Interview

‘We were athletic, technical and mentally strong'

Ken Gillard

Ken Gillard was full of praise for our under-18s on Thursday night following their 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Youth Cup.

With the scores deadlocked after 90 minutes, we delivered a thrilling attacking performance in extra time, scoring three goals inside 15 minutes.

We spoke to Gillard after the final whistle - and this is what he said:

on the team performance…
I’m delighted for the boys to come through. In the first half we were poor and they moved the ball much better than us. We were poor both on and off the ball and we made some incorrect decisions off the ball especially. But in the second half it was a much improved performance. We tweaked one or two things at half-time and stepped on to them a little bit. We wanted to make it uncomfortable for them and that’s what we did. We were better with the ball as well and that was good, we created a lot of chances. But again, it was touch and go because it was 2-2, they had chances, we had chances, but then going into extra time I was confident because I thought they were tiring a bit and we have more athleticism in the team. I fancied us in extra time, but I’m just delighted for the boys. There were some really good performances out there.

on extra time…
Athleticism is one thing, but then there’s the execution and cleverness of the final pass, where they think you’re going to shoot but then you cut it back for the finish. We were athletically, technically good and being mentally strong helps too. We had an all-round good performance and the subs that came on were very good as well. Mazeed Ogungbo, a 16-year-old at the back, played very, very well at the left side of centre half, and then we had quality in the top half of the pitch that can cause any team trouble at this level.

on some crucial tackles in the second half…
It was a real team effort. It’s not just the starting team either. We had some lads who are fit who weren’t in the team today that were disappointed not to play, but they were all in the dressing room together delighted to be part of it because it’s a big team effort from all the hard work we’ve done since the beginning of the season. They want to be part of this. They had a taste of it last year and they want to go on this year and keep going as far as we can in the competition.

on the atmosphere at Meadow Park…
I was just talking to Arthur who was getting a bit of stick from the Tottenham fans behind the goal, which was great for him, so it’s part of his learning experience playing in front of crowds and playing under lights against a good opposition. It’s all about making them better players so that they can hopefully go on to have a career here at Arsenal.

on Chelsea and Tottenham already being knocked out of the competition…
Every game you play is going to be tough in this competition. We’ve got West Brom in the next round I believe and they were a very difficult team to play against earlier this season. We just need to regroup, see how we are and hopefully get one or two injured players back because that will make us a little bit stronger. We just need to focus on the next game and see where we go from there.

on Bukayo Saka…
First of all he’s a very good human being. He’s a great person whether he’s playing with the first team, the under-23s or with the under-18s, and I’m sure that if you asked him to play for the under-16s he’d go and do it with a smile on his face! He’s a very good player and a great person with a top attitude. There were some very good performances out there, it was a real team performance and we’re all very, very proud of them.