Arsenal’s Tolaji Bola turns 18 today and we thought we’d have a look at the player.
A central defender who attended St Alban’s Boys school, Bola can play at either centre back or left back.
A fast, tall, powerful player throughout his young career, he has always stood out amongst others in his age group because of this, but it’s an advantage that youth manager, Andries Jonker, thinks Tolaji could be losing.
“Tolaji has to learn to make the difference now,” Jonker told the Arsenal magazine recently.
“He’s always been a tall, big, strong boy and now the other boys are as tall, as big and as strong as him, so the next step in his development is to make the difference by defending well and using his physicality in the right way.”
In the same issue, Tolaji also spoke about what type of player he likes to go up against.
“Because I’m quick I prefer to play against a Wacott type of striker than a Giroud.
“I enjoy the physical battle of a Giroud style but quick attackers bring out the best in me.
“I’ve always been a central defender, ever since I joined the under-9s.
“It’s where I’m, most comfortable because I can see the whole match in front of me and I’m a good reader of the game, too.
“However, lots of people who join Arsenal get converted to a different position and that’s something I’m having to get used to as well.
“It also means that I do a lot more heading and I’ve been working a lot on reading the flight of the ball, the quality of the contact, accuracy power and direction.”
A self-confessed Arsenal fan, Tolaji is most likely eyeing up a loan deal sometime in the near future, having already represented Arsenal at u23 level (and played with the u19s in the UEFA Youth League Cup) Bola also has caps at u16, u7 and u18 level with England.
In 2015 he competed with England at the Montaigu Tournament when they beat France 3-1 in the final. Bola said of that experience, “These matches taught me how to better manage games.
“The other aspect of international football is playing against different styles of play and players. African teams tend to be very athletic, for example, and South Americans are technically gifted, so you learn to adapt your approach accordingly.
“That all helps me improve as a better player for Arsenal so that I can one day achieve my dream of playing for the team I love.”
Tolaji signed scholarship terms in 2015.
Despite sharing the same surname and nationality (Anglo Nigerian), Tolaji is not related to Marc Bola who is also in the Arsenal youth ranks.
Incidentally, both also happen to be left-footed and play in similar positions.
They have also both represented England at youth level but have expressed a desire to play for Nigeria at senior level.