Burnley 2 – 0 Arsenal (McDonald 6, 58)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here
Well, the unbridled fun that is the Carling Cup is over for another season. Never mind: we’ll be back next year, and the year after – this conveyor belt of talent will continue to enliven a competition that would otherwise be dull as dishwater.
The reason the fun is ‘unbridled’ is that we as fans have nothing to lose. The manager treats it as a ‘simulated environment’ wherein youngsters can experience something approaching the rigour of first-team football. And the players respond to the pressure-free conditions, blossoming and playing with a freedom it’s unlikely we’d see in the Premier League.
Last night could easily have been another one of those spectacular nights. Nicklas Bendtner raced through after just five minutes, but finished tamely. Typically, they then went right up the other end, and scored a goal, meaning they could sit back and keep their shape for the remainder of the ninety minutes.
In spite of that, we still created many, many chances. Arsene counted six one-on-ones – I reckon it totalled out even higher. Either way, we really ought to have scored at least a goal, with Bendtner particularly guilty of some lacksadaisical finishing. I’m not going to go about criticising the youngsters who’ve entertained us so much this season, but the performances of Bendtner and Silvestre, ostensibly two of the more experienced members of the side, left plenty to be desired.
Anyway, there’s little point in dwelling on the result: the fact that Paul Rodgers had to be drafted in for his debut in the Quarter-Final of the competition demonstrates how thin our squad was being stretched, so it’s arguably no bad thing to avoid a two-legged semi-final. When you have to rest Alex Song, you know your squad is in trouble.
The kids will learn plenty about concentration and the importance of taking your chances early. Some of them will go on to push for first-team places in the second half of the season (Vela, Ramsey), others will challenge for a spot in our FA Cup campaign (Fabianski, Wilshere), whilst some might be sent out on loan to gain yet more invaluable experience – I’m sure clubs are already queueing around the block to secure the likes of Kieran Gibbs.
I mentioned the FA Cup – in the aftermath of tonight’s game, Arsene was asked about whether the Carling Cup side would re-emerge in the FA Cup. His response was emphatic:
“No. Some of these maybe, but in the FA Cup we will play our normal team”.
It’s a serious piece of back-tracking from Wenger, who back in August claimed he would rest players in the country’s most highly-regarded cup competition. However, our faltering league performances have perhaps convinced him that the cup represents our best chance of silverware, and I for one am glad that we will be putting our best efforts into winning a competition that I have a lot of affection for.
Attention turns back to the league now, and Wigan on Saturday. I don’t need to tell you how badly three points are required.
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