Arsene Wenger cast doubt over the future of Arsenal’s young forwards after criticizing his off-form attackers as a series of missed chances enabled Burnley to claim a famous 2-0 League Cup at Turf Moor.
Two goals from Scottish midfielder Kevin McDonald, who rejected moves to Liverpool and Celtic to join Burnley from Dundee in July, secured the Clarets’ place in the semi-finals.
But a catalog of poor finishes, most notably by Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner, led to Arsenal’s quarter-final exit and manager Wenger admitted that too many of his forwards under-performed.
“We played quite well, but we had six one versus ones and lost 2-0, so that sums it up quite well,” he said. “We just did not have the right focus in front of goal and that made the difference. We lost a game we should never have lost.”
“We had plenty of chances but when you do not score, you have to ask why. You can praise their keeper but also question your own strikers,” he said. “Many of my players were not fazed by the game, though, and that is a positive from the game.”
“So many of them gave absolutely everything, but in front of goal, you have to be much more clinical than we were and I think we were a bit naive in taking our chances,” Wenger said. “Had we scored at any time, then the complexion of the whole tie would have been different, but it was always us chasing the game and them playing on the counter-attack. That’s the easiest way to deal with the game.”
Burnley proved too energetic and hungry for Arsenal and the Championship club deservedly added Arsenal’s scalp to those of Chelsea and Fulham, who they defeated in previous rounds.
Manager Owen Coyle, whose team will learn their semi-final opponents in Saturday’s draw, now insists that his team can go all the way to final.
He said: “We will enjoy the semi-finals. It doesn’t matter who we get. We’ve got a great chance. There was a lot of talk of Arsenal and the young players they have, but we’ve shown that we have some good young players ourselves.”
Danish goalkeeper Brian Jensen was a star performer for the home side and he has backed Coyle’s team to progress beyond the last four.
“It was always going to be a massive task for us so full credit to the lads because we are there,” he said. “All the cameras were here so they must have known there could be an upset. We are in the semi-finals now, so why can’t we go on and win it. Lets see how far we can go.”
Arsenal had the opportunity to strike first when Fran Merida’s precise pass released Bendtner on five minutes, but Jensen set the tone for an impressive performance by saving well from his fellow Dane.
Less than a minute later, the home side were ahead after Arsenal’s failure to clear a Chris Eagles cross left McDonald with a tap-in from six yards.
Despite their impressive first-half display, Burnley would have known that Arsenal would come back at them strongly after the break.
And Wenger’s team almost equalized in stunning style on 49 minutes when Merida jinked past three Burnley defenders before sending a right-foot strike inches wide.
Burnley matched Arsenal’s attacking intent with their own, however, and Coyle’s team pushed forward in search of the second goal that would as good as seal the game.
The chance came on 57 minutes when Eagles’ quick throw-in released McDonald in the Arsenal penalty area.