Kyle Bartley believes he is ready to become a regular member of Arsene Wenger’s defence after impressing during a successful six month spell on loan with Rangers.
The Gunners have been heavily linked with a number of potential centre-back targets since the tail end of last season, but with the season drawing ever nearer the 20-year-old maintains that he could be the man to help firm up the defence.
Recognising in himself traits which differ to those offered by Thomas Vermaelen, Johan Djourou, Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci, the 6ft 3inch tall stopper told Arsenal.com about his ambitions for the months after a rapid spell of personal development.
“If I’m honest, I don’t think I was anywhere near the level to play for Arsenal last season. But I’ve come back, I feel really strong and I feel that I am ready now.
“I learned the demands of being at a top football club who are trying to win things and how important it is to be a champion and a winner. Every time you step on the pitch, you are going out there to win so there is a lot of pressure on you.
“I think I can offer something else [because] I am a little bit different to the other centre backs. I like the physical side of the game and I see myself as a leader. If Arsène decides that he wants me in the first team then that will be fantastic.”
Born in Manchester and beginning his career with Bolton Wanderers, Bartley led the Arsenal Youth team to FA Cup glory in 2009 before making his first team debut later in the same year against Champions League opponents Olympiakos. He later spent two separate spells on loan with Sheffield United before moving north of the border in January.
Recognising the importance of playing first team football, Bartley hinted recently that he would be happy to leave the club again on loan if necessary, but stressed that the circumstances behind his missing the tour of Asia were merely down to fitness issues.
“I spoke to the boss on the Friday before they left [for Asia] and he told me that they had four centre backs [going on the tour] and obviously I wasn’t fully over my injury yet. It’s just one of those things.
“It was always the aim to get back for the start of pre-season because it’s an important time of the year. I will be back with them on Tuesday when they are back in training with a view to going to Germany with them.
“He has said he doesn’t want me going on loan yet and he hasn’t made his mind up. My hopes are the same as every year, to be an Arsenal first-team player. Hopefully, this year, that will happen.”