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Tyreece John-Jules: Arsenal's teen star who turned down AC Milan

12:00 BST 11/06/2020
Tyreece John-Jules NxGn
The 19-year-old committed his future to the Gunners despite interest from around Europe and is now looking to break into the first team

Tyreece John-Jules had a big decision to make in the summer of 2019.

The talented young Arsenal forward was approaching the final year of his contract in north London, and had clubs from across Europe knocking hard at his door.

His friend and Under-23s team-mate Xavier Amaechi was in the same situation. He decided his future was better served elsewhere, agreeing a move to Hamburg in Germany.

But after weighing up his options, John-Jules opted to remain with the club he had been at since he was the age of eight, signing a new five-year contract with the Gunners.

Arsenal were delighted, but it was different feeling for several of the top clubs in the Bundesliga who had been trying so hard to tempt the young forward away from north London with promises of first-team football.

And it was not just teams from Germany who had been on the tail of John-Jules. Clubs from across Europe were in the mix, with AC Milan pushing particularly hard to take him to Italy.

Ultimately the striker’s desire to try and make it at the club he grew up supporting ensured that he put pen to paper on a new long-term deal.

“It's always been a dream come true to play at this club,” he said. “I've been working hard, so I think I deserve this new contract. Now I need to keep working hard and when I get my chance, try to take it as well as possible.”

John-Jules, whose uncle is Red Dwarf actor Danny John-Jules, began his footballing education at Charlton Athletic, but moved to Arsenal when he was eight after impressing Gunners scouts during a game between the two clubs.

For a player who grew up idolising Thierry Henry it was a dream come true, and he quickly set about making a name for himself as he progressed through Arsenal's Hale End academy.

He did exactly that, impressing so much as he made his way through the year groups that he had a host of Europe’s top clubs trying to lure him away before he committed his long-term future to Arsenal last year.

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He may not be as extravagant as some, but John-Jules is a player who earns respect wherever he goes with his quality and hard work.

A quiet, humble character, he made a big impression during the 2019 pre-season tour to the United States. His performances impressed coaching staff and senior players, with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang soon taking the young forward under their wing.

“I’ve been hanging around with them, trying to learn from them on and off the pitch,” said John-Jules. “They've just told me to be positive, to be confident when I'm on the ball, especially with the first team. I can learn so much from them.”

Following that pre-season tour, John-Jules returned to the U23s set-up up, where he scored five goals in 12 appearances during the first half of the season.

He joined League One side Lincoln City on loan in January, but not before making a big impression on Mikel Arteta - who had replaced Unai Emery as Arsenal’s head coach a month earlier.

“I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen of him in training," Arteta said. "I really like him."

Unfortunately for John-Jules, his loan move to Lincoln ended after just seven games due to a foot injury. He is now back at Arsenal and working to get fit for the summer.

Another loan move beckons next season, potentially abroad, but the teenager is a player who has very much been earmarked by Arsenal as a one who could force his way into the first-team.

The Gunners are not short of promising young strikers. John-Jules has Eddie Nketiah - his former housemate - ahead of him in the pecking order and the hugely impressive Folarin Balogun snapping at his heels just below him.

As such, competition to challenge Aubameyang and Lacazette is fierce, especially when you add Gabriel Martinelli into the mix, but it is John-Jules’ impressive all round game that might give him the advantage over the next few years.

“He can do everything,” said Arteta. “He links really well on the ball every time he’s out of the number nine position. He’s got a really good ability to do that. He reads situations earlier than others and he’s a good finisher as well.

“Physically he’s developed in a really good shape. I think he’s a very complete player.”

The fact John-Jules has made an impact on Arteta in such a short space of time says a lot about the type of player and character he is. Those who know him best speak of a young man without an ego - one who is quite reserved, but who has a fierce work ethic and desire to improve.

His decision to stay at Emirates Stadium last year left a lot of clubs across Europe disappointed, and Arsenal will hope his performances over the next few seasons only add to that sense of loss.