Arsenal have not lifted the FA Youth Cup since 2009 but captain Dan Crowley is determined to change that this season.
The young playmaker slotted home from the spot against Reading last time out to set up a fourth-round clash with Royston Town, who have battled through seven rounds to reach the final 32.
Despite a home draw against a non-league side, Crowley insists Arsenal will prepare in the same way they would for a league match.
"I like leading the team out and trying to be an example"
“Of course we’re going to take it seriously,” he told Arsenal.com after the Reading win. “You have to win your game. If you don’t, you’re out. There’s a lot more pressure on you to win.
“Reading was a great result for us. They defended well and made it hard for us. We should’ve taken our chances when we had them and we nearly paid the price for that, but we were lucky enough not to concede.
“Maybe in the next round we need to be a bit more clinical to make it easier for ourselves because every team is going to try to make it tough for us.”
Crowley’s direct playing style has seen him net nine times already this season and has also seen the 17-year-old compared to Jack Wilshere, who was a member of Arsenal’s winning squad in 2009 alongside Francis Coquelin.
This year's Youth Cup squad boasts a similar mix of under-21 and under-18 players but also includes four youngsters who have been called up to Arsene Wenger’s first-team squad this season.
“It’s great for all of us because our back four have all played 90 minutes for the under-21s,” Crowley explained. “Stefan O’Connor has played for the first team and that was a great experience for him.
“Tyrell Robinson and Chiori Johnson have played lots of football for the under-18s but have been doing really well in the under-21s.
“Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Gedion Zelalem have also been involved with the first team, and Ryan Huddart has been on the bench a couple of times. We’ve got an experienced but very young side.”
With academy top scorer Crowley leading the way, coach Frans de Kat will at least hope to match last season’s achievement of reaching the semi-finals. And having the armband is certainly getting the best out of Crowley.
“I do like being captain and I enjoy the extra responsibility,” he said. “I like leading the team out and trying to be an example.
“I’m loving my football at the moment. Andries Jonker and the academy staff have made it really easy for me. They told me that I’ve got to set up and score more goals - that’s what I’m looking to do.”
Arsenal Under-18s host Royston Town Youth on Wednesday. Kick-off is 7pm at Boreham Wood FC’s Meadow Park and entry is free. There will be live updates on the @Arsenal Twitter feed from 6.55pm.
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