Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, the in-form Jimi Gower speaks about how he has progressed this season, and how excited he has been about our run to the FA Youth Cup semi-finals.
I think it's been a good year for me in terms of my progression. I've been getting a good run of games lately and affecting them wherever I can. I've managed to get myself among the goals a bit more in the second half of the season too and I’m always wanting to add more. I think I’ve understood my strengths better this season too and how I can help the team defensively, as well as when I’m on the ball.
Jack Wilshere has been a big part of why I’ve enjoyed this season so much. Jack and I have good conversations together about football and I’m learning a lot from him. He joins in our training sessions and because we play the same position in midfield, I’m always trying to pick up different things from him.
In terms of specifics with Jack, we speak a lot about using your body to make the defender think he can get the ball, then using your instincts to keep it away from him. Jack inspires me to be creative every day, to express myself and try to make things happen on the pitch.
I made my Premier League 2 debut recently against Blackburn Rovers, which was a good experience for me. I enjoyed the occasion, it’s obviously a faster pace than I’m used to with the under-18s, but I felt more than ready for the challenge on the day. It was a helpful experience travelling away with the older boys too and seeing how they prepare for these games compared to what I’m used to with the under-18s.
One of the highlights of our season so far has been our FA Youth Cup run and we’re now in the semi-final, where we play Manchester City at Emirates Stadium. We’ve had some crazy moments building up to this semi-final - the Newcastle United game at St James’ Park was my favourite one. We played some great football that day, although we made it a bit hard for ourselves!
When Osman Kamara came off the bench and scored the winner in the manner that he did, it really made us as a team know that whether you start the match or if you come off the bench, you still have a big part to play in the team and you can affect the game massively.
"The whole Youth Cup run has been crazy, full of so many ups and downs, but it’s just brought us closer as a group"
Playing at Emirates Stadium in the quarter-final against Cambridge United was a brilliant experience. I was buzzing on the day, obviously, there were some nerves too, but it was definitely more excitement than anything else. I remember when we were all warming up before the game, we looked at each other and said: ‘just think, one day this could be us every week!’ The whole experience of playing at Emirates Stadium in front of a crowd gave us all a taste of what we could achieve and to keep working hard to get there one day.
The whole Youth Cup run has been crazy, full of so many ups and downs, but it’s just brought us closer as a group. At different times throughout the tournament, everyone has stepped up in different ways. Whenever you’re struggling and things aren’t going your way, you need different qualities and characters to pull us out of it and everyone has shown that throughout this run to get us into a semi-final.
I’m feeling confident going into the semi that we have more than enough talent in this team to beat anyone. We’ve been through a lot of gruelling games together, scored last-minute winners and become a really close group as a result. The whole thing has shown us that when times are tough, you can trust your teammates.
My dad [former Southend and Swansea midfielder Mark Gower] was no stranger to a big game during his playing career, having played in a couple of play-off finals. I speak to him a lot about football and his play-off final days. He’s just told me to be confident in myself and continue to do what I have been doing, irrespective of the occasion.
"I can’t wait to be back out there at Emirates Stadium in front of our supporters"
He always tells me to be bright and creative and to affect the game for the team. I think having him around has helped me a lot to talk about different scenarios. Whenever I’ve had tough times or been confused about something in my game, my dad has always been a big help, but he’s been right by my side during the brilliant moments too.
I can’t wait to be back out there at Emirates Stadium in front of our supporters. If I was to give them a message, it would be that we’re going to need all the support we can get on the night from you against a tough opponent. Let’s make the most of our home advantage, together, and we will put on a good performance and game for everyone at the stadium.