Aside from having been steadfast in his defensive duties for West Bromwich Albion, goal scoring has also been one asset Semi Ajayi has brought to the Hawthorns, so much so he has reached double figure with the season yet to go half way. The defender has been hailed as the club’s best signing by fans, but gaining promotion to the Premier League is the club’s ultimate aim and the Super Eagles defender is championing the course
West Brom have overtaken Leeds United in the EFL Championship standings following their 5-1 routing of Swansea City at The Hawthorns last Sunday and as a result of their 13th win of the season, The Baggies have accumulated 45 points, two more than second-placed Leeds United with the Nigerian international Semi Ajayi scoring the opening goal in the 25th minute.
Ajayi has been an ever-present for West Brom this season after joining the club from Rotherham United in the summer, playing every minute of their 20 matches in the Championship and one aspect of his game that has improved in 2019 is goalscoring; his strike against Swansea City was his 10th league goal this calendar year.
The former Arsenal U-23 skipper has also started the four matches played by the Super Eagles since the conclusion of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
In spite of his newfound form in front of goal, Ajayi admits he’s still behind schedule as regards the goals target he set for himself.
“I am always hungry for more goals, if anything I am behind schedule. I was aiming for double figures. It is good to get one today and hopefully I can get many more,” he admitted.
“I think it was just instinctive. Me and Barts (his defensive partner) try to separate where we go, we don’t like to attack the same areas.
“We ended up being in two different areas, the first one fell to him and luckily he found me with the header and I managed to put it away but it was more instinct, I wouldn’t say we planned to do that.”
He was on for the whole 90 minutes of the match and aside from his goal, he made three clearances, one tackle and won one aerial duel.
The defender also believes the win against Swansea was one of his side’s best performances in the current campaign
“It’s definitely one of our best performances of the season. We were very clinical, we controlled the game for the majority of it and we defended well apart from one sloppy set-piece so we can be pretty pleased with our day’s work,” he added.
“It’s amazing when everything clicks when the goals are flowing, when the passing is slick and the fans are right behind you, it’s really good. It is great for confidence, it’s what every footballer dreams of when they step on the pitch, so today was a very good day.
“It’s good for confidence and morale that we are still winning and picking up three points and going into every game confident that we can continue the run. As long as we keep working hard and doing the things the manager wants us today, hopefully, this run can continue for much, much longer.”
Ajayi has been tipped to be the signing of the season after he was signed from Rotherham for a total sum of £1.5 million and has featured in every single league match for Slaven Bilic’s side.
The versatile 26-year-old has played in midfield and mostly at the centre of defence for West Brom as the club has lost just once in 20 games while boasting the finest attack in the English second tier.
Fans have continued to hail the signing of the former Arsenal trainee whose consistent displays at the Hawthorns may just see the club gain promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season.
@MattSimmons93: Semi Ajayi has got to be one of the signings of the season for West Brom for a mere £1.5 million from us despite they’ll be add ons coming but he’s been stolen for what a player he’s become.
@Charlturner1: What a game! Everyone played amazingly and by far this has been one of the most enjoyable seasons for me. @SemiAjayi, you would be my man of the match.
The West Brom man was preferred in central defence ahead of more experienced defender Kenneth Omerou by Super Eagles chief coach, Gernot Rohr during Nigeria’s last Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Lesotho to partner Williams Troost-Ekong in what was his fourth consecutive game for Nigeria.
Justifying his decision, Rohr re-emphasising that regular game time at club level determines who gets into his team.
“Semi is a good partner for Troost-Ekong, but you know a team can change depending on what the players are doing in their clubs. What we have is good competition for the starting positions,” the Franco-German tactician had said.
Internationally, Ajayi has not been very lucky. His dream was shattered when Rohr did not look at their direction during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but when he made his debut for the team during last the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Seychelles he felt playing in the Egypt showpiece would be a consolation. It was however not to be as he was dropped from the final list on the eve of the team’s departure to the land of the Pharoahs.
Reacting to his exclusion from Rohr’s final selection for the biennial competition later this month in Egypt, the former Rotherham United player expressed his disappointed to have missed out of Nigeria’s final squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
“It’s been a privilege to have been part of this squad and as much as I’m gutted that I can’t make it I wish everyone linked with the Super Eagles the very best of luck this summer,” he had said.
“As long as I keep performing for my club I hope to get more call ups,” he concluded.
Born to Nigerian parents, Ajayi began his football career as a youth product of the Charlton Athleti Academy. After progressing through the Charlton Athletic ranks, he was offered his first professional contract in January 2012.
In November 2012, Ajayi joined Dartford on a short-term loan for 28 days. He played three games and scored one goal before returning to his parent club in late-December.
After returning to Charlton Athletic, Ajayi played for the reserve side for the rest of the season and helped win the Professional Development League 2.
Shortly before he was due to make his debut for the Charlton first team, Ajayi caught the eye of Premier League side, Arsenal and he joined the Arsenal Academy on a two-year deal after impressing as a trialist with the club in September 2013.
In 2015, Ajayi joined Championship side, Cardiff City on loan until the end of the 2014–2015 Season but did not feature for the first team. At the end of the season, he, however, joined Cardiff on a two-year permanent deal following the end of his contract at Arsenal.
In 2017, Ajayi signed a loan deal until the end of the 2016–17 Season with fellow Championship strugglers, Rothertham United and made his debut the following day.