Nigerian striker Gift Orban’s stats were outstanding in the 2nd half of the 2022-2023 Jupiler League season. But also the Europa League Conference, with an average of almost one goal per game in all competitions. Courted by a number of teams, the player finally stayed with La Gantoise. However, he has had a difficult start to the season, scoring just 2 goals in 7 league games. Enough to speak of a crisis? Not yet, but his situation is starting to get people talking.
Gift Orban’s participation in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations is jeopardized by his poor form, combined with that of his fellow strikers.
Gift Orban was one of last season’s revelations, after an excellent first half of the season in Norway with Stabaek (16 goals in 22 games). He was then transferred to La Gantoise in Belgium during the winter mercato. With the machine well and truly up and running, Gift Orban seamlessly continued to improve his form. He scored 15 goals in 16 league games. As well as 5 goals in 6 games in the Europa League Conference, where his team were eliminated in the quarter-finals by eventual winners West Ham. All in all, Orban scored 38 goals in his season.
On the strength of these staggering stats, the 21-year-old was inundated with approaches during the last mercato. Fulham, Tottenham and Frankfurt were all mentioned, but none of them would pay the full price for his services. In fact, his name is still being linked with these 3 teams as a possible replacement for their transferred strikers Harry Kane and Alexander Mitrovic.
Gift runs out of fuel
But Gift Orban, who at the end of last season was the talk of the town for a call-up to the Super Eagles squad, and who was called up at the start of the season (against Sao Tomé), is experiencing a downturn for the new season.Despite a good start with 4 goals in the Europa League qualifiers. In the league alone, the machine seems to have seized up, with 2 goals scored in 7 Jupiler League matches. Numbers well below his standards. He seems to be suffering from the blues. As evidenced by the words of his coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck, on the eve of the Europa League Conference match against Maccabi Tel Aviv.”Things aren’t going so well with Gift in training either.”
He adds: “It’s very simple: someone who plays incredibly well in training always plays.Or you have to be new, because then you sometimes have to start again.We find that strange too, but I mentioned it last year: then everything worked and everything was fine. Sometimes things just don’t work out, and Gift is just in such a moment, but it can also make him stronger, once he finds his way back to the goal .”
This characteristic of a player who is not a workaholic has long followed Gift, as his coach reminds us.On Thursday, October 5, with the injury of his rival Hugo Cuypers, the footballer was back in the starting line-up for La Gantoise’s 2-0 victory over Israel u Maccabi Tel-Aviv in their first group stage match.
AFCON in jeopardy?Interests that could fade
Is there any cause for alarm?Perhaps not in the long term, as all strikers go through slack periods. However, with the African Cup of Nations looming on the horizon, and the eyes of prospective buyers on him, there is no reason to be alarmed. If he continues to falter, they may be tempted to look elsewhere.
As far as the Nigerian national team is concerned, the AFCON is fast approaching. Gift could be in danger of missing out. Despite his good form last season and the demand of the Nigerian public, he was only called up for the final day of the qualifiers against Sao-Tomé et Principe. And he didn’t play due to injury. Places are therefore hard to come by in this selection, which includes such big names as Osimhen, Moffi, Chukwueze Boniface, who honored his first cap and is on fire, Iheanacho and Awoniyi. In addition to others who are knocking on the door: Tella, Adams… His statistics gave him a chance to hope to be included, but his current form could doom him. A disappointment he would inevitably carry with him into the future. For a start, he hasn’t been called up for the forthcoming Nigeria squad.
Secondly, as far as his future at club level is concerned, the more he scored, the more the rumours, whether well-founded or not, of interest from the big clubs accumulated, and the more his market value increased. In the case of Tottenham and Fulham, who have lost their attacking leaders if the player continues his dismal form, the target announced as recently as this week as being on their radar may no longer be.
The club works to get him back into shape
His coach recently said: “We’re working intensively with him to get him back to his old level. For example, we show him pictures of things he does or has done well, and we discuss with him things that have worked in the past. He’ll pick up on tha and if he does, he can come out stronger here as a young player”.
The player needs to wake up and show that he wants it. But that won’t be easy given the competition at club level with Fofana, Cuypers, Tissoudali and Hjulsager. Now is the time to show his character after this mini-crisis. “He just has to realize now that he has to make an extra effort. If everything happens by itself and you keep scoring, you can already afford to do nothing more for the team. From now on, he’ll have to make that effort to function within the team,” advises his coach.
Comme prévu c’est absolument n’importe quoi devant (et il manque Gift Orban, Akor Adams, Paul Onuachu, Umar Sadiq…) pic.twitter.com/8P2Qqp8bPj
— Scipion (@Scipionista) October 3, 2023