The Super Eagles forward is set to complete a move to Nottingham and will become the Reds’ first proof of seriousness on their Premier League return
For seven years, Taiwo Awoniyi was finding his foot in European football. His move to Liverpool had come as a stroke of the most unimaginable but such was his hard work that the Reds kept tabs with his progress.
He met his heroes in England, wined and dined with them and was offered an opportunity to train with some of the best players in the world. Those moments would have formed a halo for the young Awoniyi at the time – a circle of different lights, and one he would have been desirous of joining if he had his way.
Loan moves took him everywhere, from the Netherlands to Belgium and Germany as he tried to get a break and represent the Nigerian national team. The dream was to represent Liverpool, at the highest level of European football and it came so close yet far away.
Awoniyi would, this time, by the strength of his hard work settle for the lesser Reds, hoping to take the Premier League by storm as they ended their 23-year wait to play in the top flight.
Going by what the attacker has shown at Union Berlin, there’s a clear promise there. When he’s supported and is settled, he can be a real handful. His strengths are as clear as his weaknesses and that eases Steve Cooper’s decision to turn him to an even better spectacle.
Premier League accommodates surprises
The Premier League takes no prisoners but attackers with similar profiles as Awoniyi’s have done the spectacular in the league until they can’t dig beyond deep. In Odion Ighalo, there’s an immediate example of what’s possible for an attacker without the glaring eyes.
This first wave is expected of the attacker and it will be an advantage if he pulls it.
In terms of style, there’s no much difference between the Premier League and the Bundelisga but the pressure-intensive style of the English top flight asks begging questions on most days. It has seen forwards from the German league struggle to get going in the Premier League but there has hardly been any as willing to hustle in the box as Awoniyi.
He has shown he can adapt to new systems as long as there’s a cushion behind him to pick the pieces of his heavy work. The quality Liverpool found in him as a raw youngster are still very evident in his game. Not the finest ball player from the technical point of view but his devastation in the box calls for respect.
Improved quality may be an advantage
Like Cyriel Dessers, his Super Eagles teammate rightly pointed out last weekend, Awoniyi’s quality can be judged by the quality of his runs more than the chances he missed.
He was the third player with the highest number of missed chances in the Bundesliga last season according to Whoscored. The first two on the list – Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski and RB Leipzig’s Andre Silva are elite Bundesliga strikers and a glaring example that the Nigerian is in good company. The obvious reason they are there is because they get into good positions and if Awoniyi keeps this an art, he will get enough opportunities and with improved goalscoring, he will only get better. He is young and still improving and Nottingham Forest is just a step on the way to something bigger, in his head.
The aim is to play for the biggest teams in Europe, and that may only happen if he proves the point he desires.
The Reds or The Iron Ones: Something about starting small
In terms of profile, Nottingham Forest are somewhat similar in status and methods to Union Berlin, from a Premier League point of view and if the forward gets anything near the support he got at the German capital, he may be aiming even higher next season.
He, however has many doubts to quash, especially of how he will manage to make his weaknesses less visible and make his strengths count.
With the Reds owner, Evangelos Marinakis putting it all into the project, Awoniyi may just become a part of a beautiful, big presence of small boys in the league. That, however won’t come on a platter of gold, as history has shown. The cities are not usually accommodating for the newbies.
Should Nottingham Forest struggle to sail, as many already expect, the Nigerian forward must swim and use every opportunity he gets to charge for the future.