Newcastle midfielder Isaac Hayden feels that he has nothing to prove his former club Arsenal, saying his exit was down to stiff competition for places.
The 22-year-old spent several years in Arsenal’s academy and made a handful of first-team appearances before joining Newcastle on a permanent basis last summer.
He went on to play 38 times in the Magpies’ successful promotion campaign and started in their first Premier League game of the season against Tottenham on Sunday.
In an interview with Newcastle’s official website, Hayden reflected on his time at Arsenal, explained his reasons for leaving the club and feels he has nothing to prove to his former club.
As a young player coming through the academy, Hayden would often train with the Arsenal first-team and come up against some of the most talent yet egotistical players around.
“The thing is, that when you play for a club like Arsenal from the age of 13, it’s almost like you have to have a winning mentality and a belief, otherwise you don’t survive at a club like that,” Hayden said.
“If you don’t have confidence in your own ability or faith in yourself then you’re never going to get anywhere in those sorts of environments. It breeds the best players in the world and the best talents that comes in at a young age. If you haven’t got that mental strength, then you’ve got no chance.
“When you’re going into training at 17 and you’ve got players there like Van Persie and Nasri, if you’ve not got confidence in yourself then how are they going to have confidence in you? Some players might not have it but can develop it, and some players might not have it at all.
“You generally find that the players that play in the Premier League are all quite confident and they have that faith in their ability, otherwise they wouldn’t be there.”
Despite backing his own ability, Hayden saw the writing on the wall when Arsenal signed Granit Xhaka for £34m. Rather than go down the loan route of several Chelsea players, he opted to move permanently.
“It’s not about proving anything to Arsenal, because if I’m being honest with myself and I think if they were being honest, I think at the time they genuinely did want to let me go,” he said.
“It was a situation where I had a year left, they’d brought in Granit Xhaka because he was a proven player the manager wanted, and they couldn’t afford me the game time I needed to improve.
“I said to them, ‘look, I don’t want to go on loan anymore’. I didn’t want to be a player like at Chelsea, where you sign a three-year contract and then go on loan for three years. I want to go somewhere where they’re going to make me feel welcome, and I can contribute.
“I don’t want to go there for a season, come back, do the same thing again and then repeat it – I wanted to feel like I was a part of the club’s family, rather than just being there temporarily.
“I think they knew that’s what I needed. The manager at Arsenal was very good – I’ve got a lot to thank him for. I don’t really have anything to prove to Arsenal. I think that deep down the manager knew I had ability anyway – it’s just that I needed a chance to show it, which he couldn’t give me.”
The move has certainly worked out for him. Hayden is now a regular in the Newcastle midfield, and has a good relationship with the fervent Newcastle support. He seems to have come into his own as a person and as a player, fulfilling the potential Arsenal knew he had but couldn’t develop themselves.