Pre-Match Report

Under-21s: Brighton v Arsenal - Preview

"I’ve learnt that if you work hard and do the right things you will get an opportunity at a club like Arsenal."

Semi Ajayi has been training with Arsenal’s first team for just over a season and, although he has not made his competitive debut yet, he believes it will come soon.

The tall centre back joined up with Arsene Wenger’s side during the last campaign and played 45 minutes in a pre-season friendly against Boreham Wood.

Since then, Ajayi has formed a solid defensive partnership with Stefan O’Connor for the under-21s, and his commanding performances were rewarded with a place on the first-team bench against Southampton and, more recently, Hull City.

Semi Ajayi training with the first team

Semi Ajayi training with the first team

 

“It was crazy," the 21-year-old told Arsenal.com. “All our players are aspiring to make that step up to the first team, so I was over the moon. Unfortunately I didn’t come on but I’m praying that I get more opportunities and eventually do make my debut.

“Their training is very similar to our training but a lot more intense as the tempo is quicker and you’re playing with world-class players, so you have to be a lot more alert.

“I’ve been training with them for a while so I’m quite familiar with them, but players like Per Mertesacker really helped me fit in when I first started training with them. I used to play alongside him quite a lot and he gave me really good advice.

Semi Ajayi and Per Mertesacker

Semi Ajayi and Per Mertesacker

 

“He’s a a role model for me. He’s got so much experience and he reads the game really well. You can really learn from playing with and watching players like him.

“It shows that there’s a pathway through to the first team. As long as you work hard and do the right things, you’ll get your opportunity. I’m hoping to make my debut and after that make as many appearances as I can.”

Semi Ajayi and Arsene Wenger

Semi Ajayi and Arsene Wenger

 

Ajayi will have another chance to impress at under-21 level when the young Gunners face Brighton Under-21s at Amex Stadium on Monday evening.

Kick-off is at 7pm (UK time) and there will be live updates of the game on the @Arsenal Twitter account from 6.55pm.