After a frantic contest had drawn to a close and various officials from both Arsenal and Norwich City gathered around to complete their post-match duties, one man still stood out as the calmest in the Emirates Stadium.
Surprisingly that man was a 19-year-old, who months ago was known to very few but suddenly has been catapulted into global recognition on the international stage and in the Premier League.
“It’s been a great week,” said Andrew Omobamidele, the composed teenager in question. “A week that I dreamt of since I started playing football, obviously with the international stage and then here (at the Emirates). Hopefully, I’ll get more moments like this.
“This is the level that I want to play at. These are the type of opposition that I want to be playing week in, week out, throughout my whole career hopefully. To be playing them at a young age is a valuable experience.”
Saturday may have been dreamy for the Irishman in one way, but he was speaking following a 1-0 loss, his pointless side’s fourth defeat of the season. Individual milestones may be satisfying but success is the priority, as Omobamidele highlighted:
“It was a disappointing end. Some parts of the game we dominated and the boys at the back defended well on crosses, there’s a lot of positives. I know it’s early on and it’s a fresh defeat but I think there’s a lot of positives that we can take.”
While disappointed, the centre-back was clearly keen to view the loss with optimism and in doing so will surely take note of his own performance, an excellent display and arguably the best of any Norwich centre-back this campaign.
Club captain Grant Hanley, previously consistently solid, has endured a difficult start to the season as he adapts his aggressive ball-winning game to smarter Premier League forwards, and while the Scotland international looks crude and reactive, Omobamidele’s composure has been a breath of fresh air for the Canaries.
Never did City’s number 44 look flustered or rushed and dealt with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s direct style very well. No performance is entirely unblemished in football, but Omobamidele did well to learn from his mistakes.
In the early stages, Aubameyang did come close to catching Tim Krul out after his marker was caught far too high up the pitch, but more cautious positioning from the Norwich defender ensured that such a situation was not repeated.
Omobamidele held firm as Arsenal pressure increased, and looked more comfortable in a set shape than on the run; after a hectic start the game had calmed down and he was part of a deep backline in a 10-strong block rather than a two-on-one battle with the Gambian.
Also impressive was Omobamidele’s ability on the ball. With the Irishman in the side, City looked far more capable and assured when bringing the ball out from the back than they had in the prior three league games, and the Gunners’ clear ploy to direct all traffic towards Hanley highlighted their knowledge of his defensive partner’s strengths.
However, football is a results business and because the ball bounced fortuitously off a stricken Nicolas Pepe and into Aubameyang’s path, Omobamidele’s excellent performance will largely be forgotten.
Thankfully for the youngster, his head coach’s eye for detail won’t allow the same attitude to creep into team selection, and just as well given the competition.
Potential record signing and Ozan Kabak is yet to appear in a yellow shirt while Omobamidele has already eased out half of the greatest City defensive duo in a number of years. It’s a testament to both the Irishman’s quality and Stuart Webber’s transfer dealings that two weeks ago Hanley and Ben Gibson appeared the clear top two in the starting stakes.
Rotation may also work in Omobamidele’s favour as he looks to gain top-level experience. It’s a tool Daniel Farke is aware he’ll have to use, despite not being entirely keen on heavy tinkering.
“It won’t be that we have 11 changes between each and every game because that wouldn’t be healthy for the group if we changed too much, especially in central positions,” Farke said following the Arsenal defeat, “but we have to be a bit more pragmatic and a bit more flexible perhaps than last season when we were dominating game after game.”
Omobamidele will hope that his performances earn him exemption from that rotation – in the same way that Teemu Pukki and Emi Buendia’s performances have earned them automatic starting places – when previously it had looked like his best chance at some Premier League minutes.
There’s still a long way to go and the Irish international will have to step his performances up another level to achieve that status, but after a slow start from his in-house competitors, City’s latest teenage superstar has more than taken the initiative.