Gbenga Arokoyo – Raw Defensive Talent Deserving Super Eagles Trial


Can Shaibu Amodu consider the former Flying Eagles central defender as answer for the shambolic backline of the Super Eagles after the long exit of Joseph Yobo?

With news filtering in that the Nigeria Football Federation may have considered the former Super Eagles coach to return on interim capacity for the two international friendly games against Mali and Luxemborg on May 25 and June 1.

It’s necessary for Coach Shaibu Amodu ahead of its rescue mission to be reminded about the major factors that cost Coach Samson Siasia the back-to-back Afcon ticket. The unsolved problems in the defence were one of the many issues in the Nigeria team that fueled his exit.

Since former Nigeria skipper Joseph Yobo passed on the baton, a perfect replacement is still amiss. The former Everton defender became the first Nigerian player to reach the 100 games milestone. He had six appearances at AFCON. And also played most World Cup games [11] for Nigeria surpassing Austin Jay Jay Okocha’s 10 at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Ending his international career on a disastrous note as his own goal aided France to 2-0 victory nailed the exit of the African Champions from the Mundial after reaching the last 16.

Former Sunshine Stars & Turkey-based defender Godfrey Oboabona gained prominence in the role with no competition invited some concerns over Keshi’s preference.

However, the need for another fitting quality in the backline came to fore. The exploit of former youth international, who formed a defensive partnership with Chelsea on-loan Middlesbrough defender Kenneth Omeruo has caught be face of many football followers. He is Gbenga Arokoyo, who currently players for Turkish club Gaziantepspor and hails from Kogi State.

The uncapped star guided his national team career under Coach John Obuh in the Flying Eagles and showcased himself at the South Africa 2011 African Youth Championship, where Nigeria emerged Champions.

With Amodu having a good taste for result-oriented quality, the desire for burden talented defenders arises as he prosecute the last two of the Afcon 2015 qualifying games.

The Eagles’ rear security bars have been broken ten times in their last six matches, despite conceding less at the World Cup failed to sustain the tempo since Yobo’s retirement.

Super Eagles only won once against Bosnia in 11 successive games before 3-1 win against Sudan in Abuja. The appalling manner of Nigeria’s 3-2 defeat against Congo and 1-0 unexpected loss at Sudan expose the weakness of the team’s backline. The inspirational home win was almost marred by Omeruo and Oboabona’s flop which gifted the Sudanese team an equalizer.

In the light of this, Arokoyo’s strength, physical presence, confidence level, calmness and wealth of experience will provide the much-sought defensive option in the national team.

The former Kwara United defender races in once head when quality alternatives are seek. The 23-year-old has twice been unlucky with a call-up in late 2010 under erstwhile Coach Samson Siasia. Another came from the former manager in early 2012 among a 30 home-based players.

Arokoyo’s hopes of wearing the Super Eagles’ jersey crashed again as a move to Europe fell through after he penned a three-year deal with a Swedish top division outfit Mjallby. However, upon his arrival in Sweden, he shone brightly and did established himself – playing in arguably all the game for the Swedish Premier League club except missing for suspension.

Arokoyo came to Mjällby AIF in 2012 and played a total of 48 matches and scoring once against Brommapojkarna in April 2013 for Mjallby. In July 2014, he signed a four year contract with Gaziantepspor in Turkey after widely reported been on the radar of teams in France, Sweden, Italy and Holland.

Arokoyo, who in his third season in Europe, have shown great understanding of the game as a former youth international – adaptation and communication will be least of his problem.

Checking his record, he had his debut for Kwara United of Ilorin in the so-called “Super Four”, a pre-season tournament that was played in August 2010.

He joined from Kwara Football Academy, where he unarguably remained the standout player to have graduated from outfit based in Ilorin.

The central defender became one of the revelations of the Nigeria Premier League in 2010-2011 season and touted “one of the best central defenders in the topflight”.

On 11th, November, 2010, he scored his first and only goal for the Afonja Warriors in the match against JUTH FC and was named in the “Team of the week” after he brilliantly controlled the dangerous JUTH attacker James Amankwe.

Moreover, the maturity and form of the Arokoyo will undoubtedly encourage rivalry and increase options at the rear.

Overlooked for his’ disloyalty at the expense of a move of Europe, Keshi had earlier admitted that to Kogi-based Confluence FM during its final preparation for AFCON2013, “Gbenga [Arokoyo] is still part of my national programmes. I will call on him [Arokoyo] when the time is right,” an opportunity that never came.

With Amodu in charge on interim capacity, it is a likely opportunity for the defender to get his first test is now.

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