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 defender Mark McGuinness.
- Find out more about Sam Greenwood's start to life with the under-18s
- Arthur Okonkwo discusses the season so far and who he looks up to
To say that last season was hit and miss for me is putting it mildly. It was quite frustrating as I suffered a calamity of injuries after starting my first year as a scholar quite well.
Around August last year I tore my quad which took about five months to properly heal, then in winter I tore a muscle in my shoulder. It was very frustrating for me, especially the quad injury. With the under-16s I’d been used to playing every minute of every game. I was hoping that would continue once I stepped up to the under-18s and in the end, after the injuries, my gametime was so limited that I only played in one match.
I look back on last season as a learning experience. When I suffered the shoulder injury I spoke with our sports psychologist, who encouraged me to take up other sports and hobbies and spend time with family and friends. With the first injury I was getting frustrated being in the gym and not on the grass and it was difficult for me mentally.
With the second injury, I started playing more golf and also started playing the piano, and that helped me see the bigger picture. It worked fantastically and I also got my handicap down to 10! Also, although golf worked to take my mind off football and relieve the personal pressure, which helps physical recuperation, I found that it helped me in other ways too. Golf can be very frustrating because a lapse in concentration can lead to a nightmare on the course, so you have to develop to succeed.
At the start of this season I had a minor setback and missed the first two games, but since then I’ve played a lot. I’m getting my confidence and touch back now. I have stopped growing now at 6ft 4in, which is tall enough I think!
I’ve worked on a number of aspects of my game. My heading was always good but now I think it’s one of my super-strengths. I enjoy the physical side of the game. I’m most comfortable playing against big Troy Deeney-type strikers but have developed strategies for the smaller, nippier guys with a low centre of gravity. The agility and acceleration work we do in training has helped massively but it’s also about being clever and giving yourself a little bit of room.
We have a new head coach in Ken Gillard after Kwame Ampadu left to join Thierry Henry at Monaco. Ken was Kwame’s assistant and like Kwame he’s able to find the balance between having a laugh with the lads and cracking down and getting work done. It has been seamless really because their management styles are so similar.
Kwame announced his plans when we were all in the gym. It happened quite quickly really. He explained that it was a great opportunity for him and his family and how much he had enjoyed working with us. He then sat down with each of us individually with words of advice and encouragement, which was nice. We all wish him well as he is a fantastic coach and person.
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