Friday, August 31
By Isaac Hayden
Going into the NextGen Series, everyone in the dressing room was really excited about the competition - and what a start we made to win 3-0 against Marseille on Wednesday. It is two days later now, and having had time to think about the match we're all really happy at the performance and the result, but it is sinking in that it was just the first step of many that we want to take in the competition.
The day of the game was relatively quiet. We came in at 3.45pm for a pre-match meal, which was a simple chicken and pasta dish, then we had our team meeting. We went over our tactics and there were some inspirational words to help us before we jumped on the coach straight to the ground. Obviously I was disappointed not to be selected in the starting XI, but that is just the way it goes sometimes and you have to be ready to take your chance off the bench.
I wasn't really nervous before kick off. Since an early age, I have never really suffered from nerves or anxiety. I was more excited about starting the competition. I was thinking about the game and what I wanted to do if I came on, what positions I was likely to play and about previous good experiences. I find that helps me prepare.
Obviously the boys played really well, and we got off to the perfect start with the early goals from Nico Yennaris and Chuba Akpom. Nico put in the ultimate captain's performance, while Chuba did really well.
I have only played against Chuba in training - I wouldn't want to face him in a match - and he is definitely one of the best strikers I have faced. Sometimes he is simply unplayable. If he carries on progressing in the way he is, then the world is his oyster.
I got my chance in the 73rd minute and it is always nice to come on in a game like that. It is difficult in games when it is 1-0 and the opposition are pressing, but as we were 2-0 up at the time it was almost party football really. I was pleased to get my chance and it was great when Chuba scored his second to wrap things up.
It was a brilliant experience overall, the crowd was really, really good and the atmosphere when we scored was excellent. Just having the fans there, and looking over and seeing that they are all watching, gives you a real boost and adds to the occasion. It really helped us all, so I hope they will be there for every home game we have this season!
We feel that the result is almost like we have stamped our authority on things early on, and put down a marker to the other teams in the NextGen Series. The whole day really lived up to every expectation I had - there was a great crowd, we were playing against different opposition and we put in a really good performance.
Now I can't wait for the next game against Olympiacos on September 12. Let's hope we can deliver more of the same.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