Monday, 23 July 2012
Interview with U18 star Kris Olsson | Part II
(If you missed part one, just keep calm and click here).
RL: You've represented Sweden on numerous occasions. First of all, what is it like playing for your country? Do you feel a different sort of pressure than when you represent Arsenal?
KO: It is great to play for your country. I mean, you represent your own country and it's a big thing every time!
Yes I feel a different sort of pressure. I mean, in Sweden I'm the 'star' - I play for Arsenal whereas everyone else plays for a club in Sweden, apart from two. So it's a different sort of pressure but I love to play for the national team and feel proud every time.
RL: Do you feel you thrive under the pressure of being the 'star' man, or do you sometimes feel it is too much of a burden/responsibility?
KO: No I like that pressure - I usually play well when I'm under it. Generally, I play quite well for Sweden, so I like it!
RL: Secondly, how different are the philosophies of your Swedish side to that of Arsenal?
KO: Sweden is not a big footballing country, so we're (the U17s) usually not the best team so it's different. We have some decent players to be fair, but our coach wants me to have the ball a lot and go forward quickly, whereas at Arsenal we should keep the ball etc.
RL: What did you make of Sweden's failings at Euro 2012?
KO: I think the first match was the thing, I mean if you lose to Ukraine, you shouldn't be there. But they played quite well against England and France, I just think they need some new players; some good wingers and centre mids.
RL: That's where you come in!
Having played for Fulham and Brentford youth teams myself, plus Sunday League, I soon realised that as long as you were big, aggressive and physically imposing, you could get into even the best of sides. Is this similar to youth football in Sweden? Or is there more emphasis on the technical side of the game?
KO: Yes, that is true, if you are big enough and strong enough you can play for most sides. I was often overlooked for this reason, until I was 15.
RL: Is it true you rejected an offer from Chelsea when you were 13? Legend already!
KO: Haha, no. They wanted me to go on trial but then the boss of youth football at Chelsea said no to all trials at that time - it was something to do with Abramovich's money.
RL: So Chelsea asked you on trial but then their own youth boss said no because of Abramovich's money?
KO: Yes, exactly. The scout who saw me was Swedish and he sent me all the papers and we were ready to go, but then he said no, the Chelsea youth boss said no because Abramovich said no to all youth trials and tournaments and those kind of things.
RL: That is a quite shocking disregard for youth football.
Who were the toughest opposition team you've faced?
KO: Southampton in the Marcus Liebherr Cup with the first team. Youth sides - probably the French national team and Chelsea.
RL: Have you had much interaction with Arsene?
KO: I've talked to him a few times, but we've only ever had one serious conversation!
RL: Who is first to let you know if you've had a bad game, or offer words of advice?
KO: It used to be Steve Bould, or Liam Brady.
RL: I hear from a reliable source *cough cough Chuba* that Bould once "went mad" at you for pulling out of a challenge in training. (Sorry to embarrass you!)
What are your thoughts on Bould as a coach, and his promotion to assistant manager?
KO: Haha, yeah! But I really like him, as a coach and outside the pitch. It's a bit sad that he is now in the first team as he was great, but at the same time he knows us all so that is good for the future.
RL: You once went to America to improve your running under the tuition of Michael Johnson. What was that like? Did you feel you improved?
KO: It was good. A bit different and really challenging! I felt I improved my strength and also got quicker, so yes it helped me.
RL: Last season you were not selected to play any matches for the reserves, while teammates such as Toral, Bellerin and Gnabry were. Do you understand the reasons for your omission? Do you think this year the new reserve team boss Terry Burton will pick you?
KO: To be fair no, not really, but I mean I didn't play that well in the spring and I was ill and got injured, so that's a reason. But also I think Neil (Banfield) thought I wasn't good enough. I really hope Terry will pick me - that's my target for this year!
(Since speaking to me, Kris made his debut for the reserves in the 3-1 victory over Boreham Wood, scoring a goal in the process).
RL: Tell me about your experience with the first team at the Marcus Liebherr Cup; how did you feel when you were told the news?
KO: I was surprised and a bit nervous, but then just happy and of course very proud. Everything happened so quickly, it was just unreal.
RL: Was it a different kind of atmosphere travelling with the first team rather than the U18s?
KO: No not really! Perhaps it's slightly quieter with the first team, and more computers!
RL: Did you feel confident when stepping up to take your penalty against Southampton? Even though it was a friendly, you must have felt pretty nervous!
KO: No I wasn't nervous at all. I mean, I had no pressure, everything was a bonus. So yes I was quite confident!
RL: Fellow Swede Seb Larsson failed to make his mark at Arsenal despite being highly regarded as a youngster. Do you feel this will be different for you? Why?
KO: Yes he failed here but that was when Arsenal had one of their best ever squads, so it was very difficult to break through. He plays for the Swedish national team and is a good Premier League player now, so I wouldn't say that he failed as a footballer though.
I hope it will be different for me. But it's difficult to make it all the way. I'll just work the hardest I can and with a bit of luck and a bit of quality, you never know! I have the ambition and the determination, plus I'm humble, so I really hope so, but we'll see.
RL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
KO: I hope I'm playing in the first team for Arsenal and Sweden!
RL: You said that Seb Larsson will call you up one day and offer some advice, has he fulfilled his promise?
KO: No not yet!
RL: What are your views on the NextGen series? Of course Arsenal are participating this year, in the same group as Athletic Bilbao, Marseilles and Olympiacos.
KO: Yes I am looking forward to it. It's going to be brilliant. To play against the best teams and players from your age group is always good and it develops you as a footballer. To get an experience to play in front of a crowd and maybe TV is also good, so yes I am really looking forward to it!
RL: Alban Bunjaku, who Chuba Akpom recently described to me as 'the best' in the team, recently left Arsenal to join Seville. You had a good understanding with each other, and your link up play was excellent at times. What are your thoughts on his departure and his ability in general?
KO: I don't know why he left. He was a good player but played a bit too much for himself. I disagree with Chuba that he was the best - it is Gnabry and Gedion (Zelalem) in my opinion. But he was a nice guy although maybe a bit too quiet! I wish him good luck!
RL: You were signed as a 16 year old for almost £300,000. Does that ever affect you or add pressure for you to perform?
KO: No not really. Well I already feel a bit of pressure by playing for Arsenal, but that's good. As I said earlier, I play better when under pressure!
RL: And finally: It's 2018, and you're playing for the first team against Spurs. It is the last minute, Chuba receives the ball edge of the box, lays it off and you curl it into the top corner. What is your celebration?!
KO: I'd run to the corner flag where the Arsenal fans are and kiss the badge on my chest, then point my finger to Chuba! (in appreciation)
That sounds like a pretty good celebration, and a good way to end this interview!
Thanks for reading and remember to Follow me on Twitter. It's my birthday tomorrow, so think of it as an early present.
You can follow Kris, too.
'Till next time.