By Declan Taylor
Steve Bould will call first team record-breaker Jack Wilshere into his Under-18 squad for tonight’s FA Youth Cup Fourth Round tie against Wolves at Underhill.
Wilshere, who has become Arsenal’s youngest FA Cup, European Cup and Premier League player this season, has been involved in every first-team squad since November 15. However, he will be back among his peers tonight as they bid to set up a Fifth-Round tie at Sunderland or Preston.
Bould’s boys, minus Wilshere, overcame one of the pre-tournament favourites in Aston Villa in the Third Round when they came from behind twice to secure a fine 3-2 victory at Villa Park in December.
A brace from Villa striker James Collins had twice been cancelled out by Rhys Murphy before Arsenal captain Jay Emmanuel-Thomas squeezed a low strike past Conor Devlin in goal for the home side.
The gutsy nature of the victory pleased the Arsenal manager although Bould thought that his side had made it hard for themselves against the Villans.
“I was obviously delighted with the performance on the night,” he told Arsenal.com. “We ended up winning 3-2 but I thought we should have won by a few more goals.
“I think we made it quite difficult for ourselves, particularly in the first half when we didn’t really compete as well as we should have done. But I thought in the second half we were excellent.
“I think in the first 15 or 20 minutes we were very nervous. The kids handled that and hopefully learned from that. Playing on a big stage is different from the week-to-week stuff that they do so in that respect we got everything we possibly could out of it.”
Arsenal have already beaten Wolves once this season but Bould won’t be reading much into that particular result. The former-Highbury favourite is well aware of the quality in the visitors’ ranks but does admit that his side are probably slight favourites to progress.
“We won 3-1 against them earlier in the season but they were much better than us on the day and really we should have been beaten,” he said. “They are one of the few academies that play from the back and if we allow them to play we could be in for a really tough night. We certainly aren’t taking them easy and they are a very talented team.
“This is just the next stage and we’re at home, expected to win, so it is a bit of a different pressure than what we had at Villa. It is up to our players to raise themselves to that. It is a little bit different because in this competition it is more important to win but that is part of the development. It is something that the kids learn I think.
“We have got everybody available and that includes Jack Wilshere as the gaffer has let him be involved. He will get a game and that is a bonus for us. We are at full strength.”
The FA Youth Cup has evaded Arsenal’s much-coveted youngsters since 2001 but victory over Wolves tonight would provide another sizeable step towards adding some solid silver substance to their style.
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