Arsenal Loan Watch: Benik Afobe Scores Hat-Trick in Bolton Wanderers Debut
Coming on as a halftime substitute in Bolton's penultimate preseason friendly on Tuesday night against Tranmere Rovers, Afobe scored all the goals in a convincing 3-1 victory.
Much of the pre-match hubbub had concerned Bolton's brand-new, shale-grey third kit, which they would be debuting at Preston Park. But attention quickly turned to their new No. 17.
Manager Owen Coyle told the club's official website that he was "pleased" to have striker Marvin Sordell back from the Olympics, where he'd featured for Team Great Britain.
But the man who presided over Arsenal youngster Ryo Miyaichi's impressive loan spell during the second half of last season praised the newest Gunner to filter into his ranks.
"Benik showed that not only is he lightning quick, but that he has great skill and has an eye for goal," Coyle said after the game.
Afobe had replaced Sordell at the halftime whistle and broke open a 0-0 deadlock by scoring all three of his goals within a span of 20 minutes, according to the official site's match report.
The hat trick, which comprised of an "instinctive first-time effort, a powerful header and a clinical low shot from the edge of the area," was but a taste of Afobe's rapidly-developing attacking prowess, not to mention a clear indicator that he is on the right track to becoming a complete striker.
It was the latest impressive outing in what has been a terrific summer for the English teenager.
He scored two goals in three matches for the England U-19s at the European Championships, helping lead the Three Lions to the semifinals where they lost to Greece in extra time.
Just days after returning to London from Estonia, where the championships had been held, Afobe was on the Arsenal chartered plane for the preseason Asia Tour, where he appeared as a substitute in all three games: against Malaysian XI, Manchester City and Kitchee FC, respectively.
Though he did not find the back of the net during the Tour, Afobe was praised for his incisive movement and dangerous runs.
On Tuesday, Afobe's predatory instincts took center stage, seen perfectly in his opportunistic first goal when he pounced upon a mistake in the Tranmere penalty area and smashed a shot into the roof of the net.
Coupled with his header, which came from a free kick, and his final goal, which finished off a neat lay-off from teammate Kevin Davies, Afobe had every reason to be pleased with his production.
With Coyle having said that he wants competitions for places in the attacking ranks, Afobe's performance will have put him in very good stead.
He is certainly no stranger to Championship football, having featured three times for Reading last season—including the match that secured promotion for the Royals ahead of this Premiership season (Afobe has also spent time in League One with Huddersfield).
Afobe has called achieving promotion at Reading "one of the best moments" of his burgeoning career and is keen on helping Bolton accomplish that feat this season.
During a meeting with Afobe ahead of the move to the north of England, Wenger voiced his desire that the youngster benefit from the opportunity of playing week-in and week-out.
Though it is the first time he has ever lived on his own—Bolton is a far cry from his native London—Afobe is relishing the opportunity.
He calls his new home "the right place to be at this stage of his career."
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