Born: May 4, 1994, Sidcup
Height: 5ft 11ins
Weight: 11st 8lb
By Lambros Lambrou
Regular Under-18 striker Zak Ansah has taken on a new role this season. “There were a few injuries early on in the season and some of the first years were not yet able to play and so I was asked by Steve Bould to drop into midfield and try and help us keep the ball as a holding midfielder,” explains Zak.
“I have never played in that position before but I got used to it quite quickly and am enjoying myself because I am more involved in games.”
The first years are now all in contention, but Steve has continued with Zak in the centre. Watching him, you would be forgiven for believing that he has always played in the position. In a tough game with Southampton just under a month ago, he controlled the pace and tempo of the game as much of the ball went through him, and he was more than a holding player.
“I am quite comfortable in the position now and I suppose that because I am a striker I am able to see and anticipate the runs the guys in front of me are making, or are about to make, and slipping balls through in between defenders comes quite naturally. So I am not just playing as a holding midfielder, but I support the attack too.
“Phil Roberts is doing so well up front and he is always a good target. I suppose what I need to develop is making runs into the opposition penalty area to try and score more goals from midfield.”
The youngster may be playing in the middle, but during and after training, he still works as a striker on his finishing and heading. “In the long term, as I progress to the Reserves and I hope beyond, I want to play as a striker. Being in midfield is good for me and the team at the moment, but I still feel that I am a striker. But in the Under-18s it works all round for me to play in midfield.”
Zak has already made a full debut with Neil Banfield’s Reserves, but on the right side of the attack. “I think I did OK. It is a position that I can play and there’s a pattern at Arsenal that strikers and attacking midfielders begin on the wings until they establish themselves when moving up into the Reserves and the first team. Reserve games are played at a quicker pace than Under-18s, but I think I did well and I’m looking forward to playing more often and making myself part of the FA Youth Cup team, whether in midfield or as a striker,” says Zak.
“I think we have a good chance this season. Compared to the Under-18s last season, this year we seem to have settled and matured. We are even closer as a group and it is more about the team than players as individuals and I believe that togetherness shows on the pitch.”
Zak signed professional terms last May and, as such, football is his vocation, but another form of football is his main source of relaxation too. “I play FIFA 12 quite a bit at home, a lot of the time online with Elton Monteiro and Nigel Neita. They are good, but I’m the best,” he grins: “Jack Wilshere is on the cover of the case and unfortunately he’s got a bit of time on his hands at the moment so I wouldn’t mind challenging him to a game!”
Teams you played for before Arsenal?
Sydenham Sport Junior Football Club, Charlton Athletic and Haberdasher Aske’s Knights Academy
Best advice ever?
Talent without hard work is wasted talent
Best football moment before joining Arsenal?
Under-9s London Cup
Final for my Sunday club Supported growing up?
Who did you pretend to be on the playground?
Favourite kids’ TV show growing up?
Favourite teacher at school?
Mr Bromley at Haberdasher Aske’s Knights Academy
Other sports good at?
Most influential on your football career so far?
Other clubs interested before signing for Arsenal?
Wimbledon, Chelsea, Charlton and Tottenham
Fave item of clothing?
My Nike Blazer Vintages (trainers)
Current player who’s a role model?
Robin van Persie
Three words to describe you as a person?
Happy, shy, humble
Who do you follow on Twitter?
My dad [Andy Ansah], Jack Wilshere, Kim Kardashian