Owen Coyle rode his luck and his side completed Capital Punishment III with a performance worthy of potential Carling Cup winners. The story of the night was that Burnley took their chances, whereas this very capable Arsenal side wasted theirs. Burnley were opened up repeatedly in the first half, and Niklas Bendtner who I had criticised in another blog for making Adebayor look good, missed one on one opportunities which must now disable the expectation of him becoming an accomplished striker. He was poor and what made it worse, it was obvious that he didn’t really care. No expressions of remorse, no picking up the pace to try and make amends, just a conciliatory tap of the hands to his fellow countryman the “The Beast” who had thwarted the efforts on goal.
So Arsenal were one nil down after 6 minutes. But by the end of the first half we should have conceded two and scored four. Paul Rodgers looked anxious at the back on his debut, Silvestre tried to calm nerves as Captain, and Keiran Gibbs was having a torrid time as Chris Eagles turned him inside out repeatedly and on the other side Paterson and Blake took it in turns to side step Gavin Hoyte. The give and go of the Burnley attack was typically Arsenal like and a painful lesson to observe. In midfield the story was not much better as the Burnley pack closed down Wilshere and Ramsey. The worst offender for the Arsenal was Mark Randall who seems to have got backwards since the summer. His touch deserted him and he was unable to link up consistently with Aaron Ramsey who was left isolated upon several occasions. So it was that Arsenal abandoned their football and resorted to uncharacteristic long balls.
The second half didn’t get any better and what emerged was an Arsenal team seemingly second to the ball and devoid of ideas. Passes were now going astray and this bad day at the office was set to get worse. Fabianski tried his best to get counter attacks going, but always they were met by the steely resolve of the well organised Burnley midfield. Snapping at the heels of every Arsenal player with the ball. There was aggression that the referee could have intervened with, but to be honest, we were outplayed and outfought in every department.
Even the second goal of Burnley was in the Arsenal mould and McDonald took his second goal, this time from a beautiful shot curled from the outside of his right boot past the despairing Fabianski in the 58th minute. Even the introduction of Lansbury, Bischoff and Simpson failed to turn the Claret tidal wave, which was bent on drowning any attempts of resuscitation. Burnley kept up the pressure on the ball, snapping into tackles, but Bischoff showed more fight than Randall, and started winning back some of the possession in midfield. But it was all too late. With no prospect of a goal up front, as Bendtner again missed from two yards to add insult to injury.
So it ended Burnley 2 Arsenal 0 and it was the Young Guns who had been given a football lesson. But as before with other stuttering performances of Arsenal this season, there were lessons for us to watch as predictable as a BBC repeat. The failure of key players to match the desire and energy levels of opponents who wanted to show their pedigree against the hype of Arsenal’s youth. Lessons like this are hard to digest. But there was one unmistakeable fact that was burned into the hearts of the faithful who had made that long journey to Turf Moor. Niklas Bendtner despite his fancy hair do, and his pink boots, will never become an Arsenal striker of any merit.
What we had feared from his inconsistent performances in the first team, and now was on show for all to see, is a player who lacks the fundamental killer skill set of a striker. He is at best average from the Arsenal point of view when we remember the Alan Smiths Thierry Henrys and the Ian Wrights. Eduardo would have converted one of those chances even now, whilst he is not at full fitness. Any goal would have changed the game, for Burnley would not have been encouraged. This defeat exposed yet again the poor state of the striking department at Arsenal. Where Adebayor and Niklas Bendtner who between them need an average of three chances for every goal scored, and I suggested this in the summer, as I called for Arsene Wenger to buy a striker, the failure to convert decent chances in difficult games would be the difference between success or defeat.
Will Arsene Wenger bring in a striker? Well your guess is as good as mine. He looked angry and bewildered. The pack of anti Wenger gooners will have had a feast. No doubt more calls for Arsene Wenger to go, or at least spend money in the January window. Those of us who are less hysterical, will see the common ground of agreement between the warring Arsenal factions. We do need a potent goalscorer, and yes we have needed one since the loss of Eduardo, and it is Arsene Wenger who is responsible for that deficiency. It has become a sad sight to see Arsenal fans regularly arguing amongst themselves as the pro Wenger and anti Wenger factions try to shout each other down. It is not the civil war that the media would have us believe, but a sad sight none the less.
The Young Guns are not in tatters, but the simple fact is Arsenal have been let down by very highly paid over hyped individuals who failed to deliver when we needed them. At Burnley the failures of Mark Randall and Niklas Bendtner put more pressure upon the more inexperienced members of the side, and so it was that Arsenal participation in the Carling Cup came to an end. The saddest sight on the night was to see Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela trying their best to rally the rest of the midfield, only to be shoved aside by a mighty Claret bulldozer, determined to reach the semi-finals. Well done Burnley, good luck and I hope that you win this cup!.
Fabregas the King.
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