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Ben Sheaf admits he’s enjoying his run of regular first-team football on loan at Stevenage, and says he’s now aiming for the same at Arsenal next season.
Sheaf moved to Stevenage in January, looking for his first starts in senior football. Unfortunately, he immediately fell injured, and sat on the sidelines for the next few weeks.
Now he’s back though, and has six appearances (five starts) in seven matches for the League Two club.
“It’s my first run of regular men’s football, so it’s easy to stay motivated,” Sheaf told Sunday’s edition of The Football League Paper. “As a team, we want to get as many points as we can for the most respectable league place we can.
“Ideally, I’ll be back at Arsenal next season and playing first-team football. It was unbelievable to make my debut against Red Star. Their fans were crazy – there wasn’t a moment of silence. It was incredible to see, and then to come on was great.
“It’s nice to think I’ve played a little part in this run to the quarter-finals. For us younger players, the Europa League has been a blessing.”
Despite his run in the team, Sheaf said he initially feared the worst when Stevenage changed managers. Darren Sarll was the man who brought the 20-year-old to the club, so there were no guarantees the new coach would keep him in the team.
“Whenever a new manager comes in, there can be a fear that he might not fancy you, and it’s my first experience of anything like that,” he said. “It’s easy to think the worst. But I knew if I trained well then I would stay in the team, and that’s what’s happened.”
It’s easy for Arsenal’s academy players to tell the media they want first-team chances, but not always as easy to see how they can fit into the team. Sheaf has the advantage of being a very versatile player, so there a couple of positions he could make his breakthrough in.
Originally the youngster played as a central midfielder, but ended up at centre-back just as often after Arsenal’s switch to a back-three. With Stevenage he’s playing defensive-midfield again, and he’s also played on the right in the past.
Those are all positions where Arsene Wenger’s side has had problems recently. Everyone knows defensive-midfield and centre-back are two areas in need of strengthening for the team. Plus, there are still only makeshift replacements for Hector Bellerin when he’s out.
We’ll see if Sheaf can take advantage of that in pre-season, and go from there.