By Lambros Lambrou
Emmanuel Frimpong has been used to his burgeoning football career moving forward at a pace. As a nine year-old he was playing football with friends on the streets of Ghana and within months he was signed by Arsenal.
Whilst still a 15 year-old schoolboy he captained the Under-18s side and earlier this month made his first-team debut in a friendly against Huddersfield.
“I suppose things have moved forward for me quite quickly, but I am happy about that,” he told the Matchday Programme. “I always loved football and when I came over from Ghana I joined a team called Broadwater Farm. Very shortly after, the manager, Clasford Sterling, arranged for me to have a trial with Arsenal. My age group were away, so I started with the younger players that were being coached by Steve Leonard. He felt I had to play with older players and so I skipped my age group and moved up to join the year above me with players like Sanchez Watt, Henry Lansbury and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. I must have done quite well because Arsenal signed me.”
Emmanuel is a strong, tough-tackling midfielder. He sees his job as winning possession and then passing it simple. Some people may consider that a negative role – but not Emmanuel, who explains: “I think what I do is very positive for the team because a lot of what we do begins
with me. If you don’t have the ball you can’t score and, of course, if we have the ball the opposition cannot do anything with it. My role is a very positive one and I love what I do.”
That attitude and commitment to the team earned the youngster the captain’s role in the Under-18s last season when still a schoolboy: “Liam Brady had spoken to me before and said that he felt that I had the attributes required to be a captain. He said that he could see that their players respected me even though I was one of the youngest players in the team. I got the impression that Liam was preparing me to stand in as captain and so when it happened I was a little surprised, very pleased but not shocked. I enjoyed the responsibility of captaincy and I hope to get more opportunities as a captain in the future.”
Emmanuel is an England youth International and the national side is very much in his thoughts: “I have three main targets. The first is to keep improving all areas of my game, the second is to try and play as many games as I can for the Reserves and the third is to help England qualify for the World Youth Championships in Nigeria.”
The World Youth Championships and subsequent World Cup in South Africa are of particular interest to Emmanuel. He keeps an eye on African football, but does not believe that an African team can win the tournament any time soon.
“African players have the skill and the physical attributes but they are too far behind tactically to win the World Cup. They have a long way to go,” he insists. “But the passion for the game is strong and for many football is the only hope of them being able to make something of themselves. They have the commitment but lack the resources. That is why I feel so privileged at Arsenal. We have the resources and all that a player needs is their talent and the talent to use and develop it.”
Emmanuel trained three times with the first team last season even though he was just 15 and thrived on the experience: “I partnered Cesc Fabregas in one match and that was good for me. I don’t think Cesc was too bothered about who was in centre-mid with him, but I was thrilled,” grins the youngster.
Since the beginning of the season Emmanuel has made further advances: “Neil Banfield and Steve Bould have encouraged me to get even more
out of training and I am now training with Neil Banfield more than Steve Bould. The sessions are very different. Steve works players more on technique, whereas there is more of an emphasis on fitness and stamina in Neil’s sessions, closer to how the first team train. It’s hard but I am enjoying it.”
Emmanuel believes that Jack Wilshere’s progress has given all the younger players a massive boost. “We are all encouraged by what Jack has done and he has inspired us all. We know that if we have the talent and apply it we will have a chance to make the most of it,” concludes the youngster.
“That is what I am driven to do.”
**This interview first appeared in the matchday programme. You can subscribe to the Matchday Programme by calling 08700 20 20 20Copyright 2014 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 2 Sep 2008