Throughout the season, we'll be catching up with our young Gunners to find out more about their route to our academy. This week, Reuell Walters gives his unique take on playing under Mikel Arteta, Mehmet Ali and Jack Wilshere this season as he continues to make an impression across all our sides.
The last six months have been an experience to say the least. I’ve been on three tours with the first-team, firstly to Germany and USA in the summer and then to Dubai in December. It came about during pre-season when we were told a few of us might be included in a trip to Germany.
Being able to join the first-team on an official pre-season tour was unreal, it was the first time many of us had been on tour with the senior squad and it was great to share the moment with my teammates as we have all worked so hard. It was also my first time going to the USA so it was great to tick that off the list of countries.
One key thing I picked up on tour was that you need to have a voice on the pitch. You can’t be quiet, and we all have a responsibility to relay messages and instructions to each other if we want to have the best chance of winning. It’s also a massive step up from academy football in the sense that there’s much less room for error, the talking never stops and there’s never a second to waste.
One of the first people I spoke to during the tour was Rob Holding. He’s such a nice guy and is someone I could always talk to if I needed any advice. I also got on really well with Ainsley Maitland-Niles who was really cool too. In general, everyone was brilliant with me and they all welcomed me with open arms.
It’s great when you’re training with the first-team but particularly Bukayo, Eddie, Emile, Ainsley and Reiss. They are players who have been through the journey at the academy and played consistently at first-team level. I love seeing them thrive wearing the Arsenal badge and hopefully, that will be me one day.
"This season has been really exciting, particularly the FA Youth Cup"
A funny story during the USA camp was when I had to do my initiation. At the back of my mind, I actually knew it was coming so I tried to sneak into breakfast a little bit earlier than usual, so no one would notice me, but Gabriel Magalhaes, who is the mastermind behind all the initiations, looked at me, started smiling and clinked his glass to get everyone’s attention!
I had to get my chair, give a brief introduction about who I am, and started singing Three Little Birds by Bob Marley. At the start I was nervous but I actually enjoyed it and I got some claps going! Now that I’ve done my initiation, I let Gabriel know if any of the new academy boys on tour haven’t done theirs yet – I’m coming for everyone!
This season has been really exciting, particularly the FA Youth Cup, which has been a big highlight as we’ve reached the semi-finals. We wanted to avenge last season’s exit as we were knocked out in our opening game away at Colchester United. I’d arguably even say that our first game against Millwall this season was even more important than the quarter-final because we needed to start the campaign strong and show everyone what we are capable of.
I think we’ve shown people that we have a great character, going 2-0 down to Watford at half-time, Jack Wilshere encouraged us that the game wasn’t over and made us realise that we have the ability to turn this around, and within an 11-minute spell, we were up 4-2 in the second half.
Playing at Emirates Stadium in the quarter-final against Cambridge United was an amazing feeling, for a lot of us it was our first time playing there and it just felt so right being on that hallowed turf. However, when the whistle blew for the game to begin it was full concentration mode. As great as it is playing at Emirates Stadium it’s only good if we win, and beating Cambridge United, especially in the last minute, made the win feel even sweeter.
"Working under Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Mehmet Ali has been awesome"
We understand the importance of this competition to the club and we’re on a special run at the moment but we don’t want this journey to end without us lifting that trophy. It would mean the absolute world to win it.
Working under Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Mehmet Ali has been awesome. There are a lot of similarities between the three of them in the fact that they care a lot about the individual player, as well as the playing style. So we can have a game that we win but if we haven’t executed our playing style to the correct level, then they will make sure we get it right.
They’re always looking to improve and help us become better players. They demand the best and drill into us that even if we’re not having a good game. We have to make sure that we’re putting in the maximum amount of effort. There are no passengers in football, it’s a team sport and we’ve all got a role to play.
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