Swansea City's Kyle Bartley hoping Emirates bow is worth his 5-year wait
KYLE Bartley spent five years at the Emirates Stadium — but tomorrow could be his first taste of competitive action there.
After coming through Bolton's academy, Bartley moved to Arsenal in 2007, aged 16.
Two years later he was part of the Gunners side that won the FA Youth Cup and also captained the reserve side.
The defender made his first team debut in a Champions League match at Olympiacos the following season before loan spells at Sheffield United and Rangers.
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After returning from Ibrox, Bartley scored an own goal in a friendly defeat to New York Red Bulls at the Emirates.
But he has never featured in a competitive fixture there.
That could be about to change tomorrow, with the 21-year-old tipped to start in Swansea City's third round FA Cup replay in North London.
Bartley impressed after making only his second Swansea appearance in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Liberty ten days ago.
And Michael Laudrup is expected to again turn to the £1 million summer signing as he attempts to juggle a demanding workload.
"It will be nice to go back to the Emirates for myself. The first game was a great experience and a great moment in my career," said Bartley.
"I've no regrets over leaving Arsenal. I'm a big believer that everything happens for a reason.
"I still had a couple of years left on my contract and if I wanted to stay the option was there for me.
"But I wanted to be somewhere where I was more capable of playing games. My injury hampered that earlier this season. But it's a new year and I want to kick on from here."
Bartley featured in a Capital One Cup win against Barnsley in August before being sidelined for three months with a thigh injury.
But he returned to the bench against Norwich last month and is available for selection at a congested part of the season.
Since beating Arsenal in the Premier League on December 1, Swansea have played ten games in just five weeks.
And Laudrup will again shuffle his pack tomorrow in an attempt to cope with a packed schedule.
Bartley is tipped to come in at the back, while Leon Britton, Jonathan de Guzman and Danny Graham could all start after being left on the bench against Everton last weekend.
It will be a chance for the former England Under-16 and 17 international to finally showcase his skills in a meaningful game at Arsenal's home.
But the Stockport-born defender insists he has nothing to prove.
"Arsene (Wenger) knows what I'm capable of and the type of player I am," added Bartley.
"Unfortunately, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know what I can do.
"I was at Arsenal for five years. I grew up there as a young kid and I owe them a lot for the person and player I am today.
"Going there and winning would be a great achievement. We want to get into the next round and whether we have to beat Arsenal or anyone else it doesn't matter to me.
"If given the opportunity it will be an honour to play there in front of 60,000 fans. Hopefully we can get the right result."
An away match at Championship outfit Brighton a week on Saturday awaits the winners.
Swansea were heading through in the first match against Arsenal after Michu came off the bench to make an instant impact.
He had been on the field less than two minutes when he pocked past Wojciech Szczesny to put Swansea in front.
But two quick Arsenal goals from Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs turned the match in Arsenal's favour before Danny Graham struck a late leveller.
Swansea went on to beat Chelsea in the first leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final and played out a goalless stalemate at Everton three days ago.
They have lost just three of their last 20 games in all competitions, and Bartley reckons belief is coursing through the side.
"It was good to be involved against Arsenal. We only got a draw in the first game, but following on from winning at Chelsea we will go to the Emirates feeling confident," he said.
"We're confident and after the results we've already had then we can beat anyone.
"Going into the games as the underdogs definitely helps us. Having a manager with the experience Michael has helps as well.
"He tells the players to go out, express themselves and enjoy playing the football we know we're capable of. If we do that we are capable of beating any team."
Swansea have proved that already this season.
As well as those stunning wins against Arsenal and Chelsea, they triumphed at Newcastle and Liverpool.
"Michael has a lot of tactical nous, particularly in these away games. If you got one result then you'd put it down to luck or the opposition not being on their game," added Bartley.
"But we've had three or four results away from home now so you have to say the manager and players have got the game plan exactly right."