It was one of the more bizarre statistics relating to any Arsenal player. Going into this season, Chuba Akpom was yet to score a goal in senior football, despite having amassed over 20 appearances during his loan spells at Brentford, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest, as well as his fleeting outings at senior level for the Gunners.
Akpom broke that duck in emphatic style by commencing his latest loan spell, with Championship side Hull City, by scoring on his debut against Huddersfield Town.
Since then, however, the striker has found the net just twice more for his temporary side, suggesting that there is still some way to go before he can lay a genuine claim to being Arsenal future centre-forward.
Akpom has long been earmarked as a potential star at Arsenal. He was a regular in the U21s at the age of 16 and has been called up by Arsene Wenger for the first-team on several occasions.
Now aged 20, however, it is time for the forward to really make substantial strides in his career. His lack of goals aside, there have been some encouraging signs during his time with Hull. Akpom’s lively presence has seen him cause numerous problems for opposition defenders, whilst he has also created several chances for his team-mates.
Akpom has also been progressing on the international scene, with the forward having recently broken in the England U21 squad, having previously represented his country at various other age groups.
Akpom’s potential prompted Arsenal to award the forward a new long-term deal running until 2019, but that is by no means a guarantee that he will still be with the Gunners by then. Progressing as a striker from Arsenal’s youth sides to the first-team is an incredibly difficult task, whilst the club’s increased financial resources for transfers means that there is now a greater chance that Arsenal will sign an elite striker in the future.
Akpom has worked tremendously hard to get to this point, but the most difficult stage of his development is fast approaching. It seems certain that he will go on to have a prolonged career at a relatively high level, but whether it will be with Arsenal remains to be seen.
He is officially part of Arsenal’s first-team squad, and will return to the club next summer eager to prove himself in the first-team. A strong second half of the campaign with Hull, however, would boost his credentials in that regard, whilst it is also up to Akpom himself to prove that he can find the net with regularity in senior football.
There is a possibility that if Hull achieve their aim of gaining promotion back to the Premier League (they are currently top of the Championship) then Akpom could remain with Steve Bruce’s side for a further season in order to test himself fully in the top flight.
Akpom’s progress up until this point has been very quick, but now it is up to the striker to prove that he is capable of making the grade at Arsenal in the long-term.