Burnley 2 – 0 Arsenal: Youngsters run comes to an end…

And whilst it's not morning and I'm not Irish, it still seems like the most appropriate thing to say today. Yesterday our kids (plus Silvestre) took on an in-form Burnley side and came unstuck. A loss is a loss and for the kids, it is a lesson. I do however feel that we did have the quality in our youth team to beat Burnley and although it has been a good couple of games for the kids, I am a little disappointed.

Of course, the expectation levels of the youngsters has risen, but it has done so on merit. The 6-0 thumping of Sheffield United and 3-0 demolition of Wigan were both justification for the quality of the kids. But yesterday, I feel there were too many of the kids living off those two results.

Both goals, I feel, were self imposed. Well, indeed, they were, one by the fumbling of Fabianski (maybe a bit harsh), albeit an offside goal (karma, hey?) and one by the lack of defensive awareness by Randall. However, the goals were self imposed, but the lack of us scoring was even more frustrating. I was planning on praising the kids and commending them on their run, but as you can see, I'm off on a tangent. The main culprit was the idiot that is Niklas Bendtner. He looked like he thought he was too good for the team. Maybe frustrated that he was in the Carling Cup squad after thinking he'd broken into the first team. He missed 6 golden chances. Yes, six! 3 one on ones, I recall, one open goal, one fumble and one point blank save. I do find myself upset with Bendtner's play because he just doesn't seem to be taking the game seriously enough.

Vela played well, but I think the Burnley defence knew he would be a threat and didn't give him the space to work in. Carlos Vela is very promising. He's got quick feet and good pace. He reminds me of a mix between a young Henry and a young Messi - not that I am hyping him up too much - with the finishing of Eduardo. Simply clinical. It was strange that the Mexican only had one shot at goal. Maybe if he had had Bendtner's chances, we'd have gone through 5-2. I'd like to see more of him and I think Arsene has acknowledged his ability and is not scared to use him in the first team.

On the wings we had Wilshere on the right and Merida on the left. Now these two players look very promising. The young Englishman, Jack Wilshere, only 16, looks so assured on the ball, I simply can't wait until he makes his way into the team. He is intelligent and does get himself about despite his young age. I can only see good things ahead for the lad, as Arsene regards him very highly and I don't think he's put a foot wrong. Fran Merida on the left doesn't look as Fran Merida behind the strikers, but nevertheless, I have been impressed with the youngster. He compliments our style of play and can see why Arsene has compared him to his compatriot and club captain Cesc Fabregas.

Aaron Ramsey and Mark Randall were deployed in the central midfield positions and both are pretty good going forward, especially Ramsey. He has an eye for a good pass and as he demostrated for Wales, a good eye for goal too. Ramsey is much more comfortable in central midfield than the wings and will excel when played in his natural position. Randall, I thought, was a little disappointing, and he was at fault for the second goal. Too lightly brushed off the ball, not sharp enough to deal with the danger. Of course, I expect Randall to learn from this game and there is a lot more in his locker. A loan move may be suitable for him to get competitive pratice, and he has played well in his three games in the Carling Cup.

One player who has shone well is Kieran Gibbs, who has followed Gael Clichy in the way he plays. He was one player who I didn't expect to do well as he's not caught my eye in the reserves or pre-season. Gibbs has had three really good games and I am happy to have him in the squad if Clichy is injured. Hoyte on the right has also played well and slightly behind Gibbs in terms of his first team possibilities.

Silvestre for me, was solid, but I'll have Djourou ahead of him any day and Rodgers looked out of place in the team and has a lot to learn. Fabianksi is definitely a decent understudy to Almunia, but is not above him in terms of experience, which sometimes show.

On the whole, the Carling Cup run has given us a preview of the next generation to come through. Exciting times ahead.

I'll be back tomorrow with more.

Til then...]]>

  • gary

    < ![CDATA[Forget the Premiership title, it's beyond us. We've lost far too many games and are too inconsistent to mount a challenge.

    The Champions League however is a totally different prospect and it's a trophy that I really believe Arsenal can win.

    Our possession football suits the Champions League. It's a far slower pace than the English Premiership and there is no team better in Europe than Arsenal at keeping the ball.

    You need the luck of the draw and people will say if Arsenal draw an English team, then we will struggle because they know how to play against us. I beg to differ.

    If a side resorts to the usual bully boy tactics employed by Premiership teams then the European referees will stamp down on it. The harsh tackles will not be allowed.

    Liverpool and Chelsea have knocked us out in the past but we outplayed them both in those ties. I'd say a great deal of luck enabled them to overcome us. Surely that luck would change?

    Successful sides are built on the foundations of a solid defence. The defence made up of Gallas, Djourou, Clichy and Sagna is more than solid enough to keep clean sheets.

    We didn't keep a clean sheet against the "almighty" Chelsea but the goal we conceded was an own-goal and could have been prevented had Almunia not suffered a rush of blood to the head.

    A Chelsea side at home, had one shot on target against us in 90 minutes. That alone proves to me the back-four of those mentioned above are more than capable of shutting out Europe's elite.

    Arsenal always have goals in them. We can score against anyone, especially those crucial away goals.

    If we can keep it tight in the home games then we can beat anyone over two legs. Teams will not want to face us.

    I see so many parallels between this season and the 2005/06 season when we reached the Champions League final. The inconsistency in the league, the rumour's of infighting. It's uncanny. I don't however see us struggling for fourth place this season. We will get there comfortably.

    People are speaking of another trophyless campaign for Arsenal. I don't agree. I genuinely believe the Champions League will be ours in May.]]>

  • gary

    < ![CDATA[Check out this article from teamtalk:
    Oh wenger, if only, if only!!!!!

    Cristiano Ronaldo admits he came "within a whisker" of signing for Arsenal before eventually joining Premier League rivals Manchester United.

    Gunners boss Arsene Wenger met the Portugal winger three times in a bid to bring the player to north London.

    But United gazumped the deal by entering negotiations and bidding three times what Arsenal offered for the recently-crowned 2008 Ballon d'Or winner.

    This was confirmed by Ronaldo, who signed for United in August 2003 for just over £12million pounds in an interview he gave with France Football.

    "I came within a whisker of doing it," he said. "Wenger is someone I respect a lot. He is very intelligent."

    Jorge Mendes, Ronaldo's agent, added: "That is what happened. Everyone wanted Cristiano; Real (Madrid), Juventus, Barcelona.

    "But only Arsenal and Manchester United attempted to take him from there (Sporting Lisbon) that season. The others wanted to leave him at Sporting at least a year."

    It is widely believed Ronaldo's sensational performance in Sporting's 3-1 win over United in a friendly on August 5, 2003 convinced the English club to sign him.

    But Mendes revealed a deal had been agreed before that friendly, adding: "Everything was in place before, since an agreement had been reached the day before the match."

    Ronaldo has gone on to become arguably the world's greatest player.

    Under Sir Alex Ferguson, who Ronaldo labels 'The Master', the 23-year-old has added deadly finishing to his repertoire of skills and tricks.

    After five years at Old Trafford, it looked as if he was going to sign for Real Madrid last summer but he ended up staying at United.

    "I don't want to return to that. I have already spoken a lot about it," he said.

    "I am at Manchester United and I feel very good at this club. I don't want to create other problems.

    "For two or three months, people have spoken more about this than about football and I don't want to talk about it any more."

    Another uncertain period for Ronaldo at United came after the 2006 World Cup.

    His Portugal side knocked England out of the tournament on penalties in the quarter-finals, but during the match he was involved in getting Wayne Rooney - his team-mate at United - sent off.

    Ronaldo was seen asking the referee to dismiss Rooney and as a result he was given a hard time by the English press and fans the following few months.

    But Ronaldo said: "If I had to do it again, I would do it again. I was defending my colours, my country.

    "What I did on the day was normal. When I came back to England after the World Cup, there were all these people booing me. That made me stronger.

    "It was a test of my character. I learnt a lot because of this."

    Ronaldo was named Ballon d'Or winner in the early hours of Tuesday morning and will lift the trophy at an awards ceremony in Paris on Sunday night.

    He admits it was a childhood dream to win that accolade and feels Ferguson has made it all possible.

    "I am a great professional thanks to him," he added.

    "It's him who took me from Sporting and brought me to Manchester. He is a great man. A great manager. His record of achievements speaks for itself. Most important is his personality - I love working with him.

    "My concentration has changed. I have become a winner. Here, you always have to win and I know the pressure of winning matches, trophies. And it is here, with Alex Ferguson, that I started to believe I could win the Ballon d'Or."]]>