The club v country stumbling block to Miguel Azeez's Portsmouth progress and when the cost/benefit of his Arsenal loan needs to be examined

At this rate, Arsenal would be within their right to send out a search party for Pompey loanee Miguel Azeez.

By Mark McMahon
Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 6:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th October 2021, 6:37 pm
Miguel Azeez is currently on loan at Pompey from Arsenal
Miguel Azeez is currently on loan at Pompey from Arsenal

The 19-year-old has largely been missing from action since agreeing to swap north London for the south coast at the end of August.

Indeed, if you’ve already wiped that awful defeat to Cambridge United from your memory – and the chances are you have – then you’ll have forgotten Azeez’s 59-minute run out that day represents his entire Blues career to date.

At this rate it guarantees the Arsenal youngster just a passing reference rather than an entire chapter in one of Neil Allen’s future Played Up Pompey books.

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And with manager Danny Cowley waiting patiently for the right moment to reintroduce him to the fray following a run of poor results, there’s no guarantee that the England under-20 international will be called upon any time soon.

It’s a selection which Cowley seems adamant depends on the Blues’ form.

So what’s the point in having Azeez on board if we’re too afraid to expose him to the harsh realities of senior football, I hear you say?

My thoughts exactly. I thought that was the whole point of loans – so that these highly-rated youngsters get a real taste of life in the Football League.

Not a sugar-coated version of reality that does little for their progress and fails to toughen them up ahead of their return to their pay masters in the top flight.

Of course, there is the option to play Azeez in the Papa John’s Trophy games which cause us all to be distracted from our League One focus.

But within that solution lies two important stumbling blocks.

One – if Cowley doesn’t want to expose the youngster to negative match scenarios then it’s best to stay clear of this year’s competition! The 2-0 defeat to Sutton last time out says it all.

Secondly, the midfielder is never around when these games are scheduled – namely during international breaks.

So far this season, Azeez has missed both the AFC Wimbledon and Sutton matches because of his international commitments with England's under-20s.

And he’s due to sit out the re-arranged fixture with Crystal Palace under-21s on November 9 for exactly the same reason, with the young Three Lions set to play Portugal away just two days later.

While the Papa John’s Trophy is much-maligned, it can serve an important purpose as far as developing youngsters is concerned.

It gives them a chance to experience senior football, get used to playing in front of crowds and play their way into a manager’s thoughts.

But if Azeez, isn’t even getting that opportunity at Pompey because of his England duties, then how can Cowley realistically know when the time is right to throw him into competitive action and when the Blues will benefit from Azeez’s Fratton Park presence.

After all, that’s ultimately why they brought him here in the first place and why other targets were stood down.

At this rate, Azeez’s next exposure to first-team football could be non-league Harrow Borough’s FA Cup visit to Fratton Park on November 6.

It’s hardly a game he was dreaming about when Pompey’s interest was made known.

Then again, God forbid, if the Blues’ form hasn’t picked up by that stage in the season – he could be waiting even longer to be utilised!

And if that scenario does materialise and fans’ patience begins to wear thin, then serious questions need to be asked whether Azeez’s presence is cost-effective at time when every penny counts as far as Cowley is concerned.