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  • By Alessandro Schiavone at the Hawthorns

Ex-Arsenal academy reject Nathan Tella makes life difficult for West Brom in 1-1 draw with Burnley

By Alessandro Schiavone at The Hawthorns

West Bromwich 1-1 Burnley FC

London-born Nathan Tella helped Burnley to a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns against West Bromwich.

The energetic winger’s explosive first-half display nearly did the job for relegated Burnley. Almost, because a 97th minute equaliser by Brandon Thomas-Asante gave the Baggies a well-deserved point.

The 23-year-old man, who was released by Arsenal at 18, won a penalty which Jay Rodriguez transformed into a 1-0 lead.

Either side of that Burnley really rode their luck as West Bromwich simply couldn’t score, missing a tsunami of chances until they finally got their rewards with the last kick of the game.

From the off, the Baggies really went for it and Steve Bruce can’t question his side’s commitment and application.

In the interview with the club’s match-day programme he lamented that his team didn’t “do enough” to come away with maximum points against Wigan, urging his side to be more “clinical” in the final third.

In the first period of the clash against fellow promotion hopefuls Burnley, his players righted the first wrongs while they were yet again found wanting when it came to putting their chances away.

Arijanet Muric may have played a part in it when he first denied Conor Townsend at his right post before he did just enough to divert Jed Wallace’s close ranger on to the post.

In between, Kyle Bartley’s towering header after outjumping two Burnley defenders glanced off the top of the crossbar.

And the “mountain” which Bruce dreaded his men would have to “climb” if they conceded first was in the offing.

Ex-Arsenal academy player Nathan Tella cantered forward before unleashing a rocket just wide of the post. Yet minutes later he was brought down by David Button in the area. Ex-West Brom striker Jay Rodriguez stepped up to dispatch his penalty and send Vincent Kompany into a lucky lead.

Muric then pulled off another good save, this time from Wallace and moments later Dara O’Shea sent a header straight into the arms of Muric.

On the stroke of half-time, Lambeth-born Tella could have bagged a brace but the angle was against him and Button effortlessly saved his attempt.

But Tella was clearly his side’s most creative force and in Kompany he has the perfect manager to take his game to the next level. A versatile player, he can play both on the wing and in central midfield.

Anderlecht midfielder Yari Verschaeren blossomed into a Belgium international with Kompany in the Lotto Park dugout. Sergio Gomez moved to Manchester City after one season working with the Etihad legend. While Alexis Saelemaekers headed to AC Milan only four months into Kompany’s reign in Bruxelles.

The new Burnley manager reached the final of the Belgian cup with a bunch of youngsters.

He trusts them, gives them time to develop and if they make mistakes he categorically refuses to drop them, cofnident that they will progress.

This season, Tella has already racked up three goals playing as a left winger and tonight he won the all-important penalty which ex-Saints striker Rodriguez converted.

Other than that, he looked comfortable on the ball, made good runs in behind while his blistering pace will prove to be a great tool for the Championship in the coming months.

Yet while Ralph Hussenhuttl may lick his lips at Tella’s progression, Arsenal may just have let a quality player slip through their fingers in 2017. Is Tella the one that got away?

One can only wonder what kind of player he could have turned into under the Spaniard in the Arsenal first team. Especially if we take the rise of fellow born and bred Gunners Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah into account.

Yet for every success story there are players who never fulfilled their potential.

Thats why it’s impossible to know how and if Tella would have made the big time had he stayed at the Emirates.

For now Turf Moor looks like the ideal launching pad of his promising career.

But Arteta, who has let Nicolas Pepe leave for OGC Nice on loan, could do with a player of his qualities to come off the bench and make the difference when the opposition begins to tire.

While Burnley can pin their promotions on him, Southampton may get a completely transformed player back from his loan spell next term. And from there on, they can either cash in on him or give him a chance in the first-team if he keeps this level of performance up.

West Bromwich

1 David Button- 3 Conor Townsend- 4 Dara O’Shea- 5 Kyle Bartley- 11 Grady Diangana- 14 Jayson Molumby- 17 Jed Wallace- 18 Karlan Grant- 19 John Swift- 29 Taylor Gardner-Hickman- 35 Okay Yokuslu


49 Arijanet Muric- 3 Charlie Taylor- 4 Jack Cork- 5 Taylor Harwood-Bellis- 8 Josh Brownhill- 9 Jay Rodriguez- 14 Connor Roberts- 22 Vitinho- 23 Nathan Tella- 24 Josh Cullen- 29 Ian Maatsen



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