By Lloyd Webb

Kristopher Da Graca hopes this year will see him make his breakthrough.

The defender recently celebrated his 18th birthday and has since been included in the under-21s starting XI for their last two games, against Stoke City and Swansea City.

Da Graca has impressed in the under-18s this season, but will now be looking to develop in Steve Gatting’s squad and retain his place for Friday's game against Brighton.

We have to go into every game and try to win and get the three points because we want to be champions,” he said. "We have a really strong team this year. We’ve done well so far and I think we’ve got a really good chance of winning it this season

Kris Da Graca

“It’s a very big step, but I’ve always wanted to play for the under-21s and it’s really good that I’m here now and playing for the team,” he told Arsenal.com.

“I really hope that I can train consistently with the under-21s and sometimes the first team now, and just keep getting as many games as I can for the under-21s. It’s really nice to have the coach’s belief in me, it shows he trusts me a bit and that he thinks I’m ready to play for this side.

"I’ve learnt that I have to be stronger. The under-21s is a lot quicker, faster and stronger and I have to learn a lot and make sure I can keep playing in this team.”

The Gunners have already beaten Brighton once this season, and Da Graca feels a further victory against the east Sussex side will be vital to a promotion challenge.

“We have to go into every game and try to win and get the three points because we want to be champions,” he said. "We have a really strong team this year. We’ve done well so far and I think we’ve got a really good chance of winning it this season.”

Follow @Arsenal on Twitter from 12:55pm (UK time) on Friday for live updates of the game against Brighton Under-21s at London Colney.

Copyright 2016 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source
4 Feb 2016