Opportunity knocks for Ignasi Miquel. The Spanish defender has patiently bided his time since his arrival at the Club in 2008, watching and learning from his more experienced team-mates, acclimatising to life in England and adding to his already impressive armoury. But now he is ready to stake his claim for a first-team place.
When Johan Djourou was allowed to leave the Club on loan in January, some were surprised that he was not directly replaced. But for those who have watched the development of Miquel in recent seasons, it was merely an implicit acknowledgement of this burgeoning talent in the Club’s midst.
Miquel arrived at Arsenal with a basic knowledge of the language and no experience of the English game, other than what he had seen on television. Now he captains the under-21s with the same elegant style that caught the eye of the Arsenal scouts all those years ago, although he has added a more robust, physical edge. Not only that, Miquel also speaks with a light London lilt when he converses in fluent English with Arsenal.com.
"You go out there and give 100 per cent and when they speak to you, you listen. It’s good to discuss things with them"
It has been some coming of age for the 20-year-old, but now his chance to prove himself may finally be here. With Thomas Vermaelen out with an ankle injury, Miquel was named on the bench at Sunderland on Saturday and came on for a three-minute cameo. And with Laurent Koscielny struggling with a calf problem, and Carl Jenkinson suspended following his red card at the Stadium of Light, ‘Iggy’ could find himself thrust into action against Blackburn in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday. He is more than ready.
“Getting into the first team is my main aim and it’s what I really want to do,” Miquel told Arsenal.com. “I’ll keep working hard and we’ll see, but it’s the same for everyone: you can’t wait for it to happen.
“You want the chance to show yourself at Emirates Stadium. You can’t do anything but give what you’ve got every time that you train, and see what happens from there.
“I’ve been training with the first team for the last three weeks. I’m happy to be around the other [more experienced] players. You watch them in training because they are where you want to be. If you learn from them, you’ve got a better chance of making it.
“You go out there and give 100 per cent and when they speak to you, you listen. It’s good to discuss things with them, you don’t argue but you can give your opinion too and they accept it.
“It’s good to get different opinions on things and it’s important to get to know who you’re playing with. It’s always nice to take advice from them."
First though, Miquel could be asked to prove his credentials against Manchester United in the elite group stage of the Under-21 Premier League tonight. Terry Burton’s side have made a slightly hesitant start after Christmas with one draw and a defeat in their opening two games, but will be looking to get back to winning ways.
Should Miquel start at Moss Lane this evening - and it’s by no means certain considering his potential involvement on Saturday - he could once again slot in at left back. Although a centre back by trade, the 20-year-old has been working on his versatility, and is happy to play wherever he is asked to.
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“They’re making me get used to playing at left back, so it’s not that weird for me anymore,” he said. “Centre back is my main position so I’ve got no trouble adapting.
“Playing left back is different, I have to get forward more but with time I think I’ve got used to it. It’s good for me to have two positions because it will give me more chances to show myself. I want the chance to show that I can fight for the first team. I have to make sure I take my opportunity if it comes my way and make the most of it.”
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