Throughout the season, we’ve featured many in-depth interviews and features with players across our men’s and women’s teams, digging deeper into what motivates and inspires them to give our supporters added insight into their heroes.
With the season now at a close, we’ve gone back through some of our best long reads from the past 12 months, which showcase our writers’ flair and in-depth research in well-crafted, entertaining and informative pieces that supporters have loved.
To help you pass the time between now and the start of pre-season, here are some of the best for you to get stuck into:
To mark Bukayo signing a new contract, we spoke to a host of prominent figures including Liam Brady, Gary O’Driscoll and Per Mertesacker who helped identify and nurture his talent at an early age at Hale End, and helped to mould him into the superstar that he is today.
Key quote: Luke Hobbs on a young Bukayo: “We got to the final against Chelsea. I put Bukayo’s team on first, and then took them off at half-time, with us winning. Chelsea brought it back to 3-3, and I remember thinking: ‘If I want to win this, I need to put Bukayo back on.’
“So whether it was right or wrong in terms of my methods, I put him back on, and before you know it he’d made it 4-3, then 5-3, then straight into the top corner - 6-3. They couldn’t get the ball off him!”
Having been a child prodigy who made his first-team debut aged just 13, Martin Odegaard gave an insight into how his family helped pave the way for his talents to blossom, what it was like to have his dad as a coach at Real Madrid and how he deals with the responsibility of captaining Arsenal aged just 24.
Key quote: “My dad was my coach when I was young, and then I got other coaches, but he would always still tell me things of course, and maybe be a bit different to the other coaches.
“Sometimes that could be annoying, because he wasn’t actually my coach anymore! But I realised it always came from a good place, because he just wanted what was the best for me.”
The England skipper shared stories about some of the key personnel who helped her to the top of the game, from coaches as a youngster, teammates past and present and even supporters she met at Emirates Stadium who helped her realise that she was representing the entire Arsenal family.
Key quote: “I'd actually always dreamt of being an Olympian when I was younger. When people talk about having a dream when you're little, that was mine, but I chose football because it made me much happier.
“I probably would have tried heptathlon or something if I’d pursued it – only running used to just make me feel horrendously sick!”
Our shot-stopper discussed the camaraderie between all members of the GK Union, and which fellow custodians helped shaped his displays between the posts - from idols that he watched on television to those he played in the back garden of during his teenage years.
Key quote: “As I was going through the Bolton system Jussi Jaaskelainen was a big part of my career – he was my early inspiration. Being able to watch him every other weekend at the home games was obviously huge.
“Becoming close family friends with him and being able to speak to him about football and play in the garden with him and his son William, who's the same age as me. I’m still very close with them, but for me at that age to be around a Premier League player was huge.”
Alex revealed all about how his boyhood love of the club started in Ukraine, and how excited he was to meet a certain Arsenal legend after one of his early appearances as a Gunner. He also chatted about the difficulties he overcame as a youngster trying to make the grade, when his family made all the difference.
Key quote: “I used to wear the Arsenal shirt when I was 15. Have you seen the picture of me with my old teammates on social media where I am wearing the shirt? Already that was a special feeling to wear it then, because I was a massive supporter of Arsenal.
“I won’t lie to you, it meant a lot to wear that as a fan. I always kept saying it was my dream to play there one day, so when I signed, and I joined up with the team in America during pre-season – it was a different feeling.”
Our defender talked about her efforts to increase young girls’ access to sport, trying to be a positive influence off the pitch with her work in the community and the individuals who shaped her values and encouraged her to be a beacon for change.
Key quote: “The more that we can provide kids in London and inner cities across the whole country the opportunity to play football, the stronger the pathway will grow. It will provide places like Arsenal with a fuller crop of players that reflect the multicultural society that we see day in, day out.
“You can aspire but if all you’re met with is ‘no’ or dead ends, then that aspiration becomes redundant. I think the way women's football is moving is that we're seeing fewer dead ends and we’re seeing more possibilities. There is still so much more work to be done in that area.”
Our defender spoke about how his unique perspective on the game helps him keep a level-headed approach to training and matchdays, how his non-football-loving family still showed the dedication to help him succeed, and how he’d be happy working as a gardener if his playing career hadn’t worked out.
Key quote: “I’d probably be working with my dad if I wasn’t a footballer. He used to be a gardener. I think that’s why there was never any pressure on me growing up, because I would have been very happy with that.
“I went into football, but it would have been no problem for me to do what my dad did.”
Another article featuring our skipper, who before completing a century of Gunners appearances back in April picked out the most important matches during his time in north London so far, and why they became his standout games as he quickly became a huge figure in our squad.
Key quote: On the final game of his initial loan spell in 2021: "It was strange because I wanted to stay, the club wanted me to stay, but Madrid owned me and wanted me to come back, so I didn’t know if it was the last game.
"I think there were 10,000 supporters there, and I could tell how special it would be with a full stadium. After being in empty stadiums, playing in front of that number felt like a dream."
After breaking into our first team, William Saliba reflected on what it meant to him to play for the club he dreamed of playing for as a kid, as well as offering an insight into what it was like being coached by Kylian Mbappe’s dad, and how his time on loan away from north London helped him carve out a place in our line-up.
Key quote: “When I was on loan it helped motivate me every day knowing that Arsenal were watching me, were in touch with me, and that soon I would be back here. My objective was always to come back and play here, so I knew I had to fight and work a lot while I was away.
“Somebody from the club was in touch with me every week, giving me advice, encouraging me and I knew they were supporting me, even though I was in France. Also having the love of the fans behind me while I was on loan was very special for me and helped me a lot.”
Lia wrote how it felt to grow up without a positive role model to encourage her to become a footballer, and reflects on how the growth of the women’s game has suddenly propelled her into that position for many youngsters supporting Arsenal or the Swiss national team and what that means to her.
Key quote: “It’s funny to me because in myself I’m still just a normal person - we all are! But now that we’re doing something which is accessible for a lot of people to watch, it’s very easy to forget how much responsibility you actually have for what you’re doing on and off the pitch.
“I think it can affect young kids in a really, really positive way. To have that opportunity to both show on the pitch what you can do and what your strengths are, then also show off the pitch how you can reach that by sharing your story, that’s something I find really nice.”
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