Chuba Akpom has revealed how a conversation with Unai Emery convinced him to move on to PAOK last summer, even though he’s still an Arsenal fan who watches every game.
As it stands, Akpom is playing in a PAOK side headed for the Greek Super League title, and they’re even on course for an unbeaten season. After slowly working his way into the team, the striker has managed eight goal contributions in 17 appearances (11 starts) and won the local fans over with a key goal and assist against title rivals Olympiacos.
Speaking to the BBC, Akpom explained how he came to the decision to leave Arsenal and take a chance in Greece.
“I spoke to Unai Emery,” Akpom recalled. “He just said that there’s a lot of strikers and it would be hard for him to give me game time, which I respected. You have to remember I’m an Arsenal fan, I’d spent most of my life at the club, I watch all their matches on television out here. Of course, it was hard to leave, but I needed first-team football.”
Another player who left Arsenal last summer, Lucas Perez, helped convince Akpom that PAOK was a good place to be. The Spaniard spent a season with the Greek club in 2013/14 before joining Deportivo.
“I did my research before I joined. Lucas Perez said that I wouldn’t want to leave PAOK if I signed. Thessaloniki is a beautiful city by the sea, the people are friendly, the climate is nice and, when I’m not training, I’m sometimes able to go to nearby beaches.”
As for whether he’d be keen on the chance to face up against Arsenal in the future, Akpom admitted that would be a dream.
“I’d love that,” he said. “It would be a dream to play at Emirates Stadium again.”
PAOK have already qualified for the Champions League second qualifying round next season, so if Arsenal can qualify for the competition as well, Akpom could well get his wish.