Nowadays you see a lot of complaints about young footballers and their lifestyles.
You see just as many complaints about not so young footballers, but at least they’ve made it. What people really seem to get wound up by is guys like Jack Grealish, who act out before they’ve ever really accomplished anything.
This weekend sees Arsenal come up against Benik Afobe, who used to be with the club. He was even on our books just over a year ago but, after injuries and various loans stopped him from progressing at the same rate as youth team-mate Jack Wilshere, we let him go. Now back in the Premier League after all his hard work, Afobe will come up against Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud on Sunday, and the Frenchman knows exactly what it’s been like for the 23-year-old.
“When you come from a lower league, you build mental abilities,” Giroud said. “For me it was necessary because I was young and played for Grenoble with three strikers who were older than me, with more experience.”
“You know where you come from so after you might be more ready to face difficulties at the highest level.
“It helps you to become stronger when you have to face these difficulties in the future, especially at the highest level. It depends on the player. Obviously it’s easier to go through an academy and then sign professionally at 18 or 19 years old but each player is different.”
Giroud didn’t play in France’s top flight until he was 24, when Montpellier gave him his chance. In his second season at the club he was the top scorer in Ligue 1, repaying Montpellier’s faith with a league title and earning a move to Arsenal.
This season the Premier League has seen late bloomers like Jamie Vardy and Odion Ighalo shine, and Afobe could be next and Arsenal will have to be wary of the new Bournemouth signing on Sunday.
“You need to get more experience and more time on the pitch, it’s very important when you are younger to improve yourself. Benik has done that in the past and now he is ready to play in the Premier League. He’s showing that he’s got the quality to score goals, so it’s nice for him.
“Since he’s joined Bournemouth, he’s scored in almost all of the games that he’s played so he’s a big threat. We need to keep an eye on him, definitely.”