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    • #5776
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      By Abayomi Kalejaye

      The crowd roared on and on with ecstasy, interspersed with surprise, as a rangy Nigerian lad delighted the spectators with a performance that resonated with vapours of glory and a paradigm of execution.

      A relatively unknown Kelechi Iheanacho, a midfielder by trade, had the Mexican U17 goalkeeper wishing he had been on the substitute’s bench instead after conceding four well taken goals from the Nigerian lad. That match against Mexico in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup effectively served as the launch pad for a promising career that saw Manchester City emerge as the victorious suitor.

      After impressing in the preseason, Pellegrini elected to give Iheanacho a place in the senior team as well as opting against signing another striker, thus leaving him as the second back up striker. As the season panned out, the most starry-eyed fan could not have foreseen such a productive season Iheanacho has had.


      A 14 goals return (across all competitions) for a third choice striker can certainly be classified to be absolutely impressive. Taking to cognizance that he has racked up that figure in lesser minutes compared to his colleagues, the potential impact he can make with more minutes certainly makes for an exciting prospect. Interestingly, he finished with the best goals-to-minutes ratio in the Premier League, ahead of Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy. The EPL Goals To Minute Ratio reads: Iheanacho – 93.88, Aguero – 98.88, Sturridge – 122.38, Vardy – 130.79.

      The 19-year-old clocked up 752 minutes of game time in the Premier League, scoring a goal every 93.88 minutes, making him the deadliest striker in the English topflight, ahead of teammate Aguero.
      More so, for a player of his age producing such tangible output -despite being a midfielder by trade – in his first season, there can be no doubt that he has indeed excelled above his compatriots.

      Another pointedly upside component of his game is the enthusiasm exhibited in involving himself ubiquitously in the crucial moments of play, as well as striking a nifty link up play with his team mates – a factor that influenced the oft static Wilfried Bony to be supplanted by the promising Nigerian.

      Quite admirably as well, he has successfully shown a great deal of consistency in the minutes afforded him. Barring few games where he was relatively anonymous, he didn’t endure a large spell of drought in goals and form.


      For every goal, came increased worth, and more encomiums. Then more attention. But, more criminally, Iheanacho's play became slightly individualistic. Applaudable as his ambition may be, ignoring better placed team mates for goal-scoring opportunities (and botching them in the process) can only engender a counterproductive effect for his career.

      Further, his resolve to elect for an individualistic style of celebration has often not gone down well with his team mates, especially the ones who did all the hard work to provide him with an assist. The fact that established players who are naturally world-beaters in their position are compelled to chase an emerging talent for every goal scored not only evince a lack of deference and disregard for players of their status, but also portrays an egoistic impression of his personality.  When Arsenal legend Thierry Henry questioned the togetherness within the Manchester City squad by pointing out the lack of a celebration after Kelechi Iheanacho's equalising goal against Tottenham, he was pretty much stating what most people were already suspecting to be a gradual ostracization of the Imo-born lad. “I know you have to go and get the ball back [to ensure a quick restart with the score level at 1-1 at the time] but no one went to celebrate with Iheanacho,” Henry told Sky Sports.

      “That's something that, I don't know… you scored a goal, go and celebrate with the guy. 'Let's go, get the ball back'. No one went to celebrate with him. He was in the corner there.

      “I think Vincent Kompany went with him and someone else but that's it. Maybe I'm reading too much between the lines about that Man City team, but no one went to celebrate with him, that's a bit weird.”


      With the entrance of a demanding coach like Guardiola, Iheanacho doesn't have any choice but to prove all over again his worth to a new coach. There is a curious phenomenon that strikingly pervades the world of football. There has existed instances where certain players performed underwhelmingly for a particular manager but put up a positively different performance for another manager – and vice versa.

      While Guardiola may deploy a different formation and personnel to carry out his tactical plan, it's incumbent on Iheanacho to force his way into that plan.

      On a less significant note, he may perhaps have to revisit and rejig his celebration style in a way that it would not appear as a slight to his colleagues who toil to provide him with an assist. If the likes of Messi, Neymar, Aguero, etc, see reason to acknowledge their team mates, how much less him?

      Despite reservations and pessimism from observers on his move to the Etihad stadium, Iheanacho is gradually forging a promising reputation for himself. And only him can ensure it remains aglow.

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