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 Stan Flaherty.
I’ve really enjoyed the first few weeks of the season, but I had to get used to training every day - especially with all the pre-season work. That can be really demanding until your body adjusts, so I learned very quickly to get as much sleep as possible to allow for full recovery so I could get the most out of training the next day.
We went on a pre-season tour of Germany, which went well on and off the pitch. It helped us bond even better as a squad. There are nine first years this season and we know each other very well. We know each other’s games and strengths, and that helps on the pitch. The tour helped us get to know the second years better, plus Kate the psychologist came with us and developed exercises to help reinforce team spirit and to help us generally in our efforts to eventually become professional footballers.
Training is going well. There were some adjustments because of the weather and we had to have our second sessions later in the afternoon when it’s a little cooler, but otherwise things are pretty much the same as last season when I was involved for a couple of games.
We also met with Unai Emery, who spoke with us and explained that he’s looking to give young players a chance. He’s shown that in pre-season, especially with Emile Smith Rowe and the other younger players who have continued to progress from last season.
I’m naturally a playmaking attacking midfielder. I was first spotted by Arsenal at around eight years of age playing for my Sunday side, but I’d already been approached by Watford. I was there for a couple of seasons but the Arsenal scout kept in touch and I decided to join the Gunners as an under-11, so this is my sixth year in the academy.
I have two career highlights so far. One was scoring in a tournament in the Czech Republic to beat PSG, and the other was playing at Wembley against Reading in the Nike Cup. That was a memorable experience and one I hope to repeat. There’s a lot of competition for places in my position so my immediate target is to try to play as many games as possible for the under-18s. That means giving everything in training and in games but also doing all that’s needed to stay fit and available. The demands of full-time football increase the likelihood of injury, so recovery and all the treatments and nutrition helps.
I watch and learn from all players I’m similar in style to. The main player I look to learn from is Andres Iniesta – his positioning, passing range, movement and more are just superb. I also like to learn from younger players too. I love watching Phil Foden and he was excellent in the Community Shield. He’s very tactically aware and I most like the way that he plays on the turn so he’s always ready to make attacking moves.
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