In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. This week we spoke to Nathan Tella.
"I am playing for the club that I have always supported, but I owe a lot to playing football in the playground as a seven year old at St Nicolas Junior School in Stevenage. I used to like playing football for fun with my friends at school but never actually thought of joining a Sunday League team.
"One day one of the boys said that his team, Bedwell Rangers, could use a player like me. He took me along and I signed for them and started playing in a league. Fortunately for me, Arsenal Scout Brian Stapleton used to watch their games.
Because of the type of player I am, I try to learn from Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain especiallyNathan Tella
"I played as a striker and scored quite a lot of goals and apparently caught Brian’s eye early on. I wasn’t aware at the time but he watched a lot of my games before one day speaking to my dad and inviting me for a six- week trial at Hale End.
"It was during the summer holidays and I felt quite comfortable straight away and enjoyed the training and the three-on-three games we played on the first day on the Waterlow Pitch. About three weeks into the trial, I was picked to play against Everton Under-8s.
"I scored in that game and after that I was asked to sign. Obviously I was really happy, but didn’t realise how big a deal it was until I went back to school that September. I told a few of my friends and they went wild! It was at that point that I started to realise that football was to be enjoyed but also was something more now. I was part of the Arsenal academy.
"I focused hard on training. Thierry Henry was my hero and I used to watch what he did closely. I would practice his moves and tricks and try them out first in the playground at school. I never tried anything first at Arsenal. I was too worried about losing possession or making a mistake, but if it worked in the playground, then I took it to Hale End.
"Now that I’m a scholar things are at another level. I learnt a lot from playing as a schoolboy for the under-18s last year and I grew up with a lot of the first years and with the boys that have come from abroad. We’re a really good mix. It’s been an amazing experience so far.
"Training every day and being able to watch the first-team players close up. I mainly play on the right wing now, using my pace and dribbling skills which are my best assets, but I look to improve all aspects of my game, all of the time. Because of the type of player I am, I try to learn from Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain especially.
"The way that Theo collects the ball on the run is something I am emulating in my game. I also watch and learn from the Ox, especially how he can make surging runs along the flank or cutting inside. Defenders do not know which way he is going to go. He showed against Chelsea last weekend, he can finish too. He has a lot for me to learn from.
"I’m concentrating on improving this year. I’m the youngest in my year and I’m not 17 until next July but hopefully I’m able to feature in the under-21s and impress enough to achieve a professional contract by my next birthday. That drives me and I feel I’m at the best place to become the best player that I can be. Arsenal give young players a chance and that is very encouraging for us all."
Three of Each
...positions I can play in
1 Right wing
2 Right back
3 Left wing
...best aspects of my game
...things I can improve on
1 Weaker foot
...players I’m similar to
1 Theo Walcott
2 Raheem Sterling
3 Lucas Moura
1 Thierry Henry
3 Eden Hazard
...best friends in football
1 Eddie Nketiah
2 Jordi Osei-Tutu
...most used Apps on your phone
...favourite TV series
1 Prison Break
...tracks on your ultimate playlist
1 Drake - Know Yourself
2 JME - Man Don’t Care
3 Fetty Wap - My Way