By Chris Harris
The FA Youth Cup Final confirmed what Kyle Bartley suspected all along - that Arsenal's youngsters are the best in the business.
The structure of the Academy League - with four regional divisions - means that the best Under-18 sides from the north and south are kept apart until the end-of-season play-offs. Only then can one team prove its pre-eminence and Arsenal did exactly that, beating Manchester City in the Semi-Finals before overcoming Tottenham in the Final to clinch the title.
It's been a similar story in the Youth Cup. Steve Bould's boys have done it the hard way, beating Man City and Spurs once more as well as Aston Villa, Wolves, Sunderland and now Liverpool to secure the trophy for the first time since 2001. For Bartley, the 6-2 aggregate win over their Merseyside rivals is indisputable evidence that Arsenal are the kings of youth football.
"It's fantastic," Bartley told Arsenal.com after Tuesday night's triumph at Anfield. "Winning the Youth Cup was our aim at the start of the season and now we've done it so everyone's really pleased.
"After winning the first leg 4-1 we had to keep focused. We had to avoid sloppy mistakes in order to win the game and we did that. We knew that if we kept Liverpool's strikers quiet then we would do well.
"I think we were confident that we could be the best. We tried not to be too arrogant because sometimes that can slip into our game, but we thought we had a good chance. You don't play northern teams in the Academy League until the play-offs and with the split divisions you don't know who's the best.
"You look at the leagues and try to get a view of that but until the end of the season you can't be sure. Now we can be sure."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