3 Things to Know About Arsenal Midfielder Chuks Aneke
He will be pleased with his injury-time winner in Arsenal's 2-1 exhibition win over Malaysian XI on Tuesday, a superb bit of opportunism that may just mark midfielder Chuks Aneke's march toward first-team football.
Having come on as a halftime substitute, as Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes—after all, this was an exhibition—Aneke made sure to make his mark before the final whistle had gone.
And for a club that has long been derided for a perceived desire to walk the ball into the net, thus favoring perfection over simple production, to see a youngster engage in some good old-fashioned speculative shooting was quite refreshing.
Just 19 (he celebrated his birthday on July 3), Aneke already has the physical ability to impose himself upon matches.
With the number of talented holding midfield players Arsenal have at the moment, Aneke might find it difficult to crack the first team outside of certain cup competitions, but it will be fun to keep tabs on his development.
He's an Arsenal Lad
Aneke has been at Arsenal since 2001 and signed his first professional contract with the club in 2011.
An English citizen of Nigerian descent, the midfielder is part of the Gunners' generation that includes the likes of Benik Afobe, Nico Yennaris and Sead Hajrovic.
He grew up watching one of his heroes, former Arsenal midfielder and captain Patrick Vieira, back in the first portions of the last decade, and it's probably fair to say that his game resembles the Frenchman's at the height of his powers.
The French connection doesn't stop there for Aneke, either.
As he's said before, Aneke grew up worshiping former Paris Saint-Germain and Newcastle United (we'll leave out his professional career stop from 1997 to 2000 for, uh, obvious reasons) winger David Ginola.
Perhaps watching the pacy Frenchman, who had a sublime nose for goal as well as some simply sensational technical ability (YouTube some of his volleys), helped ingrain Aneke's desire to "score plenty of goals and run past players"—aspects of play he thoroughly enjoyed while playing with clubs prior to joining Arsenal.
But Aneke's always had his eyes fixed firmly ahead of him, and he lists playing in a match at Wembley as his dream occasion.
Should he do so with Arsenal, it would likely mean that the Gunners would either earn the chance at silverware in the league or FA Cup finals or earn a trophy in the latter competition or in the league itself.
(August's Community Shield, which pits the previous season's FA Cup and Premier League champions against each other, is played at Wembley.)
Information taken from a Q & A with Aneke from Arsenal's official website.
He Has a Nose for the Back of the Net
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No stranger to the game-winner, Aneke found the back of the net in a July 2011 friendly reserves, with a 1-0 win against Stevenage.
He scored just six minutes from time in that encounter, but it was perhaps the buildup to the goal that cemented his promise as a future Arsenal player.
A neat one-two passing movement with Henri Lansbury sent Aneke into a pocket of space, whereupon he was able to lash a drive into the back of the net for the decisive goal.
His finishing prowess is unmistakable—he nabbed six goals in just 10 matches with the reserves last fall—but it is his power and technical ability in midfield that surely will have Arsene Wenger relishing his future prospects at the club.
We saw that power and ability to make something out of nothing once more against the Malaysian XI. Good omens, to be sure.
He's Drawn Praise Everywhere He's Played
Aneke spent three months on loan with Stevenage last season, before returning to Arsenal for a brief spell and then making a subsequent loan move to Preston North End.
The Englishman raved about his experiences to Arsenal's official website, saying that it gave him the opportunity "to see another side of football that I didn't really know."
Aneke said the move to Broadhall Way (Stevenage's home ground) in particular helped him prepare for matches in a more professional manner, and the different style of play he encountered in League One play helped him become a better player.
He certainly made an impression on Stevenage manager Graham Westley, who, last December, praised Aneke's contribution to his side.
But it was an audacious 40-yard lob of Preston North End keeper Thomas Stuckmann, which ended up bouncing just wide of goal (Westley called it "Beckham-esque"), that cemented Aneke's undeniable quality and ability to show spontaneity on the pitch—calling cards of the greats.
"Chuks has got qualities he’s begun to show this afternoon," Westley waxed after the Preston match.
"We’ve seen him on the training ground, he’s starting to find his feet. The pace of the (League One) game is significantly higher than the football he’s been playing in the Premier League reserve team.
"But he’s a high quality player, he’s a fantastic asset and he’s going to be some player in the future."
Wenger obviously concurs with that glowing appraisal, having compared Aneke to Yaya Toure in the past.
A powerful, dynamic midfielder with a penchant for finding the back of the net. Arsenal will surely be looking to incorporate Aneke in the near future.