The second instalment in my series of interviews with rising stars is Swede Kris Olsson. Kris signed for Arsenal two years ago from Swedish side Norrkoping, and has made a name for himself in the U18s for his tremendous playmaking ability. He was recently called up to the first team to play in the Marcus Liebherr Cup, where he scored a penalty against Southampton. Enjoy!
RL: You were scouted while playing in Sweden by Liam Brady. When a man of this stature picks you out, it must be pretty overwhelming. How did you feel when you learned of the club's interest in you?
KO: When they said they wanted me it felt unreal. I mean I played for a club in Sweden, and such a big club wanted me so that was just unreal in the beginning. But after a while I was just happy and proud.
RL: Describe your passage into Arsenal, after they stated their interest. Was it simple or were there complications?
KO: It went quite quick - my family came over and then Arsenal said I should move over in July (2011), but then we didn't hear from them for a while and I was a bit nervous that it wouldn't come to anything. However in the beginning of July 2011 they sent me the flight details and everything! It was unreal!
RL: It was rumoured that there was interest in you from the likes of Juventus and Man Utd. What made you choose Arsenal?
KO: I didn't know that to be fair, I just knew that Ajax were interested in me. Arsenal are one of the biggest clubs in the world, and when I was on trial everything felt so good and professional. I knew that Arsenal's youth system is one of the best in the world as well. You get the chance if you are good enough - it's not like Man City... I mean they'll buy a player in your position even if you are a great player.. it was an easy choice signing for Arsenal!
RL: Was it hard leaving your home and moving to a foreign country?
KO: Yes of course it was very hard! But I think I expected it to be even harder so it was alright, but to leave all my friends at home and my family it was tough, it's still hard to leave them now like after the summer break and the winter break!
RL: Tell us about your encounter with Woj Szczesny!
KO: The table tennis thing? That was a misunderstanding!
(Rumours that Kris beat Wojiech in a game of table tennis and the keeper blanked him and walked away sulking!)
RL: How does youth football in Sweden differ from that in England? In terms of standard of players & coaches, balance between training and education, ball work and gym work, etc.
KO: It's totally different! The standard of the football is a big difference, and also coaches and coaching staff (at Arsenal) are always around the team and players. Also in Sweden where I use to play it was basically just a nice warm up and then games! We didn't do any gym work either and here we do it 3 or 4 times a week.
RL: Clearly there is more emphasis on the physical aspect of the game at Arsenal.
Do you think your time in Sweden has helped you as a footballer? I.e their different coaching techniques, training methods etc
KO: Yes of course. I've always had good coaches and when when I was 11 I moved to IFK Norrköping (which is a big club in Sweden) and we did a lot of technique stuff and we had 4 or 5 trainings sessions a week, more than any other team in my age group at that time, so I would say yes.
RL: Did your former club have a philosophy of passing football, meaning you could adapt easier at Arsenal? Or was it quite a change?
KO: No not really, but we always had some good players in our team so we had the ball most of the time. It was a huge change at Arsenal! I mean here you have to keep the ball and can't take too many risks and things like that, but it feels like I have gotten used to it now, but it took a while!
RL: I asked Chuba Akpom who the best player in the U18s was. Guess who he picked?
Who would you say is your most talented teammate? (Apart from Chuba of course)
KO: He picked me?! Haha. I'm so boring so I wouldn't choose one but if I have to....Gnabry is very good, and also Gedion (Zelalem) as well, he's born in 1997 and plays centre mid, he's quality! Calm with the ball, his touch is brilliant, good passer - will be a top player.
(15 year old Gedion Zelalem got the highest score in a fitness test which included members of the first team)
RL: You have a slender build. Did you find the step up from Swedish to English football, physically, very difficult?
KO: Yes in the beginning it was extremely difficult, but as with everything else, I'm getting use to it and I'm much stronger now.
RL: You have been compared with Tomas Rosicky, or 'The Little Mozart'. How do you feel about this? Do you think it is a valid comparison?
KO: It's unreal to be compared with him, but yes we have the same style of play and we both are midfielders, but I haven't got long hair any more so I dont know!
RL: Fair enough, maybe you'll start a trend and he will cut his hair too!
Your tremendous progress last year was stifled by injury. How difficult was this for you?
KO: Exactly, he wants to be like me! Yeah it was hard, as it was my first real injury and I was a bit stressed because I missed a lot of games and I was in a hurry to get fit in time for the Euros with the national team. I was also ill during the season and missed a lot of games, and that is the time when you miss home a lot and your family and friends. But I'm glad to be fit now.
RL: You told Arsenal.com that you played as a defensive midfielder in Sweden. I wrote an article highlighting the change in requirements for a modern day defensive mid; they dont have to be powerful enforcers, but rather great readers of the game with great ball retention and distribution. As a more technical player yourself, how far would you agree with this?
KO: I would agree 100 per cent!
RL: Great minds think alike, eh?!
You now play as a no.10, behind the striker. Chuba tells me that you are 'a dream' to play with - do you feel you've made this position your own, after transforming from a DM?
KO: I still prefer to play as a defensive mid, but I would have to improve my defensive side and my strength. But I mean to play as a no. 10 is better for me I think because then I do what I'm good at. I play where the coach wants me to play but still, I prefer playing as a DM.
RL: Oh so you actually wanted to continue as a defensive mid? And by 'better for me', do you mean you perform better as a no.10 than you do as a DM?
KO: Well I don't really mind to be fair...but I mean I scored two goals last year and both when I played as a DM, but I made 8 assists when I played as a no.10.
RL: Ok, so you'd say you can offer more to the team as a no.10 than if you were a DM?
KO: No not really but it's a difficult question because I don't really mind - I just want to be in the team. But I think in the future I'll be a no. 10.
RL: Good attitude! You said after signing for us that you might dye your hair red like Freddie Ljungberg. Although this was a lighthearted comment, how far would you say Swedes like Freddie influenced you? Did he inspire you to succeed at Arsenal?
KO: Yes of course, many people say: 'oh come on be the new Freddie!', and I know he's one of the biggest players that has played for Arsenal. But we don't have the same style of play so it will be different! However if I make the first team one day, I might be dying my hair as he did!
RL: That would be an interesting sight!
I'm sure the ladies would like you to follow in Freddie's footsteps, and model Calvin Klein boxers!
KO: Haha exactly! Not my girlfriend, mind!
Well, that's that for part one of this interview! Stay tuned in the coming days as I'll be publishing the second - and more revealing part - which includes something fairly shocking about Chelsea.
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'Til next time.