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John Smith provides a detailed scout report of Manchester City’s biggest prospect, Kelechi Iheanacho.
For every new season in the Premier League, there is an ongoing theme of new young talented stars breaking through into their respective teams and stealing the headlines of the media. The most recent Premier League season has followed this trend for new stars to make their name in the English game, but out of all of these academy prospects to break through into the first team, Manchester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho is by far one of the biggest prospects to make a name for himself.
Born in October 1996 to Nigerian parents – his father a trader and his mother a teacher, Iheanacho got to fulfill his dream as a footballer by representing Taye Academy as a youth in the town of Owerri. His performances for the Academy proved to be a success as he was called up to the Nigeria squad for both the 2013 African U17 Championships and the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup tournament. In the African Championship, Iheanacho scored 5 goals for his country, playing his part to a second place finish in the tournament. However, due to the lack of exposure of the tournament, his talent went unnoticed.
Consequently, this all changed as soon as the 2013 U17 World Cup tournament kicked off. Iheanacho was a successful player for his country, helping to win the entire competition as well as securing his own personal honors – the Silver Boot and Player of the Tournament – with the help of his 6 goals in 7 games.
Iheanacho’s striking ability to guide his country to the U17 World Cup soon attracted attention from big clubs across Europe. Porto, Sporting Lisbon, Arsenal and Manchester City were all highly interested in signing the prolific youngster. In the summer of 2014, Manchester City successfully signed the versatile youngster. Unfortunately, work permit issues prevented him from making an earlier impact at the Manchester side.
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Interestingly, Kelechi Iheanacho never wanted to join The Citizens at first and intended on moving to Portuguese side FC Porto. When asked to comment on when he signed for City, he revealed that: ‘City are such a big team with so many fantastic players, I didn’t believe I’d have a future here’; ‘But my father did and he gave me the confidence I needed. I’m happy I took his advice’.
The work permit issues proved a problem until the 2015/16 Premier League season. At the start of the season, Iheanacho was called up to the City first team and made a shock introduction to the bench. The Nigerian remained on the bench during his side’s 3-0 triumph over West Brom in their first game of the season. His competitive debut for Manchester City was a substitute appearance, replacing Raheem Sterling in the final minute versus Watford in a 2-0 victory. His first goal for the club came weeks later, coming on as a substitute once again, scoring against Crystal Palace in the final minute of the game.
His first season at Manchester City – and in the Premier League – proved to be a major advantage for the Nigerian. He successfully scored his first ever hat-trick vs Aston Villa in the FA Cup, featured in a Champions League semi-final, and also, earned a call-up to the first team of his country Nigeria. Iheanacho completed the season with 16 goals and 1 assist in a total of 38 appearances for Manchester City.
One of the biggest advantages to having a player like Kelechi Iheanacho would have to be his versatility as a player. The Nigerian has successfully played in a variety of positions, proving his worth to the Manchester City side. Whether it is playing on either flank, behind the striker, or leading the line himself, the forward has already proved how talented – and versatile – he really is.
This became evident in his debut season for Manchester City, he has predominantly been played in either an attacking midfield or striking role but has briefly featured on either flank throughout games. A majority of his goals have come from his forward role, with his creativity being expressed more as an attacking midfielder, dropping deep and helping to start attacks for his side.
The overall creativity of Iheanacho has remained undistinguished thus far whilst playing for Manchester City, with his significant goal record overshadowing his creativity for the side. His creative style as a player was best demonstrated during his campaign with Nigeria in the U17 World Cup. Although his 6 goals and winning the Player of the Tournament have been predominantly known to the majority, many have been unaware of the fact that he also secured 7 assists throughout the tournament.
Iheanacho has expressed a variety of strengths throughout his appearances across the 2015/16 Premier League season. With his creative flair and bursts of energy, the forward has been successful during his tenure at City thus far. The Nigerian has a great dribbling ability, which assists his ability to create attacking chances for his team. Unfortunately, he has struggled to make a great impact in terms of assisting for his side. Across 16 appearances in a variety of competitions with Manchester City, the winger has only successfully completed 1 assist for his side.
On top of this, another strength of Kelechi Iheanacho is his control of the ball. Whenever he gains possession of the ball and tries to create a new attack for his side, his control of the ball supports his ability to pick out a good pass which could potentially lead to a goal for his team. His dribbling ability supports this considering the fact that he remains competent on the ball, whilst the opponents attempt to regain possession.
The range of short passing displayed by the youngster has supported his creative aptitude. Iheanacho has proven his worth to the first team since his short passes fits in perfectly with the quick, attacking style that Manchester City have been known to utilize in recent years. On top of this, his layoffs support the wingbacks as it helps widen the shape of the team whilst giving the wingbacks a greater chance of putting in a successful cross to give City a chance to score. This is supported by his 77% pass succession rate across his appearances in the Premier League.
Consequently, although his ability to produce a varied length of short passes has shone brightly for the youngster, his ability to produce long balls are most certainly lacklustre. Iheanacho has played his best football for Manchester City when the overall pace of the game is fast, with City looking confident of scoring a goal. Iheanacho’s attempts to pick out a long ball are definitely a weakness for the youngster, and definitely need to be improved upon in his future to boost his attacking ability.
After earning a rotating first team position as well as a call-up to the first team of Nigeria, next season seems to be the year for Kelechi Iheanacho to make his impact on both the Manchester City first team as well as English football as a whole. With many youngsters looking to make a name for themselves next season, this is the Nigerian’s perfect opportunity to improve on his performances from the season prior, and, prove his worth.
Without a doubt, the future for Kelechi Iheanacho shines brightly. The 2016/17 Premier League season will see two-time Champions League winner, and, former FIFA World Coach of the Year Pep Guardiola take charge at Manchester City. Considering the fact that he will be working under one of the best coaches in the entirety of the game, Iheanacho will most certainly improve every aspect of his game.
The competition against Kelechi Iheanacho is looking as strong as ever for the upcoming Premier League season. Current strikers Sergio Aguero and Wilfried Bony will already be competition for a confirmed place in the starting line up. Also, summer signing Nolito will also look to play a fair amount of goals for his new side this season. Any chance that Iheanacho gets for the new season to play for the first team will most definitely be crucial for the youngster.
Despite a successful first season at Manchester City, Kelechi Iheanacho remains a hot prospect at Manchester City, the future most certainly looks bright for the Citizens’ biggest prospect.”
Written by John Smith