In this article we profile one of Arsenal’s academy players, detailing their ability, performances and insight into how experiences have helped shape them into better players over time.
Having joined Arsenal at u9 level, Josh Benson is a talented English midfielder with plenty of promise, and one who can be considered to be in the same category as players like Reiss Nelson and Edward Nketiah – both of whom have flourished in 2016.
Spotted whilst playing for Thurrock in a tournament, he was invited for a six-week trial and when successful, trained on a regular basis at Hale End. Often the case with youngsters, family play an important part in a player’s development, which is the case of Josh.
“My parents were a great support and my dad took me to every training session and game. That is a big reason why I am trying to improve all the time,” Benson told the matchday programme recently.
Impressing at u15 level, Benson’s ability to dribble at speed towards defenders made him a nightmare to mark. As he has matured though, he’s been taught to pass the ball quicker in transition periods whilst learning to use his pace in more effective ways to avoid predictability.
He has said he enjoys being a full-time footballer, having signed a two-year scholarship contract, especially as his tactical understanding is being continually developed.
When questioned about his style of play, Josh said he’s a bit of a mix between Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. A goalscoring midfielder who also has an important defensive job to complete out of possession, he’s aware of his responsibilities and being played in more defensive-heavy positions has helped him appreciate the job his team-mates do, often with little or no credit.
“I’d say my style of play is a bit of a mix between Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard,” he explained. “I like to score goals by timing runs into the penalty area. I also have a defensive job to do which is very important as we are taught to defend as a team – even if you are an attacking player, you have to be aware of your defensive responsibilities.
“It helps that I’ve also played as a centre back and last Saturday I came on as a right back in our 5-0 win over Leicester. I better understand what help and support defenders want from the midfielders in front of them.”
Living near the training ground in shared accommodation alongside fellow first-year Jay Beckford, it’s clear that they’ve got the balance right between football and their activities off the pitch, whilst remaining settled with regular appearances from family members.
His next challenge is to establish himself as a regular starter in Kwame Ampadu’s u18 side before getting involved with the u23s at some stage this term.
That’s easier said than done with so much competition for places in the team, but hard work will eventually pay off as long as Benson remains motivated.