SINGAPORE – Teenage striker Chuba Akpom stole the show for Arsenal with an eye-catching hat-trick to set up a Barclays Asia Trophy Final against Everton.
And his reward was a promise from boss Arsene Wenger that he’ll be staying at The Emirates next season to fight for a place alongside Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck.
England youth star Akpom lit up the National Stadium with clinical finishing display against a lively and confident Singapore X1.
Akpom spent the last two months of the season on loan at Nottingham Forest after making seven Arsenal appearances up until mid February.
But after his hat-trick display Wenger said: â€œâ€œNo. he won’t be going out on loan. I sent him out on loan last year because I thought he needed that.
â€œBut this season no, I plan to keep him with us. Itâ€™s down to performance and attitude and he has the assets to be a big talent. And after that to be an efficient player week in week out, thatâ€™s the target.
â€œSo itâ€™s down to him. How much I donâ€™t know. Itâ€™s encouragement to do well and work even harder.
â€œHeâ€™s a young player and it can lift confidence. The confidence you sense in the dressing room from other players is important as well.
â€œThat can help you. But letâ€™s not forget itâ€™s a friendly. Heâ€™s a good talent but he has to work and show that in every game.â€
Akpom showed just why Wenger rates him so highly opening the scoring on 29 minutes with a powerful shot which zipped past keeper Izwan Mahbud after a slick move.
Gabriel and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain started the attack and youngster Alex Iwobi combined with Jack Wilshere to present Akpom with a chance he expertly finished.
After Iwobi squandered two tasty chances, Wilshere then added a second from the penalty spot after Mathieu Debuchy fell under a challenge from Sirina Camara.
With Wilshere replaced, Akpom stepped up to take Arsenal’s second penalty after 75 minutes when young substitute Jon Toral was brought down by keeper Mahbud.
And the teenager completed his hat-trick with a powerful header from Hector Bellerin’s pin-point cross four minutes later.
That impressed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who said: â€œIt was a good performance by Chuba. I donâ€™t score many hat tricks.
â€œChubaâ€™s a really good player, very powerful and he makes good runs. He told me he made a few I didnâ€™t see!
â€œAnd thatâ€™s what he needs to do, make runs in behind. He did well holding ball up. For a striker important to score and he did that.â€
Arsenal now face Everton in Saturday’s final after Roberto Martinez’s stars beat Premier League rivals Stoke City 5-4 on penalties earlier on Wednesday. – Mirror