Player Profiles- Arsenal’s resilient defensive duo Luke Ayling and Kyle Bartley


The build-up to the new season continues here on Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth as we profile two of the key members of last season’s double-winning campaign. Kyle Bartley was already assured of a professional contract following his move from Bolton in the summer of 2007, but his central-defensive partner Luke Ayling had to fight for his long-term future at the club. He managed it, with a series of steady displays as Bould’s boys swept all before them. You can read more about both players below.

The meteoric rise of Luke Ayling was one of the major success stories of an action-packed campaign for the Arsenal Academy.

Having signed scholarship terms in the summer of 2007, Luke made 23 appearances for Steve Bould’s under-18s side in 2007/08 but question marks were raised over his aerial ability and the frequent mistakes which had become a feature of his game.

How the tables have turned. Under the stewardship of Bould, Ayling has developed into one of the brightest talents in Arsenal’s ranks. His early-season showings for the under-18s were a sign of things to come as he played a key role in the double success.

A genuinely two-footed centre-back, Luke developed a fruitful partnership with Kyle Bartley at the back and was also seen a role model for younger defenders such as Rhema Obed and Daniel Boateng.

Also capable of playing in midfield, Luke scored his first goal for the u-18s in the victory over Southampton in October and didn’t look back.

His commitment to the cause was exemplified further when he went in goal for the majority of the match against Fulham after regular ‘keeper James Shea suffered an injury. He impressed between the sticks, making a superb save that any no.1 would have been proud of.

Rewarded with a professional contract in the summer, Luke will now be looking for a season as a regular in the Reserves with the possibility of a loan move after that.

After an injury-ravaged first campaign in North London, imposing centre-back Kyle Bartley came to the fore last season playing an integral role in the FA Youth Cup success as well as making 13 appearances for Neil Banfield’s Reserve side.

Signed from Bolton on a scholarship deal in the summer of 2007, Kyle arrived at Arsenal having already represented England u-16s at Wembley against their Spanish counterparts. Following a successful trial, Arsenal beat a host of clubs to his signature and big things were expected of the defender.

However, his first season didn’t go to plan following a succession of injuries and he also lost his place in the international set up as well.

Despite the disappointments, the youngster recieved a huge boost after signing his first professional contract in the summer of 2008 and went into the new season full of confidence.

He began the campaign in the u-18s but soon became one of the first names on Neil Banfield’s team-sheet for the Reserves where he came up against Didier Drogba, Kanu and David Nugent all in the first few weeks of the season.

Some mistakes may have been made, particularly in the 4-1 capitulation at home to Aston Villa but Kyle was determined to make amends. A slight drop in form in mid-October saw him pushed back down into the u-18s but he remained strong and impressed Steve Bould as he developed a successful partnership with Luke Ayling at the heart of the defence.

That partnership would play a key role in the FA  Youth Cup success, with Bartley also adding another string to his bow in the form of scoring from set-pieces- something he was previously criticised for.

His goal at White Hart Lane against Spurs was scruffy but proved to be vital, whilst he also got on the scoresheet against Manchester City at Emirates Stadium.

Typically resolute in both legs of the Final against Liverpool, Kyle will be hoping to break into the Carling Cup squad this season, although there is also the possibility of a loan spell to a Championship or League One club.

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6 comments

  1. Kyle and Luke were very good last season for the reserves, I am hoping they both graduate into the carling cup team before any thoughts of loan deals. I really believe Kyle has what it takes to make it at Arsenal. I have high hopes for Luke too, but Kyle seems more ready to make a step up.

  2. Luke Ayling is my personal favourite, he reads the game very well, intercepts lots of balls thus negating having to dive into tackles all the time, excellent in the aerial duels, ok speed, very good composure, good use of the ball with his excellent technique & 1.85m tall. All he needs is game experience @ 1st team level & improvement physically.

  3. YH i think Luke Ayling has got the defensive skills he just needs experience and maybe need to be get stronger but hes very agressive and solid. Bartley got the physcail stature he just needs to cut out sloppy mistakes.

    I also rate thomas cruise as well he kept david amoo in his pocket. Cruise is very solid and very good technically. I think he would do bettre in defensive midfield or centre half i remeber him playin alongside rodwell both of them look quality.

  4. I don’t feel Luke Ayling will make it.

    Don’t get me wrong, he is a superb player, but I think Wenger tends to prefer more athletic defenders, and from this respect, Bartley has more raw potential.

  5. I’d prefer Ayling over Bartley. Watched them in the FA youth semi and final at the Emirates. Both were impressive but i just get the feeling Bartley is a little too arrogant at the moment, whereas luke seems to have the head down grinder mentality to make the step up. Look where Bartley’s attitude got Bentley and Pennant.

    JET needs to cut this out too.

  6. I think both Bartley and Ayling have huge potential, Bartley though for me definenately has the edge, physically he is a monster, is quick, good in the air and has a fantastic range of passing,can’t really understand Monkeys comment about Bartley being arrogant, I have watched him many times and he always seems to have an exemplary attitude, leads and encourages his team mates, organises those around him, talks more than anyone else in the team, is that a bad thing? Looks like a future Arsenal captain to me,

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