Arsenal fans haven’t seen much of Krystian Bielik since he signed from Legia Warsaw 866 days ago, however, the 19-year-old Pole insists his recent loan spell at Birmingham City is proof he’s made progress.
Speaking to press in his homeland, the youngster took stock of his Gunners story to date, revealing how Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla have helped and inspired him, why experience in midfield is shaping his defensive education and how he’s hoping to earn the trust of Arsene Wenger going into next season.
On his progress…
Many said that I didn’t make progress or that I regressed. Honestly, the English U-23 is a completely different level to the reserves or youth teams in Poland. There’s no comparison in any way. Training with the first team everyday helped me a lot. Thanks to that I went to the U-23 games with more confidence and it turned out that I was ready.
On his style of play as a centre-back…
Sometimes I watch the Polish League or Championship matches and I notice that the centre-backs either don’t notice a pass between the lines or are scared to play it. For me it’s a habit – I get the ball and I instantly look to play it forward. I want to make a difference with my pass. I know that if I play with Santi Cazorla and I give a good, strong ball between the lines, he’ll receive it on the turn and create a lot of space for us. Sometimes it gets tight and there’s no sense in complicating things, but I always look for the midfielders or forwards first. Or – when the strikers drop back – I let myself dribble out from the back. I love doing that.
On his early days at Arsenal…
I remember the first training. Francis Coquelin immediately made me aware of his presence. I tried to push around a bit and instantly got a slide tackle to my legs. He wanted to show that I shouldn’t mess about, just play my football. But it’s normal. Today I have a great relationship with everyone. That is, I don’t expect to be going out to dinner with Alexis Sanchez, but everyone asks how I’m doing. At the beginning, there was also [fellow Pole] Wojciech Szczęsny.
On who has helped him at Arsenal…
I had the best relationship with Tomas and Jack Wilshere. Jack always chose me first for a game of football tennis and Tomas helped by talking to me. After a worse training he would always take me to the side and explain that I should not worry, because tomorrow will be better. Maybe it’s nothing, but when someone so experienced as himself comes out and shows that kind of initiative, it helps a lot. Tomas regularly watched our U-23 matches. They were usually on a very good level but he always found some minor mistakes.
“Look, it’s all cool, but do you remember the situation from the second half?”
“We will do it in training. Watch how Santi or Ramsey behave in such situations.”
Rosicky – a fantastic man.
On Santi Cazorla being Arsenal’s best player…
Whenever someone asks me who the best player at Arsenal is, I always say Santi. Dear Jesus, he’s magic. When you are on a team with Santi then you don’t lose, the ball is always moving. You can play anything with him. Like a toy. And at the same time he’s a cool guy. He kept joking around with me. After training he would kick the ball at my shin and then tell me that I’m wooden.
On his plans for the summer and beyond…
In the back of my head I was hoping that Wenger will trust me. I have been fighting for that trust for three years. It’s tough, but I heard from the boss that he has never seen a center back as technically-gifted as me. I still lack experience. It is no secret that it would be nice to play a bit more in the Championship. I know that I have convinced the clubs here. I’ve also heard about the Bundesliga, but most importantly I want to play as many games as possible next season. If that happens, I’ll come back ready to compete for a place in the team. Now it all depends on how much I play at the Euro (U-21). If I play – let’s say – three matches, I’ll probably have time off and I’ll be able to return to Arsenal around July 13th. Otherwise, maybe I will be back sooner and I will go to the Australian tour with Arsenal. The coach wants me to be rested and one hundred percent ready. Some clubs have decided that they want me, but we are waiting for the papers or a phone call: “We are sure, we want Krystian for next season.”