You can’t blame Tosin Adarabioyo for being ambitious when it comes to what he wants to achieve in his career as a footballer.
Having spent his formative years in the game as a youth player at Manchester City watching Pep Guardiola’s irresistible, spectacular side sweep all before them in their unrelenting pursuit of another trophy to follow the last, you can understand why the centre back – who has a handful of cup appearances for the club to his name – is seemingly hungry for a taste of silverware of his own.
Indeed, speaking just a couple of months ago, the 22-year-old did not hold back when it came to detailing his aims over the next few years, let alone the rest of his career.
“In five years’ time, I’d like to be captain of Man City and have won the Premier League and the Champions League. Definitely, it can happen,” Adarabioyo told The Guardian in an interview back in January, highlighting just how far he wants to go in the game.
But while his links with City give him the opportunity to achieve those goals that the vast majority of players can only dream of, for now at least, Adarabioyo has other matters to focus on.
The defender is currently on a season-long loan with Blackburn Rovers, who currently find themselves right in the race for a place in the Championship play-offs this season, with Tony Mowbray’s side eighth in the second-tier standings, three points adrift of those all-important top-six spots with ten games of the season remaining.
Having missed out on promotion from those play-off during another loan spell with West Brom last season, Adarabioyo’s return to the second-tier for the current campaign with Rovers has seemingly given him the chance to put that right, and not just in terms of being able to experience the emotion of helping a team secure a much sought after place in the Premier League.
While that loan spell at The Hawthorns across the course of the previous campaign had seen Adarabioyo forced into an unnatural right-back position on a number of occasions, the defender’s present stint in Lancashire has seen him used in a more familiar centre back position, something Adarabioyo has previously admitted is suiting him better, and is now seemingly presenting him with an early opportunity to prove he has the potential to achieve his stated ambition of becoming a future captain at the Etihad.
After seeing his start to the season hampered by injury, Adarabioyo has gone onto become a key feature in Rovers’ backline in the current campaign, becoming an almost ever-present on Mowbray’s teamsheet in recent months, and forming a strong partnership with Darragh Lenihan at the heart of a defence that has already matched the number of clean sheets it kept in the entirety of the last league season (12).
Now, with Lenihan – who has worn the captain’s armband on a regular basis this season – having picked up a two-match ban after receiving a tenth yellow card of the season in Blackburn’s recent goalless draw with Stoke City, Adarabioyo has found himself with a new level of responsibility on his shoulders.
With fellow centre back Derrick Williams also unavailable at the minute due to injury, Mowbray has been forced to move right-back Ryan Nyambe into the second central defensive position in his side, making Adarabioyo – almost by default – Blackburn’s senior centre back when it comes to the heat of battle out on the pitch.
Consequentially, that the job of marshalling the heart of Blackburn’s defence has for now gone to Adarabioyo, thus giving him the chance to prove that he has the sort of leadership skills he will require if he is to ever be handed the armband on a regular basis when he does link back up with Manchester City further on in his career.
The first of Adarabioyo’s chances to do just that came on Saturday afternoon, in a 2-2 draw against Swansea, and it’s probably fair to say it didn’t fully go to plan for the Manchester City loanee.
With Rovers needing Bradley Johnson’s 95th minute deflected strike from range to snatch a point in that game, it looked for the majority of the second half that the 48th-minute penalty conceded by Adarabioyo was going to cost Rovers heavily in the race for the top six.
Indeed, in the absence of Lenihan, Blackburn certainly appeared to lack an element of control in defence, giving away possession on a number of occasions and struggling to contain the attacking threat of Swansea – led by two Premier League loanees of their own in the shape of Liverpool’s Rhian Brewster and Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher – in certain periods of the game, suggesting this may not have been the perfect start to this pair of games for Adarabioyo.
However, those frailties in defence on Saturday can not be put entirely down to Adarabioyo, and it should be noted that that responsibility cannot entirely be put down to the 22-year-old, given the difficulty of commanding a defence in a game between to play-off contenders for a young player out on loan for his parent club.
Of course, with the stakes as high as they are for City, it can certainly be argued that experiences such as this are the reason Adarabioyo has been sent out on loan, so that he can familiarise himself with and prove his readiness for these sort of situations upon his return to the Etihad.
With Lenihan again set to be absent through suspension, the Manchester City loanee looks as though he could get another chance to show his leadership abilities in a similar situation when Blackburn travel to Pride Park on Sunday afternoon to face Derby County, and a certain Wayne Rooney.
For Adarabioyo, it would surely be fitting if he put in the sort of performance that shows he does indeed possess the potential ability and leadership to go and captain Manchester City in the future, when up against an icon of his parent club’s great rivals.
For Blackburn, with the margin for error in the race for the play-offs all but gone, such a performance from their promising temporary centre back, would be just as – if not even more – welcome.