In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. This week we spoke to forward Donyell Malen.
When I found out Arsenal were interested in me I felt so proud and excited. Arsenal was a club that had always interested me for two main reasons, Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry.
Dennis was my coach with Ajax when I was in the under- 10s. His time with Arsenal was before I was born and when I was very, very young, but I’ve taken time to watch a lot of his games with Arsenal. He’s a very quiet guy but I learnt a lot from him, he taught me a lot about awareness, reading of the game and beating defenders.
What I learnt from him made a big impression on me and really began my association with Arsenal. Thierry Henry is one of my all-time football heroes. Some people say we play similarly and I take that as a big, big compliment but it is not something I can say.
It is true that he is a player that I watch videos of to learn from and try and bring what he did into my game. I feel really honoured that now I’m at Arsenal he often coaches us and he passes on his knowledge directly in training sessions.
I really enjoy the coaching at Arsenal and the football too, which is quicker and more physical than in Holland and I feel I’ve adapted well.
I’ve done a lot of work with the conditioning and performance trainer and feel a lot stronger and faster. Developing my English has also helped immensely in properly understanding what’s said by the coaches and my team-mates. I’ve scored four goals for the under-18s and made one assist in the under- 19s Champions League and I feel I’m now able to contribute even more.
I started playing football when I was four years old for a small amateur club called Succes. I played on the left wing for a three or four years and when I joined Ajax as a nine year old they moved me into the central striker role.
I enjoyed the position a lot more but can still play wide or even as a number 10 if I am asked to. At Ajax we trained four times a week and played a game at the weekend. I lived quite a distance away from where we trained and so my mum used to drive the three-hour round trip five times a week and I’m very grateful to her.
She knew that I was focused on becoming a professional footballer and supported my dream as much as she could by making sure I got to training and matches.
Since joining Arsenal I’ve played with the Holland Under-17 team and the coaches have told me that already I seem a more complete player. Having someone like Arsène Wenger tell me that he sees a lot of potential in me has also given me a very big boost in confidence.
I’m now more settled living in London. I do miss my two brothers and two sisters and other family and friends, but Skype and FaceTime help.
I go back during international breaks and they have come over too. I’m very focused on improving as a player and will do everything I need to so that I improve to play for the first team.
THREE OF THE BEST
...positions I can play in1 striker, 2 wing, 3 no. 10
...best aspects of my game 1 Finishing, 2 pace, 3 vision
...things I can improve on1 Left foot, 2 reading the game 3 finding space
...players I’m similar to1 Thierry Henry (some people say!)
...footballing heroes1 Ronaldo (Brazil), 2 Ronaldinho, 3 Thierry Henry
...favourite foodsFoods from Surinam: 1 Roti, 2 Bami, 3 Nise
...best friends in football1 Matthias Delegt, 2 Justin Kluivert, 3 Ruben Hogenga
...choices for your squad number I am 7 but would choose 19.
...most used apps 1 Instagram, 2 Whatsapp, 3 Snapchat
...favourite TV series 1 The Walking Dead, 2 Football Insight, 3 Match of the Day
...tracks on my ultimate playlist1 Notorious B.I.G – Big Poppa, 2 Usher – Superstar, 3 Drake – Jump Man
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