By Chris Harris
Practice made perfect for Kyle Bartley on Tuesday night as Arsenal cruised into their first FA Youth Cup Final in eight years.
The big defender powered home a header against Manchester City to help Steve Bould's boys to a 4-1 win on the night and a thumping 6-2 victory on aggregate.
Bartley's second goal of the Youth Cup campaign was rather easier on the eye than his vital equaliser at Tottenham in the Quarter-Finals. That one bounced in off the back of the 17-year-old's head but his Emirates Stadium strike came straight from the training ground.
"We have been working on the set pieces in training and I took the middle ground in the penalty area." explained Bartley. "It was a good ball in from Jack and I just did the rest. It was a better goal than my one at Tottenham in the Quarter-Final! They all count though.
"It shows how my heading has improved. I feel like I've come a long way this year, my heading is still not great but it's getting better."
The tie was effectively over after Arsenal racked up four goals inside the first 31 minutes. However, Bartley and company still had to keep their wits about them at the back. Bould's defensive know-how has obviously rubbed off on the young Gunners as City were repelled time and again.
"They are a dangerous side, especially up front where the two strikers are very lively," said Bartley. "We had to keep concentrated and although we conceded one sloppy goal I thought we did quite well. I think it is natural to relax a bit when you are so far ahead but you have to stay motivated the whole way through.
"It was a good result. We didn't perform as well as we could do but the result is what matters most. We got the goals and the first half-an-hour was a decent performance but after that we took our foot off the pedal. We allowed a few sloppy passes to come into our game.
"But playing at Emirates Stadium tonight will help when we play the first leg of the Final. As a group I think it's good for our development so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.
"This is the big one for us. The Youth Cup is the one that everyone wants and hopefully we can emulate the 2001 side which won the trophy."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 23 Apr 2009