Arsenal loan star wants to return and fight for first-team place
After helping Norwich City win promotion to the Premier League, Henri Lansbury wants a chance at the Emirates
WHEN Henri Lansbury signed a new long-term deal with Arsenal in 2009, Arsene Wenger tipped the young midfielder to become a ‘big player’ for the Gunners. Two years and three loan spells later, Lansbury is set to prove his manager right.
Lansbury has had to show plenty of patience at Arsenal. The 20-year-old’s latest loan, where his four goals in 23 appearances helped Norwich City earn promotion to the Premier League, was his third away from the Emirates following succesful stints at Watford and Scunthorpe United.
Lansbury’s sole start in the Arsenal first team produced a goal, against Tottenham in the Carling Cup in September, and with the praise of Norwich boss Paul Lambert ringing in his ears he has returned to the Emirates with one target only – to become a regular in the Arsenal midfield.
“I just want to try and force my way into the Arsenal side next season,” said Lansbury, who feels he is back to his best after a debilitating bout of glandular fever. “I have to come back raring to go, to be strong and try and take my place. I’m ready to prove myself here, and show the boss that I’m ready to be in the first-team.
“I feel that I’m back to my best now. Playing regularly helped me – obviously I got through being ill and now I feel that my power’s back, my running is there again. I didn’t feel as strong as before my illness for quite a while, but now I’m hoping to carry this into next season.”
While some of Arsenal’s younger players are expected to make way this summer for experienced names which can finally end the Gunners’ six-year trophy drought, Lansbury is unlikely to be one of the players leaving.
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His prospects next season may well be limited to cup appearances, but that in itself would constitute progress, and was the route taken to regular first team football by both Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
Lansbury provides Wenger with an interesting extra midfield option after a season in which more senior figures such as Theo Walcott, Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky have all too often been found wanting. With plenty of experience already under his belt, Lansbury has plenty to offer.
“Hopefully next season we’ll push strongly for the title again,” added Lansbury. “You can see the positives in the young guys’ performances – Jack Wilshere has come a long way this season and I think going out on loan helped him improve massively. Aaron Ramsey is fit and strong again too, as you saw when he scored against United. Hopefully we can all push on again come August.”
Lansbury’s chances will be further bolstered should he enjoy international success this summer, where he will be hoping to join Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs in the final England Under-21 squad which travels to Denmark for the European Championship.
Lansbury already has five caps to his name at that level, and believes England head to the tournament with a real chance of success. “It’s a massive [competition], as it always is when you put on your country’s shirt,” he said. “It would be an honour to be selected and hopefully I can go out there and make an impact. It would be great to go out there with Kieran and Jack, and we’d be confident of doing well. The boss has told me I can go on holiday now so I’m off away to Las Vegas with the Norwich lads. They’re a great bunch and really deserve the trip. But I’ll be keeping fit in the meantime and aiming to make my mark in Denmark.”
Lansbury’s next chance in an Arsenal shirt should come at the Emirates Cup at the end of July, where the Gunners face Boca Juniors, Paris St Germain and New York Red Bulls, and where Lansbury can offer further evidence that he is fast becoming the player Wenger predicted he would.