Here we are back again with Arsenal Youth expert, John Williamson (@willow1886) and I suspect, with respect to all our recent subjects, this is an interview that our readership has been waiting for. Yes, in the week, Arsenal signed Thomas Partey, potentially the most complete all-round central midfielder we have had since the great Patrick Vieira, we are focusing on the player in our youth, who has attracted similar comparisons, Miguel Azeez.
Azeez has attached huge publicity for one so young John. English born, but also eligible in the future to play for Nigeria or Spain, it is fair to say there are many monitoring his development outside of North London. Can we first clear up the playing style and comparisons?
JW: Miguel is, as you stated, a near complete, all round player, probably the best I’ve seen for his current age. He has excellent technique, great vision and can pass the ball with long or short range, always picking the correct pass and he reads the game very well.
I would compare Miguel to a young Patrick Vieira, not quite up to Paddy’s standard yet, but certainly on the right lines.
I have seen the player himself say he models himself on the wonderful Sergio Busquets, but equally I have read the more all action Vieira resemblance. So, is he a defensive midfielder or much more? I am keen to hear your thoughts as it has been reported that Mertesacker is converting him to the DM role this season.
JW: In my opinion, Miguel’s best position is central midfield, for those watching him last night for the U21s, would have noticed that he likes to get forward, scoring a great goal from a decent range.
Miguel has been at the Club since pre-academy days, in the time I have seen him play throughout midfield including as a defensive midfielder. I have not seen much of him this season due to the Virus, so it’s hard to say what his current role is, but having seen him over the years, I am confident that he can play as a defensive midfielder if called upon; though with Thomas Partey at the Club, the central midfield position, may be best for his career development.
He is not shy in talking about his aspirations, informing Guillem Balagué that he wants to be the best player in the world. Full coverage of the interview made the national press and can be read here but John you have watched him first hand so often, does this confidence and work ethic he describes come across when he plays?
JW: Miguel certainly is a confident lad both on and off the pitch, I feel he could be captain material in years to come, he knows what he wants from those around him and on the pitch, he isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
Miguel works hard and covers most of the midfield during a game, whilst helping in defence and supporting the attack when required. He always wants the ball and is intelligent enough to find the space to receive it as well and knowing what the best option is to play forward.
Having so recently discussed Charlie Patino, I am intrigued to know if you feel the two might complement each other? Have they player together at U18s? It is rare to have 2 midfield talents, so young with so much expectation.
JW: Though unusual, I feel we are very lucky to have both Miguel and Charlie coming through at the same time. Being a year older, Miguel is slightly advanced career-wise, but the advantage is, both players are adaptable, being able to play in any of the midfield roles.
I haven’t seen them play together much, but the few times I have, they both seem to read each other’s games and position themselves to accommodate one another.
You recently told me that only the players Arsenal deemed truly special at 18 get three-year deals, with the majority only getting 2 years as professionals. Miguel was given three years last summer, with reportedly an option extend for 2 year at the end of 21/22. If this is true, the club’s confidence in this lad is very high it seems.
JW: I know that those at Hale End rate Miguel Azeez extremely highly; along with Charlie Patino, both players are the best to have come through the Academy for many a year, possibly ever.
His current contract of 3 years is the maximum, a player can be offered as a 17-year-old; from 18 onwards, a club/player can renegotiate a new contract for up to 5 years. I’d imagine The Arsenal will want this to happen shortly and that is what the reports mean by ‘an option to extend’.
There was serious talk of Azeez going out on loan this campaign. I know Charlton with who we have had a productive relationship with over the years were mentioned. Do you have any insight on why this did not occur or might it still?
JW: Being a second year, though professional at U18 level, it would be extremely unusual for a player to go out on loan this season; we currently have no U18 players out on loan but, if my calculations are correct, we have eleven U23s with other clubs. I would imagine that next season would be the right time for Miguel to be sent out on loan.
Having just turned 18, the player must be itching for a taste of the first team and with Guendouzi and Torreira both leaving for the season, if the loan is not happening, inclusion in the Europa league match day squads must be on the cards do you think?
JW: Being in the squad for a latter Europa League match is a realistic target for Miguel, should we get though the Group Stage early, even a start wouldn’t surprise me.
Without wishing to get over-excited John, this boy does seem to be earmarked by Per Mertesacker as a serious contender at Arsenal. Are the BFG, and Freddie before him justified in their confidence in Azeez? It’s Willowmeter time – So with 20 being a racing certainty and 0 being no chance where is young Miguel on the scale JW?
JW: 18/20; One of two prospects, that those in the Club and I, have high hopes for.
I know Charlie is reading this series John, so I am sure he will be secretly chuffed his 19 edges Miguel’s 18. Either way the readers will love the prospect of a future homegrown Arsenal midfield. (Charlie Patino interview is here if you missed it.)
Until Next time – Dave and John
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.