Burnley 2-0 Arsenal Youth — the Good, Bad and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: “The Coca-Cola Championship team booked their place in the last four of the Carling Cup after showing a young Gunners side how to finish.”

A Cultured Left Foot: “It was an evening that the players can look back on without shame. They passed the ball reasonably well, their overall technique, until it came to the final shot on goal, was excellent. In short they lived up to most of the expectations that were placed on their young shoulders.”

The Good

Wilshere and Ramsey were absolutely magnificent: laying on the passes that would eventually be wasted by Bendtner up front, running their asses off, and putting themselves about.

Wilshere is still a bit too slight and often found himself on the ground and dispossessed of the ball to the larger, more experienced Burnley midfielders. But I think he may grow and get stronger, he’s only 16!

Ramsey was always in the right place for the role he played. Wenger had him the holding midfield spot and he did the best he could considering how often he had to mop up Randall’s mistakes in midfield.

Both of these young men show great vision and understanding of the game that belies their years. I expect great things from these players.

The Bad

I really feel bad for young Paul Rodgers: thrust into an unfamiliar lineup on a freezing night in an important game against a hardened opponent would be enough to undo the best men, much less a 19 year old, and to be sacrificed at half-time so that a midfielder can come on and play defense for you must have been truly embarrassing. Even though he had a nightmare match you can see flashes of the brilliance that Wenger saw to pick him, let’s hope this experience spurs him on to better things.

Fabianski also had a bad match, well, Fabianski and Silvestre really. They seemed to lack any communication and more than once got in each other’s way. Sir Alex Ferguson was on the sidelines and must have had a chuckle at Silvestre’s performance — for a defender who is as experienced as he is some of the mistakes he made were the stuff that I would have expected from Rodgers. I’ve heard from some Man U supporters that that’s the bag on Silvestre: he plays hard but he’s mistake prone. Multiple times this season he’s been caught running about wildly and crashing in to Arsenal defenders and it has lead to goals. Let’s hope this is just a lack of understanding and communication and not some kind of thing that he does.

Fabianski looked nervous and spilled the ball several times but it was a very cold night and Jensen spilled the ball several times too. So I’m not sure it was as bad a performance that everyone is marking him down for. The first goal was partially his fault (he should control the area) but it certainly didn’t help him that Silvestre tackled him and piled on, effectively holding him down and letting McDonald have a shot at an open goal.

The Ugly

Leaving Simpson out seemed like a huge mistake because Bendtner was most guilty of the poor finishing that killed the team last night. I don’t know what happened in practice but based on the last game, Simpson deserved the starting spot over Bendtner.

That said, Bendtner started and despite some exquisite service from midfield, simply could not finish. After the third time he dribbled into Jensen during a one-on-one you just knew he just wasn’t going to get a goal. It was a disheartening performance from the player who has started against some of the world’s best teams — with his experience, he should have been the guy to carry the Young Ones but instead he looked like their inferior.

The Boss was clearly upset with him after the match, saying:

We played quite well. We had six one-on-ones with the keeper and we lost 2-0, that sums it up quite well… overall we lost a game we shouldn’t have lost.

They [the Young Ones] expressed their talent and many of them gave absolutely everything. But in front of goal you need to be much more clinical than we were tonight. I felt we were quite naive in the way we took our chances.

Final Thoughts

The team can take a lot of good from this game. Wilshere and Ramsey, in particular, are very young and can look at their performance last night and hold their heads high. Other players need to look at the way they played and work on those aspects of their game that was found wanting.

Tactically, Wenger needs to look at these games and see that Burnley employed similar tactics to Stoke and others that have beaten Arsenal this season. They were very rough on the midfield and got away with quite a bit of rough play and it clearly worked to their advantage. Arsenal need to get their spines up and get back into these kinds of games. At the back, Burnley were able to capitalize on the slightest mistakes and use countering tactics to open the defense. Again, this happens time and again with Arsenal since they seem keen to get 8 attackers in the opponent’s box. It’s score or die with this team and when they aren’t scoring they get beat like they did yesterday.

Finally, Bendtner needs to take a long look at this performance and make some changes to his game. For those of you who didn’t see the game, remember the lucky goal he scored against Kiev? Yeah, he tried to do that three times yesterday. It’s not a clever tactic, it’s not good finishing, and it’s not good goalkeeping to keep it out, it’s just luck when it goes in. Yesterday, Bendtner’s luck, and the team’s Carling Cup hopes ran out.

The good news is that the team have 3 days rest before they face Wigan at home on Saturday. The bad news is that Wigan is going to be looking for revenge for the Carling Cup embarassment and must be watching tapes of Burnley, Stoke, and Hull for lessons on how to play Arsenal and get a result.

Let’s hope Arsenal have been watching the tapes too.


  1. agree on some bits but disagree on others – I thought Ramsey and Silvestre were the best players on the park. Wilshire did not have his best game.

    Agree about bendtner. I thought vela showed why he is not regular 1st team. Of the team last night, the following have a chance of making it (ignoring silvestre)- Ramsey, vela(despite performance last night), bendtner (despite performance last night), Wilshire (despite performance last night)

    Those that definitely will not make it within the next few years: randell (has never impressed me), Hoyte, Merida, Fabianski

    Those that need to strengthen up, but have a chance:

    Gibbs, Rodgers,

    The boys tried hard and should be praised, but were just too slight for a world weary Burnley

  2. I read in the press that Merida is considered too weak for the Arsenal team. Which is odd becvause he looks bigger than Cesc to me.

    ESPN lists Merida as 5’11” and 182lbs and Cesc as 5’9″ and 153, so I don’t get that analysis.

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