As Arsenal’s youth side chase a first FA Youth Cup win in nine years their manager Kwame Ampadu believes his side have been prepared for battle in a journey to the final that has taken the young guns to some of England’s most intimidating grounds.
The Gunners go into the first leg of their final against Chelsea on Friday as underdogs, with the Blues having appeared in the last six finals and won five titles since 2010.
On the last occasion Arsenal reached the final a Jack Wilshere-inspired side beat Liverpool over two legs, lifting the trophy at Anfield.
Arsenal have already replicated that feat in this season’s competition, battling back from two goals down before Tyreece John-Jules struck an extra-time to send Steven Gerrard’s side crashing out of the competition.
“The spirit that they showed at Anfield, for them to come from behind in a very tough game against a very tough team was amazing,” Ampadu said.
“To go behind in that game and then show the spirit and the fight in that game to comeback, to turn around and beat them at Anfield, I thought that was an excellent game.”
John-Jules, explosive winger Xavier Amaechi and playmaker Emile Smith-Rowe are among the youngsters who will have to be at their best if they are to overcome a Chelsea side that could include familiar faces such as Callum Hudson-Odoi.
However the Gunners have proven themselves worthy of challenging the top youth sides over the past season, finishing second in the south section of the U18 Premier League.
“I’m absolutely delighted for them,” added Ampadu. “We said to them at the start of the season that it was going to be about hard work, togetherness, unity and also them pushing each other every single day in training to improve as individuals and collectively.
“In fairness to them, they have been brilliant for the most part. The attitude and response has been fantastic.
“The lads have actually been quite relaxed. We trained again today and it seemed like there was more of a good anticipation about them, within the group. They seemed like they’re looking forward to it.”
The first leg of the Youth Cup takes place at Stamford Bridge on Friday night, with the second on Monday at the Emirates Stadium.