Coventry City will take on Premier League giants Arsenal in the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup at the Ricoh Arena on Monday 15th, 7pm kick-off...
In the run up to Coventry City’s fifth round FA Youth Cup meeting with Arsenal at the Ricoh Arena, Academy Manager Rich Stevens gives us his take on the challenge of facing an ‘academy giant’ and the competition’s top goal scorer.
Delving in to the history of the FA Youth Cup, there has been a domination of Premier League academies making the final; including one notable London side that lies second in the overall table for Youth Cup winner’s medals – Arsenal (7 wins, 1 runners up).
The Sky Blues reached the Youth Cup final in consecutive seasons, 1999 and 2000, with the latter a showdown against Monday night’s opponents.
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Stevens is hoping that Coventry City can repeat the triumph over top tiered Stoke City in round four and again challenge the domination of teams with a Category 1 status.
Stevens said: “All the games have been different. Charlton gave us our greatest challenge - a good team, physical and the pressure of the tie added to it.
“Stoke are a top Cat 1 team, they are very well resourced and had lots of top end players so that was a real test.
“But all the games have been difficult, including Walsall in round one – they are all games that challenge you in different ways and Arsenal will provide a different test again.”
U18s striker Bassala Sambou - whose eight-goals contribution to this season’s Youth Cup campaign is unmatched in the competition - has been Coventry City’s standout performer and his impressive form has even earned the 18-year old his first appearance in the senior side.
Stevens had this to say about the talented front man: “Bass feels he is going to score in every game - his record over the season has proven that. Bass occupies both centre-backs all game, his work is relentless and causes constant problems.
“Goals win games and Bass has those in abundance.”
With the game being confirmed at the home of the Sky Blues first-team, Stevens is hoping that the young side will embrace the atmosphere and use it as motivation to perform against an experienced Arsenal team.
“For the boys to play at the stadium, under flood lights, is an experience in itself.
“We have to provide these boys with experiences to enable them to go on to the U21s and first-team. They will draw a lot from it, I’m sure the fans will support them where possible and it should be a great occasion.”
Stevens finished by commenting on the strength of the Arsenal setup:
“Arsenal are in the top half of the Cat 1 programme, they will play with lots of flair and we expect them to attack from the off. They will be expansive in their style of play and will have to concentrate for 90-minutes, defend quite deep and be compact to stop them playing.
“Our boys have proven they can go head to head with top flight sides and Monday should be no different,” Stevens commented.