as Bolton, Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, where he scored 10 goals before earning himself a permanent deal at Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier this year. The centre-forward scored three days after signing the deal and also netted the opening goal of the 2015/16 season for the club.
So what’s next for the youngster? There is no doubt that Afobe has proved himself in the lower divisions, however in order to make the next step he must do so in the Premier League. It would appear that the opportunity to do so isn’t far away, particularly if he continues to perform as he has been. Furthermore, there is only so much longer that Roy Hodgson can ignore the statistics, especially as the choice of English strikers isn’t too broad, so as the season goes on, it’ll be interesting to track Afobe’s progress.