Born: 09/10/1995, Newham
Chuba Akpom first played for the Under-18s when he was just 15. He has been a regular in the squad this year, and even though still a schoolboy, the powerful and skilful striker insists that he would have liked to have started more games.
“Perhaps I was being too ambitious because I am still at school, but I began the season hoping to become a regular starter,” he says. “I have made 15 appearances in all, which is very good for me in that I feel fully prepared to hit the ground running next season when I begin as an Academy scholar. I suppose that this season has been a very good warm-up.”
Chuba attends four training sessions a week with the Gunners as well as applying himself to his schoolwork, and reveals: “to do as best as I can academically is important to me. I know I want to become a professional footballer and I am 100 per cent focused on that, but at the same time I have to be practical in that injuries happen in football and without qualifications I will have little to fall back on.
"I do not believe that my football suffers because I apply myself to it, and nor do I believe that my schoolwork suffers because of my football. I believe I have the right balance. In fact I think I’m inspired to do my schoolwork because as soon as it’s done, I know I can play football.”
Chuba explains that his drive was to become a footballer for as long as he can remember with Thierry Henry and Ronaldo his main sources of inspiration. “I remember watching them both all the time,” he smiles.
“Even now I watch them on YouTube. I learn from Thierry’s movement and finishing and Ronaldo’s directness, power and skills. I felt so fortunate to meet Thierry when he was training with us. I didn’t go into detail with him about playing as a striker, but it was good that he showed an interest, shook my hand and asked how I was getting on whenever I saw him.”
Chuba is from a rare breed of young Gunners - he has been a striker all his life. Going back as far as Martin Keown or one of today’s opponents, Ashley Cole, as classic examples, most young players start off as strikers and then make other positions their own. The reason perhaps that Chuba is still an attacker is undoubtedly that he ticks all the boxes required. He is tall, powerful and creative - and knows where the goal is. He is also quick. “I am not as fast as Nigel Neita or Ben Glasgow, but not far behind,” he reports.
The only problem for Chuba is, that contrary to most strikers, he says he gets as much joy from setting up goals for others as he does scoring himself. “It’s quite funny because Steve Bould sometimes has a go at me for being greedy in front of goal so he may laugh when he reads this, but I really do get as much pleasure from helping others score,” he states. “If I make the assist, I get great satisfaction. I like to beat players and get a cross or pass in. It is a team game and I know my main aim is to score goals and I really enjoy doing that, but I get as much of a thrill in making a killer pass.”
Whether players are 16 or 30, playing FIFA 12 or FIFA Street is a big part of their social life. Chuba is no different, but he insists that both can be a big help to what happens on the pitch. “Again, like schoolwork it’s about balance, but I really believe that FIFA Street is especially helpful,” he says. “One of the main things about it are the tricks. I try to replicate them and then I bring it to the boys and we have competitions as to who pulls it off the best. Let’s just say I am the teacher!”
Three teams you played for before Arsenal?
Rippleway FC, Cover FC and St Bonaventure’s
Best piece of advice anyone’s given you?
“Time waits for no-one”
Best moment in football before joining Arsenal?
Winning ‘player of the tournament’ in my first-ever tournament, aged seven
Supported growing up?
Pretended to be in the playground?
Other sports good at?
Basketball, table tennis, tennis
Favourite TV programme growing up?
My Wife and Kids
Favourite teacher at school?
Mr Bastian at St Bonaventure’s
Most influential on career so far?
Other clubs interested in you before Arsenal?
West Ham and Charlton
Favourite item of clothing?
A Lamborghini Gallard
Current Arsenal role model?
Robin van Persie
Best thing about being part of the Academy?
Being trained by ex-players and legends
Three words to describe you as a player...
Skilful, creative, direct
Three words to describe you as a person...
Ambitious, calm, fun
Three people you follow on Twitter...
Rick Ross, Cassie, Ronaldo
Most talented team-mate?
Something about you not many people know?
I play a lot of PlayStation!