Having spent the last few weeks discussing players of 17 and 18 John and I thought we should perhaps return to a player that might be closer to a first team break through. We have two right backs out on loan this season in Zak Swanson and Jordi Osei-Tutu and I was recently impressed watching the latter for Cardiff, sadly in the game he went off with a long-term injury. However, when I asked John (@willow1886), having watched both over the years which he deemed the better talent, without hesitation he opted for Swanson. My reaction, having just watched Osei-Tutu, is that young Zak must be one hell of a prospect.
So, let’s get to know Zak, another Hale End graduate, who has been at Arsenal since the age of 6.
John, I note that Osei-Tutu is 22 and had not make a breakthrough at Arsenal and the club have of course invested in Cedric as right back cover. So, having just turned 20 Zak Swanson does appear to be in the better position but for you he is also better at the position, so to speak?
JW: Zak has an advantage over most players, though in his early years, his main position was as a midfielder; Zak now plays as right back, Zak can also play on either wing and in the centre of midfield and is two footed where he can literally play in any position of the defensive half of the field.
After a trophy winning 18/19 season for the U18s Zak made the step up to U23 duty last season. How did he cope and what are the particular facets of his game that have impressed you?
JW: I thought Zak coped extremely well, he is a quiet, no nonsense player who goes about his business with very little fuss, taking everything in his stride. He never seems fazed with pressure and reads the game well.
Did you watch the match in which he snuffed out a returning Leroy Sane? Exaggerated or true reporting?
JW: Unfortunately, I didn’t see that match, but I read the report with Zak being praised by the writer. Knowing him as I do, I’d imagine that what I read was a true reflection of his ability.
Are there any concerns over his pace or does his positioning compensate? Also, I wonder, as he has played across the back line if right centre back in a three is an option?
JW: I’m of the opinion, that not every player needs pace, especially in defence, Zak spots danger well, can tackle and has a good eye for distribution. Zak is the type of player that can adapt to any positional formation and therefore is a great asset to have at the Club.
It is exciting to hear your praise of Zak. Perhaps this is the time to throw in my, now customary, who does he remind you of question?
JW: Honestly the player, although currently on the opposite side, as a fullback for Arsenal that comes to mind is Kenny Sansom.
Wow, King Kenny, that is a noteworthy comparison. No wonder it was reported after Swanson was with Arteta’s squad in pre-season (v Brentford certainly) that the Spaniard had high hopes for the youngster. Because of this did the loan to Maastricht, in the Dutch 2nd Division a surprise to you?
JW: Not really, I’m sure the Club’s expectation was that Zak would be playing regular first team football in Holland, though currently it hasn’t worked out that way.
Two things concern me if I am honest about Swanson’s situation. Firstly, that he has left for Holland entering the last year of his contract. Secondly as you hinted, that he currently does not seem to be playing enough to give the Arsenal staff charged with monitoring his progress much to go on. He has only featured in 3 of Maastricht’s first 10 matches and in those games his new side had shipped 14 goals. I wonder if he is not getting more game time by January Arsenal might consider a recall. Thoughts?
JW: Without knowledge of what is happening in Holland, it must be a concern for Arsenal that Zak has played very little game time. Usually when a loan contract is negotiated, unless due to injury, the deal is set in stone. I can see Arsenal trying to recall him, but whether this is possible remains to be seen.
Though certain outlets state otherwise, I’m pretty sure that the contract signed in April 2019 was a three-year deal, therefore, if correct, the current situation of Zak being in Holland has no bearing on his future with the Club.
If however you are right and as reported the deal does indeed run out in June 2001 and the will to extend is there from both Club and player, I’m certain this will be achieved. In the modern world, the fact that Zak is in Holland, would have no relevance to negotiations that would already be taking place with the Club and Zak’s representatives.
I think this may be your hardest Willometer to date John. A player you admire but who is not playing much on loan and (perhaps) in the final year of his Arsenal contract. What are the next steps for Zak, does it all hinge on the new contract at Arsenal? Do you think he will be offered a further contract, what is the next stage for him and where do you score him on your 0-20 scale for his chances of making it into the first team?
JW: With Zak’s next contract being a major one, should Zak want to stay he is capable of being a regular for many years to come. 16/20.
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.