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.