By Chris Harris
If Kyle Bartley emerges as a defensive star of Arsenal’s future, he will have a defensive star from Arsenal’s past to thank.
The 17-year-old has bounced back from an injury-hit first year with the Club to play a pivotal role in Arsenal’s run to the Youth Cup Semi-Finals. On Wednesday he will line up against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium as the young Gunners defend a 2-1 lead from the first leg.
Before, during and after the game, Bartley will take on board some words of wisdom from Steve Bould. The Arsenal legend coaches the Under-18s and has used his decades of top-flight experience to guide Bartley in the right direction.
“He has taught me everything I know really,” the youngster told Arsenal.com.
“When I first came here my heading was very poor but I have been working a lot on that with Steve, Neil Banfield and [central defensive partner] Luke Ayling. It’s coming along well.
“It is still not the best but I have learned a lot from Steve about timing, the direction and the power of heading.”
Bartley was just shy of his seventh birthday when Bould collected the last of his three league championship medals in May 1998. The Manchester-born centre back just about remembers Bould the player and acknowledges that the art of defending has changed since his coach was in his prime.
A master of the ‘early reducer’, Bould timed his tackles from behind to perfection. Bartley, of course, would not be advised to copy that against Man City on Wednesday. Not unless he wants a red card.
“I saw him play when I was younger - I saw a few bad games and a few good ones!” chuckled Bartley.
“You can’t tackle from behind anymore but in Steve’s era the game was tougher. Defenders were a lot harder and strikers were a lot tougher as well. Today there are a few players that look for the foul and the referees are keener to blow their whistle so you have to work out different ways to defend.
“But Steve has taught me how to do that. In training he is a great help and when you’re out of position or make a mistake he helps you out. I owe him a lot.”