Feature

Young Gun: James Olayinka

In Young Guns, featured first in the official matchday programme, we find out about the next generation of Arsenal youngsters, in their own words. Next we speak to midfielder, James Olayinka. 

I would describe myself as a box-to-box attacking midfielder, and out of all the players in the first team, I think my style is closest to Aaron Ramsey.

In that position you need to have a lot of stamina and determination, and what’s crucial is the timing of your runs. The last few seconds are the most important. Aaron Ramsey is very good at that and it’s an area that comes naturally to me, but I’m always working to improve.

There’s the other side of the game too, defending, which I’m developing, and I find that helps my attacking play too. If you intercept or win a tackle higher up the pitch, you’re already in a position to threaten the opposition goal. Tackling, intercepting and heading are areas that I’m working extra hard on but also my finishing too.

I want to add more goals so practising my finishing is very important for a player like me. I’m also working on improving my forward passing as I have a responsibility to develop moves and provide assists.

I’ve been playing football in a team since I was four years old but was spotted by an Arsenal scout, Steve Higgins, when I was seven. I was playing for my local team, Northwood FC. There was an Arsenal feeder training centre in Ruislip that was run by Steve. I attended the sessions there and was invited for a trial at Hale End. I was signed within a week or so and travelled to Hale End for training from then on.

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Olayinka against Leicester City

I was a winger when I first joined but I was moved into midfield by the Arsenal coaches when I was an under-10. I enjoyed playing on the wing but I really love where I play now.                                                    

I feel I’ve settled well into full-time training. It took a little time to adapt but I feel stronger and fitter now. As a unit, the under-18s are getting into our stride.

The experience of travelling with the under-23s and seeing the games close up was really useful last season, as I could see that there is no room for mistakes. With the under-18s you might have a chance to get away with an error but at the higher age group, any errors tend to be punished. The pace is quicker too and, as I say, I am really keen to apply myself at that level.

Hopefully I will get another chance soon. My proudest moments have come with Arsenal. Winning the Futures Cup in 2016 was a high point, as was being voted ‘Most Promising Player’ in the Pineto Calcio Tournament in Italy. We got knocked out in the semi-finals of that but the fact that I received that award when there were so many good players there, not just from Arsenal but also Juventus, Inter Milan and other top sides, made it special for me.

Hopefully we will win more in the future so that I can add to these highlights.

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