Ben Sheaf says he’s learning the other side of football on loan at League Two Stevenage, and insists he’ll use the experience to break into Arsenal’s first team next season.
Sheaf spoke to The Comet about his loan spell so far. He said the main thing he’s learned is how to win nasty, and that you can’t always play Arsenal’s ‘pretty’ football.
“I think you realise there is a lot on the line,” he said. “You can’t always way play ‘pretty’ football all the time.
“We play nice football at Arsenal but I’ve learned sometimes you have to win ‘nasty’ and that the football you play doesn’t always have to be pretty all the time. Definitely that and of course the physical side of it as well as understanding the game – such as areas to play in and not to play in.
“I’m learning about risks and benefits but overall it’s definitely been a good learning experience for me.”
The 20-year-old admits that the Stevenage players warned him it wasn’t going to be easy coming to play in League Two, but they’ve been impressed with his start so far. Now it’s just about getting his head down and keeping that going.
“I’m learning more and more every game. That’s what it’s all about. I’m definitely more comfortable in the team which has been good. I spoke to a few of the senior boys at Stevenage and they all told me League Two isn’t an easy place to come in and learn your trade. It’s physical.
“It’s not the prettiest football at times but they said to me I’ve done well and I’ve just got to keep working hard and learning which I want to do. You’ve just got to embrace every moment of it.”
So far Sheaf is up to seven appearances since returning from injury in late February. In fact Stevenage are unbeaten in the last six of those, and lost the two matches he didn’t play in.
Hopes for next season
Obviously, as with almost every loan spell, Sheaf’s ultimate goal is to come back and play for his parent club. He says he thinks he’s ready for the step up at this point.
“Once I finish the season at Stevenage I want to go back and prove to him [Wenger] that I’m good enough to play first team football for the Arsenal. I feel I’m ready,” he insisted. “I want to play week in week out.”
There’s no doubt that the manager already rates the youngster highly. He gave Sheaf his first team debut this season in a match against Red Star Belgrade, even though the former West Ham academy product had only just returned from a fairly long injury.
We’ll have to wait and see if he can get the breakthrough he’s looking for in 2018/19.