Young gun

Zak Swanson

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 up, we speak to midfielder Zak Swanson. 

I’ve been with Arsenal since I was six years old. This is the club I’ve always supported, but I have to admit, I did come close to signing for Tottenham once.

I was training with them and playing for my Sunday side Stevenage. Arsenal scout Brian Stapleton was watching me and he invited me for a trial. I was so happy and 10 years on, I’m now a full-time scholar in the academy. The proudest moment of my career so far is when Andries Jonker told me I’d be signed as a reward for my hard work, and he was happy to give me a new challenge.

Unfortunately, the first few months were not what I had hoped as I suffered a slipped disc during pre-season and was out for 10 weeks in all. I seemed to recover but my back went again. All I could do was rest and do some work in the swimming pool, ice baths and exercises aimed at strengthening my glutes.

I’d injured my knee when I was with the under-11s, and was out for three months. So I was partly prepared, but it is still frustrating. Thankfully I returned and shortly after scored my first goal against Southampton.

I’m comfortable in front of goal as I was a striker when I first signed for Arsenal. At under-12 level though I started playing in midfield and now I also play either left or right full back.

As a midfielder, I have the natural energy to play from box to box and although I’m mainly defensive, I get my share of goals too. I enjoy being in midfield most because I’m able to get involved, but I enjoy playing on either flank as full back too. I’m a defender and an attacker in that role.

I’m trying to improve all aspects of my game and I’m doing a lot of work with our sports scientists to further develop my physicality and speed.

I’m in digs at the home of Steve and Elaine in Enfield and they make us feel at home, allowing us to concentrate on football. James Olayinka and Matt Smith live with me too, so we support each other and have a good laugh at the same time.

Young players are given a chance at Arsenal and there is a responsibility on us to make the most of any opportunities. The young players featuring in the Carabao Cup and of course the Europa League as well, inspired us all last season.

We were so happy for Reiss who started and the other lads who featured, especially Eddie who made such an impact. It was a dream come true for him, inspirational for us. The training ground had a real buzz to it. Arsène Wenger used the competition in a similar way to the Carabao Cup, as a way to develop experience for younger players, which I believe, makes it even more interesting.

I will concentrate on improving and playing as many games as I can for the under-18s and hopefully I can make my debut for the Under-23s next season. I was in the squad and on the bench for the Spurs game last season, so I got a small insight and that has given me an incentive to work even harder and achieve that goal.

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