This summer, we're featuring some of the players who have appeared in our academy Young Gun section of the match day programme in 2020/21. Next, we have striker Nikolaj Moller.
Just like any other kid, when I started playing football, it was all about fun.
We had a local pitch and every day I would go with friends and we’d try to learn new skills and tricks for hours and hours on end! You can’t beat those childhood memories.
I grew up in a little town called Rydeback in Sweden and for years I just played football for fun. I was at a team called Ramlosa Sodra IF, my father’s local team, but when I was 12, I was picked up by Malmo at a summer camp and that’s when things started to get serious. Football had always been about enjoyment to me, it was something that made me happy, but at this point, I realised that I could see a future in the sport and that it’s something I really want.
Growing up, there were loads of strikers that I admired, but coming from Sweden, there’s only ever been one ‘idol’ for me, and that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With that combination of physicality, dribbling, shooting and confidence, he’s got everything you want from a striker, and I try to model parts of my game around him.
When you look at Ibra, you see this big striker and you’d assume that his best traits are all physical, but when you watch him, you quickly realise that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’d like to think I’m similar in that sense. I’m 6’4” now, but as a kid, I was the same height as everyone else until I had a sudden growth spurt! That was vital for my development as a player.
Growing up, I would play as a skilful midfielder, always searching for the ball and setting up my team-mates, but when I started growing, my coaches realised I could play as a striker and transfer those technical skills. I think that was really important for my development because being over-reliant on physical traits in youth football can hold you back in the long run. I have to say, Malmo were really helpful in my career. They gave me some great experiences against some good players, a really good football education.
The next step in my career was a move to Bologna. Their scouts spotted me in a tournament in Italy and they thought that I’d be a good signing for their academy, so after I had a look around, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me. In Italy, everything is about scoring and I really admired that mentality. They’re also really strict and do a lot of tactical work on the training ground, so that was really helpful for my career. It was so different from life in Malmo and that helped me to see football from a different perspective.
So, I played in Italy for just over a year, until I got a call from Malmo saying that they want me back because they wanted to inject some youth into the first team. I returned with the intention of fighting for my place in the starting XI, but one morning I got a call from my dad who told me that an Arsenal scout would be coming to my next game. I can’t lie, I was very nervous. Premier League clubs are massive in Sweden, but especially Arsenal! Anyway, I played really well on the day and found out that they were serious about signing me.
From that moment, my mind was set on joining Arsenal. To finally sign that contract was a dream come true. I’m so in love with football and it was the biggest experience of emotion that I’ve ever felt from the game. Arriving at London Colney and seeing those pitches for the first time... wow, I’ll never forget it. But above all else, the thing that impressed me most about Arsenal was the people; my team-mates, the coaches, staff, etc.
Some clubs don’t really have that family feeling, but here at Arsenal, you feel it the moment you arrive at the club and I’m so grateful for that.
Joining a new team and moving to a new country in the midst of a pandemic is no easy thing, but all of the people involved at this club, at all levels, have made it an incredible experience for me and I can’t thank them enough. Now I want to show all of you Gooners what I can do.
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