Arsenal’s Young Guns, who’ve flown so high this season, came crashing down to earth last night against a determined and well prepped Burnley side hungry to advance.
What will frustrate the side most is that they created the opportunities to win the game but they were wasteful in front of goal and couldn’t convert some very clearcut chances. Burnley, on the other hand, scored goals on half chances that the Gunners should have dealt with but didn’t. Perhaps it comes with maturity, perhaps it comes with a little luck, neither of which Arsenal displayed last night.
Most disturbing of all, many of the Young Guns played poorly, notably Bendtner, Vela, Randall, Ramsey, and Gibbs while Wilshere struggled. Each of these players had their moments but they all came up short against a more motivated and physical Burnley.
Lukasz Fabianski was a little timid on the opening goal and looked unsafe several times. Conversely, he also made several good saves, but he needs more time to mature.
The defence was not as sound as the last time when they played Wigan. Kieran Gibbs was unable to get forward the way he did against Wigan, although he did try harder in the second half to get upfield. Gavin Hoyte was unable to move up the right flank and Wenger had to bring on Henri Lansbury to try and create some offence down the right flank. Sadly he was unable to make a large difference. Mikael Silvestre was the best defender we had, but even he looked vulnerable several times. Paul Rodgers made his debut and had several moments he’ll want to forget. However, he was not the reason we lost.
In midfield only Merida played anywhere near well. He looked quite lively most of the evening and almost scored what would have been a highlight reel goal in the second half. But even he made mistakes. Wilshere was unable to dominate games like he has in the past and he looked like a teenager playing in a game for men. Ramsey seemed to run out of ideas, perhaps frustrated at the poor form of the forwards in front of him. I kept waiting for him to break the game open, but he never delivered.
Mark Randall will definitely want to forget this game. Last season he played for Burnley and this was a chance to show his old team how he had progressed. Alas, he couldn’t convert a clearcut chance in the first half and then he gifted Burnley their second when he failed to clear the ball. Of all Arsenal’s young midfield stars, I have the most doubts about Randall.
The most disappointing performances of the night were our two front runners. Carlos Vela had already delivered two wonderful Carling Cup performances and the hope was that he would continue to deliver. Unfortunately he just lacked that cutting edge last night. He couldn’t convert one very good chance and several other half chances were lost when he either miscontrolled the ball or went down too easily. He already seens to have a reputation as a diver as referees almost always ignore blowing the whistle when he goes down. It was certainly not his night.
Niklas Bendtner was a serious disappointment. On the positive side he made several exquisite passes that set up his teammates. However he too often dwelt on the ball too long, losing it after he had made a good turn or move. At other moments his control was not as sharp as it should have been. Most frustrating of all was his failure to convert even one of the three breakaway chances he had. Against Kiev he fired home the winner and was the hero of the game. Against Burnley he had even better chances and ends up the goat of the game.
Jay Simpson looked lively for about ten minutes but he was unable to make a difference. Amaury Bischoff came on and just disappeared on the pitch. Wenger probably needs to send a search party out on the pitch to find him. He was unable to make any impact on the game.
Regrettably the Gunners have been eliminated from their first competition of the year. Many of the players will now lose their chance to get first team action for the rest of the season, barring the odd appearance in an FA Cup game or an epidemic of first team injuries. Wenger will need to mull over whether to loan several of them out in order for them to get more games under their belt. Randall, Merida, Lansbury, Hoyte, and maybe even Vela could all benefit from playing in the Championship league and getting more experience. For Gunner fans the fairytale of the Young Guns winning the Carling Cup has come to an end.