It’s becoming a familiar sight to see Marcelo Flores flying through the air at the moment.
With five goals in just 11 under-23 appearances this season, and two nations fighting publicly to secure his commitment at international level, the 18-year-old has plenty of attention on him, but his trademark somersault celebration adds an even more eyecatching element to his game.
The seconds between him leaving the ground and landing back down safely are enough to send the hearts of those watching firmly up into the back of their mouths, but for Flores, the front flip is a crucial outlet to express his personality on the pitch.
“I first moved six years ago and while I was here I played for Ipswich, and while I was doing that I was doing a lot of football training outside, but also my school friends were gymnasts and they used to parkour and stuff like that, so I always used to hang around with them and do it as well,” he tells football.
London in an exclusive interview when asked to explain the origins of his celebration.
“I’ve always been able to flip and do those things but those two years of me doing football and grinding agility work and parkour work outside football helped me a lot. I stopped after I became professional but I try to bring some of that still here.”
The risk inherent in the somersault is symptomatic of the way the 18-year-old plays the game.
While many players at youth level are indecisive and fearful of taking responsibility, Flores seems to relish the prospect.
Under the lights of the Emirates Stadium on Friday night the left winger is up against Leeds right-back Jamie Shackleton, a player with 26 Premier League appearances to his name.
Flores rises to the occasion though relieving Arsenal from some of the early pressure they face with his direct dribbling before eventually grabbing his goal with a typical poacher’s finish after a rebound from Joel Lopez’s saved shot.
Watching such an assured performance it is hard to believe that he only made his debut at under-23 level for the Gunners in January.
He began the campaign with the under-18s which by his own admission was frustrating, but speaking to the 18-year-old what comes across most is his unwavering determination to achieve his dream of becoming one of the best players in the world.
It was this drive that was crucial for ensuring that he did not stay with the under-18s for long.
“It was hard at the start playing 18s because I didn’t feel my level was quite there,” he says.
“But I worked my hardest to try to show them physically what I could do every day, without making a verbal fuss, that I was above that level. I think I did it well. I ended up coming into the 23s squad, showing them what I can do and stayed in the squad and got a couple of goals for the team.”
That attitude has helped to ensure that this season has been one of several highs for Flores.
The winger was given his first senior cap for Mexico just two months after his 18th birthday and has since played again for Tata Martino’s side.
At club level though the undoubted peak of his campaign was being named on the bench for the first team’s clash with Crystal Palace last month.
With a 3-0 defeat and the news of potentially season-ending injuries for Kieran Tierney and Thomas Partey coming to light, that night at Selhurst Park is one most Arsenal fans would like to forget, but when the topic is brought up, Flores is unable to keep a smile from inching across his face as he recalls the hectic 24 hours that preceded it.
“It was the day before the Man City game, so I was getting prepared to play in the under-23s game against Man City at the Emirates,” he says.
“Last minute at night they called me saying tomorrow I was on the bench with the first team. It was a great moment for my family. The next day I ended up going to the first team and it was a great experience.”
The 18-year-old has a fan in Mikel Arteta and having been invited to train with the Spaniard’s first team on several occasions recently, he admits the feeling is definitely mutual.
“Yeah he’s great,” the youngster says of the Gunners boss.
“He tells you what he wants and what he needs. You execute it how he wants and it will benefit you.”
Away from north London though, Flores is a man in demand.
Marcelo-mania has swept across Mexico, where the football-loving nation is immensely excited about the forward’s potential.
Despite having played two friendlies for El Tri though, Canada – the country of Flores‘ birth – are still hopeful luring the youngster to play for them ahead of their first World Cup since 1986.
With so many people wanting something from him, the 18-year-old’s time is precious, and as he begins to shiver having come out to conduct the interview pitchside without a coat on, we’re instructed to wrap things up.
Before he heads off though there is still just about time to ask about ambitions for the upcoming season which promises to be one of the most important of his nascent career.
“I’ve been saying it for a while now that before I’m 19 I want to be a professional player, be it here or somewhere else, either out on loan or permanently,” he states confidently.
“I want to get to the World Cup before my 19th birthday. My birthday is in October, so the World Cup will be the month after that, so I want to be involved in the World Cup squad and get my debut with Arsenal before then.”
As he heads back into the warmth of the dressing room it is abundantly clear just how driven Flores is to make the step up to senior football across the coming year.
Having seen Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli all prove that youngsters will be given a chance at Arsenal, he certainly has inspiration to make that happen in north London.
With ambitions that reach far higher than his trademark celebration, you wonder whether we may be about to see the somersault on full display once again in Qatar this November.