By Chris Harris
Emmanuel Frimpong hailed the "character" of Arsenal's youngsters after they took a giant step towards the FA Youth Cup Final on Wednesday night.
Steve Bould's boys lacked their usual verve in the first half of their Semi-Final first leg at Manchester City and trailed to Alex Nimely's goal at the break. But they stormed back in the second half to secure a 2-1 victory thanks to late strikes from Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Gilles Sunu.
It was the third time Arsenal had come from behind in this season's competition after similar late shows at Aston Villa and Tottenham. Frimpong, speaking on the Arsenal TV Online MatchDay Show, put their fortitude on the pitch down to the familiarity in Arsenal's squad.
"The reason why it keeps happening is because most of us have been playing together since we were nine years old," he said. "We know what we are capable of doing. Obviously when we go behind it is always hard to come back but we know that we are always capable of doing so.
"This result shows the character the team has. I think in the first half I would have settled for a narrow defeat but at half time Steve sat down and talked to us. He told us why we are in a Semi-Final and I think we came out and showed a great attitude to come back and win the game.
"We weren’t totally switched on in the first half. Manchester City knew how we were going to play and how we like to get the ball and pass. Their midfield were very tight to us which made it harder for us to play. But they ran too much in the first half so they got a bit tired in the second half and that allowed us more space to play."
As usual Frimpong was a driving force from the centre of midfield, particularly in the second half at Eastlands. The England youth international is earning a reputation for his fearless tackling and kept Arsenal on the front foot after the break with a string of crunching challenges.
"I think it’s part of the game, you have to do it," said Frimpong. "I enjoy making tackles more than anything because it helps the team to regain the ball and of course that is when we’re dangerous. The responsibility is on me and Francis [Coquelin] to get the ball back for our attacking players to go and win us the game."
Arsenal will need another powerful performance from Frimpong to keep City at arm's length in the second leg at Emirates Stadium. The 17-year-old is focused on City at the moment but he has a special reason for wanting to reach the Final - he has a personal score to settle with the son of a former England star.
"If we get through I’d prefer Liverpool in the Final [rather than Birmingham] because I know one of their players from the England youth side and he has been saying how good they are. It's Thomas Ince, Paul Ince’s son. He has been giving me some grief so I want to face Liverpool in the Final and beat them!
"But for now we have to be professional and I’m sure we will be more prepared for the second leg against City because we know what they’re capable of. I don’t think they play a lot of football, they are very direct, and we will be aware of that in the next game."Copyright 2017 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