According to goal.com and BBC Radio Manchester (among other sources), Benik Afobe looks set to join Bolton on a season-long loan following some strong pre-season performances. It is known that there have been ongoing talks between Arsenal and Bolton about a loan-move for Afobe, and while the news has not yet been confirmed on the Arsenal website the 19-year-old could join the Trotters as early as tomorrow (in time for Bolton’s friendly against Portsmouth).
Afobe has already had loan spells at Huddersfield Town and Reading, and I was particularly impressed with him during Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Asia. However, the fact remains that there are a number of very talented players ahead of him in the Arsenal squad and that he would probably have found that his first-team opportunities were limited this season had he stayed.
He is apparently yet to make a competitive senior appearance Arsenal, although I do have him down as somebody with a lot of potential who could be a useful squad player in the future. Whether or not he has what it takes to play week-in, week-out in the Premier League remains to be seen. Afobe has struggled in the last year with a groin injury, so the fact that Wenger wants to send him out on loan to have some game-time and gain more experience is understandable.
Bolton have a good track record with Arsenal players in recent years; Jack Wilshere and Ryo Miyaichi both gained invaluable experience while playing under Owen Coyle, and I am sure that Coyle will get the best out of Afobe despite Bolton being relegated to the Championship on the final day of last season.
I will also have news on the transfers of Santi Cazorla and Nuri Sahin later this evening or tomorrow. The Cazorla deal looks to be completed, so we are just waiting for confirmation from the respective clubs. Sahin has been given permission to leave by Mourinho, which could signify a bit step towards him playing in the Premier League.
*Update: Afobe’s loan to Bolton has now been confirmed on the Arsenal website.