Pre-Match Report

U-21 League: Arsenal v Blackburn - Preview

By Rob Kelly

It has been quite a summer for Chuba Akpom. The young striker has always seemed to be one step ahead of the curve after making his debut for Arsenal’s Under-18s as a 15-year-old, and things just keep getting better for him.

A powerful, skilful forward, Akpom impressed throughout pre-season and did enough to catch the eye of the Club’s new reserves and head development coach, Terry Burton. Not only that, it was also enough to draw the attention of England Under-19s head coach Noel Blake, who has called him up for next month’s match against Germany.

Not that stepping up a level will worry the 17-year-old, who has been doing it throughout his short career.

“I am not really fazed by anything,” Akpom told “You have to be confident when you go out on to the pitch and if you believe in yourself, a lot of things can go well for you.”

Things have certainly been going well for the teenager in recent months, as his rapid progress continues apace. He played a starring role in the Under-21s’ 3-1 victory over Bolton at Emirates Stadium on Monday night, and he admits he can’t wait to return to the venue to face Blackburn on Saturday.

“It is quite exciting to know we're playing at the Emirates again,” he said. “When I came out of the tunnel [on Monday], the first thing I saw was the fans and I was really happy.

“They are like a 12th man for us, and if they hadn’t been there [for the Bolton game] I don't think we would have had as much courage to go on and win the match.

“The pitch is unbelievable, that is why they called it 'the carpet'. It is really nice to play on; there are no excuses.

“Playing at the Emirates gives me a real hunger to go on and play for the first team. Even watching the first team against Sunderland, it really motivates you. You see all the fans, you see the way they are treated and it makes you want to follow in their footsteps.”

Akpom’s flourishing understanding with Serge Gnabry was one of the most encouraging aspects of the Under-21s’ victory against Bolton, and the teenager is looking forward to reprising it on Saturday.

“Serge is a very good player, he's great to link up with and he's really talented,” he said. “With his ability, he can go far in the game.

“Our link-up play comes from training, because we like to play one-twos and we are also good friends, so the understanding has developed from there.”

It has been a whirlwind few months for Akpom, and even he admits he has been taken aback by his progress.

“I’m quite surprised that I am already starting to play for the under-21s because I was hoping to play for the under-18s this season, because I’m only a first-year scholar,” he said.

“But I hope I can get more starts and wins for the [under-21s] over the course of the season.

“It is really nice to play at this level and I hope I keep going in this way - maybe I could even get a place on the bench in the Capital One Cup. With enough hard work, that could possibly happen for me.”

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