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 defender Marc Bola.
This season has been a very interesting one for me so far. I played most of the games for the u18s last season and this year I’ve been able to play all the matches, apart from against West Ham, in the u21s, and all the u19s Champions League qualifiers.
The interesting thing is that as a team we have a slightly different approach in one competition when compared to the other.
Our coaches for the u19s are Andries Jonker, Thierry Henry and Ryan Garry. Andries likes us to keep our position in the first two thirds of the pitch and, for example, I have to stay as wide as possible until we get into the attacking third.
I suppose it affects the wingers more than it does me, but in the u21s, the strategy is more fluid and I can come inside before we get into the last third.
Having Thierry Henry as a coach is very helpful for me as a left back because he draws on his experience to drill into us what we should do that attackers do not like. Principally that’s hard, physical tackles.
Thierry also helps a lot with our positioning in different scenarios. Ryan Garry has also helped me a lot because he played my position and I speak a lot with him about different circumstances and issues that I’ve come across and that’s helped me develop a lot this year.
As an u19s team we have Anderlecht to play in the play-offs and I’m really enjoying the u21s too. As I said, we play a different style which means that my education as a player is broader. Steve Gatting and Carl Laraman have helped me a lot and I’m really enjoying the physical challenges, which are greater in the u21s.
I’m confident we will get through and perhaps go all the way. The group games taught us a lot. We’ve had to employ and deal with different styles and strategies and also play in front of very partisan crowds. There was a fantastic atmosphere at Olympiacos.
It was hostile towards us but the Greek support gave the home side such a lift and made them play really well. But we dealt with that pressure and did enough to make sure that we got through instead of them.
I’m being encouraged to take a few more risks. I’ve been tempted in the past to make sure that I’m able to keep the ball for the team rather than taking a bit of a chance to carry the game forward, to try to develop more scoring opportunities and get more crosses in.
As a team we’re all very confident and I firmly believe that we will win our league. We have taken a few days off over Christmas but I have been following the programme I was given by the conditioning coaches to make sure that while I relax and rest, I also do enough exercises to keep ticking over so that I’m ready to go when we start again next week.
I feel I’ve got more to give and a big part of that is that I’ve recently moved into digs with Alex Iwobi at Noreen’s in Barnet. She is fantastic and has looked after a lot of top players who have come through the Arsenal ranks and they all still clearly have so much respect for her.
I feel more relaxed, especially as I don’t have the hours of travelling to and from South London. The bus that picks us up for training is just a few minutes away and I feel so much fresher. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season because we have so much to go for and I personally want to earn my pro contract.
It’s not something that I worry about all the time, but it crosses my mind from time to time and I hope to do all I can to ensure that I can remove that uncertainty and sign professionally.
As a lifelong Arsenal fan, that would be the ultimate for me and I fancy the first team could do the double this year too!
...positions I can play
Left back, centre back, striker
...best aspect of my game
...things I can improve on
Passing, positioning, crossing
... player I’m similar to
Mac and cheese
...best friend in football
...most used App
...favourite TV series
Everybody Hates Chris, Made in Chelsea
...track on my ultimate playlist
Drake – Sweeterman
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