When he signed his professional contract with Arsenal last year, James Olayinka was hoping that before long he would have a stint with the senior side just like compatriot, Bukayo Saka. However, in spite of having severally trained with first-team players he is yet to star for Arsenal at the senior level
Nigerian midfielder, James Olayinka, was promoted to first-team training by Arsenal manager, Unai Emery, to make up the number in the team following the departure of many first-team players for national team duty during the international break.
With 11 Arsenal first-teamers called up by their respective countries for international matches this month, the Spanish football tactician has invited some of the outstanding young talents at the club to make up the numbers.
According to Jeorge Bird, who is Gunners youth-team expert, Olayinka is among youngsters promoted to first-team training by Emery.
“Matt Smith, Tormey, McEneff and Olayinka have been training with the first-team this week,” he tweeted.
The 19-year-old had trained with the Gunners first team in the past and was part of the travelling party to the United States ahead of the start of the 2019-2020 season. The Gunners have a youth side filled with talent and Olayinka will be hoping to make his senior debut at some point this season. He’ll look at the likes of Gabriel Martinelli and Joseph Willock as inspiration as both players have cemented their status in the senior team.
In July, Olayinka made quite the impression on Emery with a stunning goal as the Gunners beat Colorado Rapids 3-0 in a pre-season friendly.
Olayinka, an 18-year-old midfielder, has yet to make his competitive debut for the north Londoners but gave Arsenal manager something to think about by intercepting a pass and curling the ball into the top corner from the edge of the box.
“I’ve been here for 12 years now, so to finally score for the first team is a great feeling,” Olayinka said. “I’m sure everyone at home is happy and hopefully there are many more to come.”
And team-mate Reiss Nelson came up with the perfect description: “It was a banger, you know. I believed in the young lad, I’m happy he’s got his first goal.”
The youngster who was born on October 5, 2000 committed his long-term future to the London-based team when he turned 18, joining the likes of Saka and Arthur Okonkwo who signed new deals in the summer of 2018.
Olayinka has been with the Gunners since he was 11 and has featured across several youth teams.
Speaking to the Arsenal website upon signing his new contract, Olayinka stated that he was glad to be able to sign his first professional deal.
He said, “It’s a great feeling. I’ve been here for about 11 or 12 years now, so to finally get to this stage is a dream come true. It’s a proud moment for me and my family.”
Olayinka also stated that Emery’s use of youngsters such as Joe Willock, and Eddie Nketiah played a part in his extension and also stated that he intends to continue developing with the youth team.
He said, “For all of us below them I think it gives us hope and let’s know that if you are doing the right things on the pitch and off it, the manager will see it and give you the opportunity. It’s just about taking it when it comes.
“Personally, I just want to keep playing well and score a few more goals for the team. In terms of targets for the team, I think we can do better in the Premier League 2 and start picking up some more points, and for the u-18s we’re still in the FA Youth Cup. We’re in the last 16 now so it’s a good chance for us to go one stage further than last year.”
Training with the senior squad will massively increase Olayinka’s confidence and shows that Emery does have some sort of long-term plan in place. The main thing, however, is for the player to keep himself grounded and keep working hard until his opportunity comes.
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