I had the idea of conducting a series of interviews with Arsenal youth players. First off is Chuba Akpom, Arsenal's exciting 16 year old striker who has established himself in the U18 squad. Enjoy!
RL: What was your route like into Arsenal?
CA: I was scouted playing Sunday league when I was 6 years old, and have been here ever since.
RL: How quickly did you adapt from Sunday League standard to that of Arsenal academy?
CA: At first it was hard, yeah, big step up obviously. But I got used to it really, got used to the Arsenal way of playing; passing football, quick tempo, running etc.
RL: My experience of Sunday League football was if you were big, physical and aggressive, you could get into even the best of teams. There must be a massive difference between this and what is expected of you at Arsenal?
CA: Yeah, when you are playing Sunday League it’s more physical and aggressive. Everyone is technically better here, so you have to adapt.
RL: The facilities at Arsenal must be incredible. I'm sure many readers would like to hear about them, so go ahead!
CA: Shenley? Nice changing rooms, great pitches, everything is good really!
RL: Describe an average day of training
CA: Gym, training session, shower, lunch, train again then go home.
RL: What are the coaches like?
CA: They are all good experienced coaches, they know what they’re doing and are always there to help you.
RL: How much emphasis is put on the psychological aspect of the game by the coaching staff?
CA: A lot, training is full time every day, so you have to be mentally strong. It’s a man's game and you have to be ready for knocks etc.
RL: You've been called up to play for England's youth team as well - what was your first taste of international football like? Must have been quite overwhelming!
CA: Yeah, it was great. My first game was against Slovenia. I played the full game, and it ended 0-0. I sung the national anthem! I felt privileged, and it was a great experience to represent my country.
RL: How much importance do Arsenal place on education for their youth players? I understand that teams such as Man City and Ajax place massive emphasis on this, which I think is great.
CA: A lot, you have to go to college, where all aspects of education are taught to us.
RL: Good to hear, it’s important to have an education to fall back on.
Does the boss himself often speak to you and your teammates, check your progress, offer words of advice etc?
Yeah, when he has time he watches our training sessions.
RL: As a forward, it must have been pretty incredible when Henry returned. What was it like playing/speaking with him?
CA: I never trained with Henry, just watched him. We had several conversations and I became quite familiar with him.
RL: What professional player(s) is your biggest inspiration?
CA: Ronaldo (Brazilian one). Maybe Zidane too.
RL: Alban Bunjaku recently moved to Seville - what was he like to play with? By all accounts he was a terrific player.
CA: He was technically better than everyone; had an amazing touch – the best. Very good dribbling ability, great awareness, could drop a shoulder and shoot, very skillful.
RL: Do players from the first team ever spend time with you guys and teach you things?
CA: Not really, when we speak it’s normally just brief conversations.
RL: Who would you say is your most talented team mate?
CA: Kris Olsson – love the way he plays. Operates in the no.10 position behind me, great link up player, brilliant vision and technique. Up there with Bunjaku.
RL: You played as a 15 year old for Arsenal's U18 team. Did you find it physically demanding?
CA: I was quite big so it was easier to adapt, but was still hard playing against 18/19 year olds. I got used to it though.
RL:What is the best side you have played against?
CA: The best club I’ve faced is probably Chelsea. For England, Spain were the best team I played against – we lost 4-0. I played decent though!
RL: At Ajax, the academy players train in positions all over the pitch in order to appreciate the different roles. Do the coaches at Arsenal ever do something similar?
CA: Yeah, definitely. You have to be versatile. In training you’ll often be playing in a different position.
RL: What club did you grow up supporting?
RL: What are your strengths?
CA: Dribbling, goalscoring. I’m very direct, too.
RL: What are your best positions?
CA: I’m strongest playing as a no. 9. I can also play in the no.10 role, behind the striker.
RL: What are Jon Toral and Hector Bellerin, the ex-Barca boys, like as players? Are they technically superior?
CA: They are superb technically, much like the whole team.
RL: Finally: Alban Bunjaku has joined Seville, Ben Glasgow has gone to Stoke, Rhys Murphy has joined Dutch club Telstar and Jeffrey Monakana has joined Preston North End. Where do you feel your future lies?
CA: Arsenal’s 1st team.
RL: Good answer!
Thanks for reading and hopefully several more interviews with rising stars will follow. Many thanks to Chuba for agreeing to do this too!
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