In this article, we profile one of Arsenal’s academy players, detailing their ability, performances and insight into how their experiences have helped shape them into better players over time.
Tobi Omole, who turns 17 in mid-December, is one of Arsenal’s defensive prospects developing at the Academy.
A teenager of Nigerian descent, he is versatile enough to play in a range of different defensive-minded positions, including central defence and full-back.
Speaking to the matchday programme recently, Omole had plenty to say about his previous experience before joining Arsenal as a schoolboy at u14 level. Playing as a box-to-box midfielder when he was spotted by scouts playing for Thamesmead, he has been moved in various positions but enjoys playing the centre-back role as he feels it’s the “brain of the team.”
“I’ve mainly played at centre back since joining the Gunners. In fact I’ve been taught to play in various positions, in particular as a full-back and of course in midfield.
“I enjoy playing as centre back because I think of it as the ‘brain of the team’.
“You see everything that is going on in front of you, have to be aware of what’s behind and all around too,” Omole said. “You have to be able to read the game, anticipate moves building in attack from opponents and support our attacks when needed too.
“I’m the sort of player that likes to come out with the ball and help in our build up play. There are some defenders who specialise in stopping the opposition at all costs and if they have the ball just give it into midfield as soon as possible.
“I like to add a bit more and I feel I’m a good passer and can contribute more generally to the team, though I do enjoy defending.”
A physical presence standing at 6ft 2in tall, the youngster continues to grow in more than one sense and his ability to get involved with build-up play is similar to the way that both Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi operate in the first-team.
“I like to add a bit more [than just stopping opposition at all costs], feel I’m a good passer and contribute more generally to the team,” he added.
On the defensive duo’s performance in effectively shutting out Diego Costa at the Emirates in September, he said, “The way they dealt with him was fantastic. They used intelligent aggression and frustrated him out of the game. It’s ideal for me to have those guys to learn from.”
On things outside of football, he cites God as well as family and friends as the main things that keep him both grounded and focused. Living in shared accommodation alongside defensive teammate Joseph Oluwu, the two scholars are able to relax and take their minds off football when they have to, whilst improving their friendship off the pitch.
It’s refreshing to see that Omole is still in education too, and has said that he’s studying for an A-Level in Economics, which is something that he enjoys a lot.
“Understanding how the world works is really interesting and hopefully will be useful for me in the future too,” he explained.
Having made a handful of appearances at u18 level this term, he’ll be eager to continue impressing Kwame Ampadu as rotation and injuries are inevitable parts of the league season.
If he can establish himself as a regular starter in the current u18 team, there’s no reason why his development will not improve at a more rapid rate.