Position: Centre back
Height: 6ft 3in
Weight: 12st 1lb
By Lambros Lambrou
Elton Monteiro and the Under-18s side he captains have enjoyed good fortune since the New Year. With two games remaining, the young Gunners are clear at the top of the Premier Academy League and look to have their fate in their own hands. The results and performances are in stark contrast to the inconsistencies prior to Christmas. The Swiss defender is insistent that an injection of aggression has been the key.
“Our attitude has changed,” he reveals. “We are now much more aggressive on the pitch, especially in our closing down. I believe the real turning point was in a match against Portsmouth Under-18s. That was the first time we really increased the intensity. It is not just that we won 5-0, but we all recognised the rewards for closing down quickly and aggressively. By winning the ball back quickly, we can use it ourselves and prevent our opponents playing. Encouraged by that game we have gone on and become better and better. Such a mental attitude is important at any level, whether Under-18s, reserves or the first-team.”
The centre back turned 18 last month and signed a professional contract a year ago, but he knows that every experience is a valuable one. “I have travelled with the reserves a bit this season," he says. "There are a lot of senior players in the squad and it is good to see how they prepare before games and their conduct and attitude during the game.
“I try to learn from every situation. I work hard in training and am benefitting, but I believe that I have improved because I am a lot more experienced than when I first joined Arsenal and that is the biggest factor. When I first came here I heard people criticise me for being inconsistent. I think the biggest improvement I have made is that my performance levels are higher but I have good consistency now and that has come because I have learnt from different situations. The more experienced you become, the better you become as a player.
"That is why I am very keen to play as many games for the reserves as I can and to also win a trophy. I have never won anything before. I want to experience what it takes. We are top of the league and if we carry on like we are, we have an excellent chance to win our league and then go on to play the other top teams in a big stadium. I played at Emirates against Chelsea earlier in the season and quite a few people stayed behind. I am not sure whether it will be different because the crowd will be there primarily to watch us play. It is an incentive for us all.”
Elton holds a Portuguese passport, but was born in Switzerland. His hope is to play internationally for Switzerland one day. “My passport is Portuguese, but I am Swiss,” he explains. “I have nothing drawing me to play for Portugal as I was born and raised in Switzerland. Portugal has a strong football reputation, but the football is getting stronger in Switzerland,” he reports.
However, the youngster cannot explain why there has been a recent glut of Swiss centre backs coming through the Arsenal ranks. “I know there was Philippe Senderos, then Johan Djourou, there is also Sead Hajrovic and Martin Angha as well as myself. All of us are central defenders and I really do not know why this has happened.”
Elton continues to monitor the Swiss Leagues and indeed came from FC Sion, the club which were punished for playing ineligible players in a Europa League play-off against Celtic. “I think the President of FC Sion put his own pride first and did not need to do what he did – the club paid the price,” says the defender. “Generally though, Swiss football is good. As you know, Basel knocked out Manchester United and they have got to the knock-out stages before, so I was not that surprised.”
Three teams you played for before Arsenal?
FC Sion is the only one.
Best piece of advice ever given to you?
“Go hard or go home”
Best moment in football before joining Arsenal?
Winning a Nike Cup tournament in Lucerne
Team supported growing up?
Pretended to be on the playground?
Other sports were you good at when at school?
Tennis and skiing
Favourite kids’ TV programme growing up?
A programme called Olive et Thom
Favourite teacher at school?
My English teacher, whose name I forget, at Ecole Ardevaz
Favourite item of clothing?
An Aston Martin
Current Arsenal role model?
Best thing about being part of the Academy?
Our superb facilities
Three words to describe you as a player...
Tall, skinny, fast
Three words to describe you as a person...
Quiet, honest, enthusiastic
Something about you not many people know?
I am eligible to play football for Portugal