The former Arsenal starlet is the standout performer in the Championship, after a brilliant start to the campaign
Middlesbrough forward Chuba Akpom continued his excellent form this season as he netted a brilliant hat-trick to power his side to a convincing 4-1 win over Wigan Athletic at the Riverside Stadium on Boxing Day.
The Chuba Akpom Show began in the 49th minute when he fired in a low shot to double Boro’s advantage. The Hale End Academy product drove in a firm effort into the bottom corner for his second of the game and completed his hat-trick in stoppage time.
It was the first league hat-trick of his career, one that delights Boro boss, Michael Carrick.
With 12 goals in 17 appearances, Akpom is the joint-top scorer in the Championship midway through the regular season.
It is a remarkable turnaround for the striker who was deemed surplus to requirement for Middlesbrough at the start of the campaign.
Raised as a striker, Akpom has reached new heights under manager Michael Carrick who has deployed him as an attacking midfielder cum a second striker.
And the result has been incredible as Akpom now has more goals than he has ever managed in a single season in his whole career.
But is Akpom ready for international football?
Chuba Akpom and the Super Eagles
Born in London to Nigerian parents, Akpom played for England at various youth levels. But the 27-year-old has been eligible to play for Nigeria’s Super Eagles since switching his international allegiance in 2019.
But Gernot Rohr, Super Eagles head coach at the time, had several attacking options at his disposal and the German manager did not invite Akpom before he was sacked in December 2021.
Akpom’s case was not helped by his average performances for PAOK and Middlesbrough around that period.
But a lot has changed since. The Super Eagles have a new boss in Portuguese tactician Jose Peseiro and Chuba Akpom is in the form of his life.
While Nigeria remains blessed with excellent attackers, Akpom can no longer be ignored or overlooked.
Racing Genk’s goal machine Paul Onuachu (13) is the only Nigerian star with more league goals than Akpom in Europe.
Peseiro will also be pleased with the former Arsenal lad’s versatility.
Akpom will be a perfect fit for the Portuguese manager’s preferred 4-4-2 formation. An Akpom-Osimhen or Akpom-Moffi or Akpom-Onuachu pairing in attack, depending on availability, should cause maximum damage to opponents during the Afcon qualifiers and the tournament proper in 2014.
Jose Peseiro knows better, though.
But if current form and consistently brilliant performances are the determining factors, Akpom has shown that he is ready for the rigours of international football.
And should the striker maintain his top level in the new year, it will not surprise many to see him called up for and unleashed against Guinea-Bissau in March.