Chido Obi-Martin scored 10 goals on Saturday in a 14-3 away win for Arsenal’s under-16s against Liverpool.
The 15-year-old has appeared for several Arsenal age groups this season, representing the club at under-21 and under-19 level and scoring a hat-trick in an under-18s game against Southampton.
Born in Glostrup in the western suburbs of Copenhagen, as a child Obi-Martin played for Copenhagen Boldklub, one of the two clubs merged to form FC Copenhagen and where Michael Laudrup and Nicklas Bendtner began their careers.
Obi-Martin’s international future is complicated. He began 2023 by playing for England Under-16s, despite being eligible for Nigeria through his father and Denmark, whom he also represented when he was younger. In March, he rejected the opportunity to be part of the England squad for the Montaigu Tournament and went back to playing for Denmark, for whom he has since been prolific at under-17 level.
In August, he scored four times in a 6-2 rout of Norway during the under-17 Friendly Games tournament, despite being the youngest member of the Danish squad.
Jesper Mikkelsen, coach of that side, has said that despite being 6ft 2in (188cm) already, Obi-Martin’s standing in the game is not just the result of physical advantage.
“He is really dominant because of his physique, but I don’t think that is the only reason,” he told Danish website Bold.dk in October. “He is big and strong, but he is also reasonably agile. He is good at sticking to the game, but he is actually also good at challenging and dribbling himself.
“So that makes him interesting now and in the long run because it is interesting to see how much this physique can carry him forward towards a breakthrough on the big stage.”
At club level, Obi-Martin has already trained with Mikel Arteta’s first team at Arsenal. He made a substitute appearance in Premier League 2 and featured in the UEFA Youth League, the under-18s equivalent to the Champions League. His 10 goals on Saturday have added significantly to his reputation, but Mikkelsen believes there are areas of his game that still need development.
“He has scored many goals for us,” he said, “and he has been a real handful for our opponents, but it is also important that he gets better at playing together with his team-mates. His greatest characteristic and challenge is that he really wants to score goals. He can sometimes play his own game.”
His Arsenal performance against Liverpool delivered goals, but improvement too. Of his 10 goals (eight with his right foot, one header and one penalty), only a few depended on individualism and physical advantages. More often, Obi-Martin was the exclamation point at the end of well-worked moves that caused Liverpool so many problems.
Watch Chido Obi-Martin’s TEN Goals here against Liverpool 😳 https://t.co/LRFCO3EkQF pic.twitter.com/HuMDJz1uX1
— TheSecretScout (@TheSecretScout_) November 18, 2023
The game was not notable solely for Obi-Martin’s goals. The performance of 13-year-old Max Dowman was eye-catching, too. Dowman scored twice and registered two assists. He has also beyond his age group this year, featuring as high as under-18 level. Jeorge Bird, who extensively covers Arsenal’s youth teams, is a fan.
“He’s a very good passer, but he also seems physically ready for playing above his age group, even though he’s 13.”
The 14-3 win over Liverpool came during a disrupted weekend for youth-team football, with no games scheduled for their older age groups due to the international break. However, with the Danish under-17s not playing, Obi-Martin capitalised, becoming one of the stories of the weekend, though Jeorge Bird urges caution.
“He has often played very well for the under-15s and under-16s,” he says, “but when he has played for the older age groups he hasn’t been that involved and he didn’t always see a lot of the ball, so maybe some patience is required. But he does have a lot of potential.”
Obi-Martin will turn 16 in two weeks and his future at Arsenal is secure. He has a scholarship agreement that will begin at the start of the 2024-25 season. His international future is a different issue, though, with Obi-Martin yet to make a full commitment to any of the three nations he can represent. A silent squabble will continue in the background as his reputation continues to grow.
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(Top photo: Chido Martin-Obi after scoring against Southampton Under-18s in September; by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)