By Declan Taylor

Captaining Arsenal to FA Youth Cup glory is Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ No 1 priority this season.

Despite playing for the England Under-19s, the Reserves and the first team this season, the Academy captain admits that he’d like nothing more than to lift the cup that has evaded the much-coveted Arsenal youngsters since 2001.

Speaking ahead of Friday’s long trip north for Arsenal’s Fifth-Round tie at Sunderland, Emmanuel-Thomas discussed the importance of lifting the trophy and the overall advantage of the non-regional set-up of the competition.

“Obviously we want to win the league but the Youth Cup is the most important thing at the moment,” he told Arsenal.com. “It is the most publicised and everyone knows about it. At the moment it is our No 1 priority.

“It is all about winning here, if you don’t win, you don’t progress. You lose that aspect of playing in different places, travelling and facing those different atmospheres and different crowds.

“It is very important for me. Playing in front of crowds and facing different players than you might not usually play against is all part and parcel of becoming a footballer. It’s getting more tense the further we go but obviously we need to take one step at a time.”

The midfielder has already played an important part in Arsenal’s early cup run. After Rhys Murphy had twice levelled against Aston Villa in Round Three it was Emmanuel-Thomas who notched his side’s winner, setting up the Fourth-Round meeting with Wolves.

Arsenal comfortably dispatched their visitors, with substitute Gilles Sunu bagging a hat-trick. Striker Sam Winnal headed home Wolves’ consolation in stoppage time, something that still disappoints Emmanuel-Thomas.

Despite that goal, the 18-year-old is certain that the team will take a lot of confidence from that Wolves performance and an incredible 5-3 win against Southampton in the league on Saturday.

“Wolves was a great result for the team,” he said. “We didn’t start very well but by the end of the game we finished very strongly, even though we conceded late on. Overall I thought we performed very well.

“At the moment our team is on a high because we also won our league game at the weekend 5-3. We’ve got a lot of attacking flair players at the moment so going forward we’re really strong.

“I think we’re full of confidence at the moment and we’re going up to Sunderland in great hope.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 30 Jan 2009