Gift Emmanuel Orban: Nigeria’s Next Top Striker?

From Victor Osimhen to Terem Moffi, from Taiwo Awoniyi to Victor Boniface, we’ve seen plenty of young Nigerian strikers polish their skills in Belgium before exploding onto the scene in a top 5 European league, and the next player to make the leap could be Gift Emmanuel Orban.


After being spotted by Stabæk’s Torgeir Bjarmann and Thomas Finstad during a showcase tournament, Orban left Nigerian club Bison and joined Stabæk on a four-year deal in May 2022, quickly making a name for himself in Oslo. He finished as the joint-top scorer in the league with 16 goals, winning the Young Player of the Year in Norway’s First Division and leading them to promotion to the top-flight.


Orban made the move to Gent in January and quickly adapted to life in Belgium, finishing as the seventh-top scorer in the league with 15 goals. In total, he scored 20 goals and 2 assists in 22 appearances, including five goals in the Europa Conference League knockout round as Gent advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual champions West Ham. This season, he’s picked up where he left off and grabbed four goals in five matches to lead the Belgian side to the Europa Conference League group stage, as well as two goals in four league appearances. Gent sit atop the table with 13 points from five matches, level on points with Anderlecht who have played six.





Running The Channels


One of Orban’s biggest strengths is his ability to consistently make runs in behind the opposition’s defense by staying on the shoulder of the last defender before making well-timed runs. He plays as part of a front two for Gent and usually has the positional freedom to roam across the front line but always tends to make runs down the left channel in behind the opposition RCB and RB before crossing or recycling the ball. He constantly makes these runs no matter how many times he’s not found with a pass, helping his team stretch the opposition and move players around.



Fox In And Around The Box


Orban has incredible movements in the box which helps him to get free from his marker to always make himself available for rebounds, tap-ins, or easy pick-outs by teammates. There is also a variation to the movements, be it dropping off defenders in the box to remain on the edge of the box and free or making constant near-post runs from whichever side the ball is coming from.


He mixes this good movement with incredible intensity in attacking the box making it for defenders to catch up with him in the box, especially when running at goal with the ball at his feet in the box(or entering the box). The combination helps make him get in the right positions at the right times in the box, an attribute that is of most importance to most top clubs in the world right now.





He is one of the best players in terms of forcing opposition players into errors or rushing them into uncomfortable decisions. He makes smart angled runs, covering passing lanes to remove the chances of an easy pass by the player he’s pressing before jumping on them forcing an error. However, he can still do a lot to improve in this aspect of his game as once his press is by-passed, he usually does little to follow up and continue keeping pressure on the opposition.




Finding Space


Whenever his team are advancing, Orban always manages to time exactly the right times to drop off defenders to receive the ball when nothing else is on, which either allows him to find himself in space or drags a defender along with him to free up space for runners in-behind. He also serves as an outlet making himself available to relieve pressure when his team wants to counterattack.



Ball Striking


He has a fantastic ball-striking ability and accuracy be it with his in-step or laces which allows him to play fierce shots into the bottom corner, however, he’s not usually able to replicate the same accuracy when he’s looking for the top corners.






Aerial Ability


There tends to be a lack of intensity or conviction from Gift Orban when dueling for aerial balls and this is most evident during attacking corner kicks where he tends to position himself as far away from aerial duels as possible and defending corner kicks where he’s usually left as the only player up-field.




Constantly Running Channels


The Gent striker prefers making runs in behind the RB and RCB into the channels, and that on its own is a good trait, it can sometimes be limiting as he shows a lack of a variety of movements outside the box which is the complete opposite of his actions inside the box. This tendency sometimes affects his teams’ attack as he goes down the channel even though it’s congested instead of making central runs to pin defenders and open space for others.



On-Ball Abilities


Orban does not have very good on-ball abilities outside the box. He’s not very good at holding up play, laying off the ball, giving final passes (which is evident with him having only two assists since he joined in January) dribbling past players, or even controlling the ball from passes.



Following Up A Press


He is a very good presser and constantly forces the opposition into mistakes or errors via his angled runs, however, once his press is beaten, he tends to leave the player to run free and pass on the responsibility to another of his teammates.






At the moment, Gift Orban is one of the deadliest finishers in the world with his 1.03 goals/90 in the Belgian Pro League in the currently concluded season which will certainly put him on the radars of top teams in Europe. He has impressive movements in the penalty box which usually helps him get free of markers or on the end of rebounds, and when he does get on the end of a chance, he has a lethal shot on him and tends to put them away.


However, his all-round game still needs a lot of polishing, as he is not too good at holding up the ball for others, dribbling, or even passing generally and this might be the reason a move has not yet materialized. If Orban is to find that next step in his career, he would have to strongly develop his actions outside the penalty box as right now, his best work is done in and around the 18-yard area.


Orban received a maiden call-up to the Nigeria national team alongside fellow newcomers Victor Boniface and Jordan Torunarigha, and he’ll be looking to make his Super Eagles debut on September 10 as Jose Peseiro’s side take on Sao Tome and Principe in their final qualifier for next year’s African Cup of Nations.


By: Tomisin Lai-Oke / @_tomlinsin_

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / ANP / Getty Images