Kelechi Nwakali has been getting rave reviews in the Dutch league.
Eighteen-year-old Kelechi Nwakali was signed by Arsenal in the summer from Diamond Football Academy in Nigeria before being loaned out to Dutch side, MVV Maastricht.
Nwakali comes with some pedigree and hype following a starring performance in the 2015 U-17 World Cup, where he captained Nigeria to the title, winning the Golden Ball in the process.
A move to the Netherlands was seen as the ideal fit for Nwakali due to work permit regulations and the proviso that he would get first-team football in a competitive league.
Maastricht, a team who Arsenal also loaned defender Stefan O’Connor to, haven’t been in the top league of the Netherlands since 2000 and were eager to snatch a player the calibre of Nwakali to assist in their push for promotion.
Nwakali plays with a languid style that belies his endeavour and ability. It took a couple of months before he fully embedded himself into Maastricht’s team but now serves as a focal point, floating in off the right, and adds a grace to the team it would otherwise lack.
Not one to typically break beyond the attack, he trails the play and has the ability to beat a player and release the ball quickly, opening up space for his fellow attackers.
His ability to step up his speed of play has led to him winning several penalties over the last few months and was evident in the – sole – goal he has scored, against FC De Graafschap.
There, he ended up the lead point of a counter attack but didn’t panic where other young players might, instead turning the last defender in and out before deftly finishing through the goalkeeper’s legs.
This goal is indicative of the type of player Nwakali is, a youngster with great ability but also a confidence and composure that allows him to influence a game in flashes.
He has been utilised in a few different positions by manager Ron Elsen, who has looked to bring the promise of the flashes of brilliance into a more consistent player.
Maastricht, a team built around combative centre forward Thomas Verheydt, have flipped between a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 depending on the game circumstance and despite a few appearances centrally, it is generally on the right where Nwakali has flourished.
Given the remit to float into the space between the lines, he has shown the ability to quickly turn a game.Now a first-choice player for a team that currently lies third in the Eerste Divisie, Nwakali has built a solid foundation for his first professional season and will look to continue to find consistency as he looks to help his team gain promotion.
As one of the youngest players in the league, he has already taken great strides to a potentially bright future, both in Holland and for Arsenal.
•Culled from www.football.london/arsenal-fc.