Benik Afobe netted an hugely impressive 19 goals on loan at MK Dons this season before being sold permanently to Championship club Wolves.
With 11 goals in his 17 appearances he is now firing Wolves towards the Premier League.
Afobe suffered a number of injuries in his teenage years, hindering his development at Arsenal, and he doesn’t think the club dealt with that in the best possible way.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have gone on some of the loans. Not because I wasn’t good enough, but more for the fact that they’re about getting you ready and improving your game. When I was injured I went straight back out on loan right after, when I probably should have stayed and played reserve football.
“The loan has to suit a player and it has to come at the right time in their career, but I do believe they help a lot of young English players.”
Of the current Arsenal squad, Jack Wilshere enjoyed a successful loan spell at Bolton before his breakthrough season, while Héctor Bellerín impressed in his eight Watford appearances in early 2014. Aaron Ramsey was also loaned out after suffering a broken leg in 2010, but failed to recapture his form at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City.
Afobe is another who, ultimately, seems to have benefited hugely from regular football at a time when he wouldn’t have got it at Arsenal.
“The majority of my career has been spent on loan, so I learned so much during these spells away from Arsenal. I don’t see any of them as failures, but learning curves.”
Afobe jokingly nodded towards former Arsenal players who fans certainly aren’t fond of when asked who was the best player he played with under Arsène Wenger.
“I looked up to Thierry Henry and Ronaldo. In terms of Arsenal and the players I played alongside, probably Robin van Persie. I’ve been lucky enough to play with some unbelievable players – Santi Cazorla, Cesc Fabregas, Alex Song. Even Samir Nasri, though I don’t think many Arsenal fans will want me to say that!”
In the youth team at Arsenal Afobe helped win the Premier Academy League, and was named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament when he led the line during England’s successful European u17 campaign in 2010.
Maybe we haven’t seen the last of Afobe in North London. Questioned if he could see himself playing for Arsenal again one day, he was non-committal.
“You never know. I’ve seen interviews of players saying they would never go back to this team or that team, but I don’t like to wish anything on my future.”
Whether or not it’s with Arsenal we may yet see Afobe in the Premier League soon enough.
He has already enjoyed a cameo loan spell at Reading when they were promoted in 2012, and his form this year has helped Wolves to eight in the Championship – only goal difference is keeping them from the play-offs right now.