27th January 2016: Bellerin on Barca + Iwobi on working hard to wow Wenger

Evening all. A very quick post today because Arsenal-related news is as scarce out there at the moment as goals at Old Trafford this season.

Luckily then, Hector Bellerin, our brilliant Cockney Catalan right-back, has been discussing a variety of subjects with Amuse, including how he feels about Arsenal’s upcoming Champions League encounters with his former club Barcelona. He said:

Excited. My family as well! I played for Barcelona for eight years, so it’s a massive thing for me and my family, who have been watching me since I was young. The day the draw was announced I started getting texts and calls from everyone. It’s crazy how a game moves so many people. We’re very excited – it’s going to be a hard game, but if we did it against Bayern, then we can do it against Barcelona. We have a great team mentality and our confidence is very high, so we fancy anyone at the moment.

This interview was conducted after we’d just drawn away at Stoke in the the league but there’s no reason why the team’s mentality or confidence should be much different now, despite our loss to Chelsea since then. Because a) Diego Costa cheated again and b) losing by a single goal having had to play most of the match with a numerical disadvantage shouldn’t knock anybody’s confidence – the opposite ought to be true.

All of which is to say I agree with Hector – we should approach the Barcelona games with confidence and belief that we can emerge victors. In my opinion, they remain the best team in Europe with everyone one fit, but we’re capable of beating the best, as we’ve proved a number of times in the recent past by grabbing wins over the likes of Barca themselves, and as Bellerin points out, Bayern Munich, who unlike the Catalans, we’ve now managed to defeat both at Emirates stadium and in Germany.

That tie is still about a month away though so moving on and another young Arsenal star, Alex Iwobi, has been speaking about his fledgling career, this time with Arsenal Player, saying:

I grew up in a footballing environment. My dad, my uncle and my whole family loves football. I played with a local team with Chuba Akpom so I grew up with a footballing life. I see it helps me [to be related to Jay-Jay Okocha] and it gives me guidance, [it shows] what I need to work on and what I need advice on so it has helped me over the years. I don’t see it as pressure [to be related to him] but he is someone I look up to as motivation as I try to be better than him. I had a few doubts when I was younger, especially when I was 13 to 14 years old. I was questioning whether I was good enough at that age as I… had to work on a few things. I didn’t let it get to me but I stayed focused and try to prove to them why I should get another contract. It is very hard. You need to train well every day and you have to be in the boss’ eye and his mind all the time so that is what I’m trying to do all the time. I was just hoping to go out and learn but to play for Arsenal’s first team means so much [to me] because when I play I think about all I have done to get to where I am and I feel so happy to do it. I had a few chances like against Swansea where I came on and against Bayern Munich. I got to play 90 minutes against Sheffield Wednesday. I got a few chances and now I’m hoping to get some more. I don’t know what to expect nowadays but playing at the Allianz Arena with the world’s best players was just crazy. I’m taking it as it comes. You have to always be prepared as you never know when that chance will come.

Despite playing out wide for our academy teams and in the Emirates Cup last summer, the club have been experimenting with Iwobi as a central midfielder, culminating in him making his first competitive start in an Arsenal shirt in that position in the FA Cup against Sunderland recently.

The fact he played so well against he Black Cats bodes well for the future and with so much competition at the club, his versatility might prove crucial if he’s to carve out a long-term career at the club. Good luck to him and I’ve really liked what I’ve see from him the few times I’ve seen him play so far.

Right, I think I’ll leave it there for today.

Back tomorrow.

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