Date: 9th March 2009 at 1:04pm
Written by:

The Clarets did us proud again on the road against a London Club in the Premier league but this time we were simply outclassed, going down 3-0 in the FA Cup 5th round tie against Arsenal at the Emirates. There was no disgrace in that; Arsenal fielded virtually a full strength team, which is testament to the respect that Arsene Wenger gave the Clarets probably still aware of what we did to the young gunners at Turf Moor in the Carling Cup Quarter Final. When a club with money oozing out of its coffers has the luxury of bringing on Van Persie and Walcott from the bench, any Championship club would be up against it and so it proved for the Clarets yesterday.

It would be nice to think we gave them a game but the truth is that Arsenal beat the Clarets at a stroll really and caught us out on the break far too many times. They were lethal with it too scoring three excellent, well taken goals. The Clarets though held the Gunners for 25 minutes until Carlos Vela scored in the first half. Eduardo and Emmanuel Eboue then finished us off in the second half with two excellent finishes of pure genius.

If there was ever a game that showed the difference in class between a Premier League side and one from the Championship this was it, but we gave it our best shot and could ask nothing more.

I think most Clarets though enjoyed the day out, despite the result and relished the opportunity of going to a new ground and a pretty impressive one at that.

Before that though there was the little matter of the pre-match drinky poo and probably like a lot of Clarets fans, most like me were attracted to the recognised away pub, Drayton Park Arms just opposite the walk up to the ground. A lot certainly turned up and thank god at this stage it was a dry, sunny day as Clarets fans spilled over onto the footpath outside under the watchful eye of the local constabulary! This was not a good choice if like me you are a real ale fan with only lager on offer, or one if you wanted to get a drink quickly! The off licence next to the pub seemed to do most of the trade with fans frustrated by the long queues at the bar. It was thankfully though still sunny at this stage and there was great atmosphere outside with the odd Arsenal fan entering the pub continually being reminded in song about the ‘Super Kev McDonald`. Suitably tanked up with the early 1:30 pm kick off fast approaching, it was time to walk up to the impressive looking stadium.

A superb stadium indeed but I do wish though they would have cheaper food on sale with the staff being able to put hot spicy sauce on the hotdogs without having to point you to a non-existent dispenser somewhere along the concourse (Well I never found it!). The Emirates though looked and felt classy and is definitely one of the best grounds I have seen on the eye compared to some of the other new ground concrete monstrosities. I got the impression though that the 5000 or so Clarets fans packed more noise and atmosphere into their allocated area than the rather subdued Gooners surrounding us. If there was one design fault with the Emirates Stadium, I think I found it though. There needs to be a better roof to keep the sweeping rain off the fans sitting in the front rows of the Lower Tier, I got drenched at one point but thankfully it did dry up! The Gooner fans might also have thought we were practising a Mexican Wave in the first half as stewards battled grimly to try and get us to sit down, most of us would have done so had some in front done the same, but they didn`t so we got up again so we could see the action and so it went on, up, down, up down for about 20 minutes. Needles to say the stewards gave up in the second half so we all stood (bring back terracing!!)

Anyway enough of that, back to the game!

With on loan defender, Rhys Williams ineligible for this game (due to Middlesbrough`s cup tie worries until they got beat by Everton in the FA Cup 6th round later game yesterday) and with Michael Duff suspended, Owen Coyle had no choice but to select a back four of Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell and Kalvenes. He could have played Jordan instead of Kalvenes but elected to keep him on the bench. There was however one surprise in Coyle`s team selection, with Alexander at right back and Van der Schaaf out on loan most Clarets fans were not expecting that we would also have an holding midfielder but we did with Joey Gudjonsson coming back into the starting eleven, the first time he has featured in eight games.

The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:

Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, McDonald, McCann, Eagles, Blake. Paterson

Subs: Penny, Jordan, Mahon, MacDonald, Elliott, Rodriguez, Thompson

Merseyside referee Chris Foy got the match underway in front of 5,188 expectant Clarets fans.

Paterson linked up well with McDonald after five minutes play but ‘Super Kev` was unable to add to the two he got against Arsenal at Turf Moor in the Carling Cup.

Caldwell got in a superb tackle to deny Emmanuel Eboue as the Gunners now began to show their class.

After 15 minutes of play with the Clarets breaking from their own half, Gudjonsson should have been quicker to release the ball to Paterson who was in an ideal position with one defender to beat but the attack fizzled out.

The Clarets were holding their own at this stage and taking the game to the Gunners but that was about to change in the 25th minute. Eagles on the half-way line couldn`t control a pass from Alexander and Arshavin pounced to release Vela. He charged towards goal avoided a last ditch tackle by Gudjonsson and neatly scored to put the Gunners up 1-0.

It was now Arsenal who would take charge of the game. Carlisle came to the rescue with eight minutes of the first half remaining to deny Vela his second goal and two minutes later, it was Caldwell this time getting in a superb tackle to stop Eduardo in his tracks.

The Clarets got their first corner of the match with two minutes to play which nearly gave Arsenal a shock as the ball came over. Sagna had to clear the ball in desperation after Paterson got on the end of a flick at the near post with the ball heading towards goal.

There was just time for Jensen to save well from Eboue after yet another flowing attack by the Gunners before the referee brought the first half to a close

Neither side many any changes as the second half got underway.

Clarets fans hopes that we could somehow get back into this game and return to some capital punishment were dashed after Arsenal went further ahead on 51 minutes. Eduardo running into the box hit a superb volley with the outside of his left foot following a neat chip by Gibbs to give Jensen no chance.

With the Gunners now scenting blood, we somehow had to withstand the inevitable onslaught if we were to avoid a tonking.

Paterson though was just a few inches away from getting the Clarets back in the game shortly after Eduardo`s goal but could only curl the ball wide of the left hand post.

Owen Coyle then brought on some fresh legs in an effort to calm things down and get back in the game. Elliott replaced the lacklustre Eagles on 53 minutes raising doubts that the former Manchester United player has yet fully recovered from his chest infection. On the other hand Eagles lack of influence on the game could be down to Kieran Gibbs. Arsene Wenger in the Arsenal programme stated:

“Chris Eagles is one who has done very well against us and we will have to keep him quiet. But Kieran Gibbs knows him well now and will certainly play today, so it`s a good task for him”

Anyway it was now Elliott`s turn to see if he could influence the game and in truth he couldn`t!

Thompson came on for Gudjonsson as the hour mark approached with Coyle trying to throw caution to the wind in an effort to strengthen the attack and get a goal back.

It nearly worked too as the Clarets entered their best spell of the game. This time it was the Clarets on the break following an attempted header by Eduardo from 10 yards. Thompson linked well with Kalvenes with Blake picking up the ball to put over a delightful cross. Elliott at full stretch just couldn`t make contact with the ball after trying to turn and shoot at the far post.

Arsenal now began to further turn the screw though and made some impressive substitutions.

Clarets fans hearts missed a beat or two when first Wenger brought on Van Persie for Vela with 30 minutes still to play and our hearts were thumping even more 11 minutes later when Theo Walcott came on from the bench in the 71st minute for his first game since picking up a shoulder injury back in November.

Coyle had not given up yet though and four minutes later they was a change of Macs with young Alex coming on for Kev!

Jensen showed he was not named the Beast for nothing in the 77th minute with Walcott charging towards him with the ball on a one-on-one. His huge frame was enough to stop the England star from scoring as he spread himself wide, saving the shot with his legs.

It was totally game over for the Clarets (if it hadn`t been before) though in the 84th minute. A back heel by Song found Eboue who let rip on the run giving Jensen no chance as the ball flew into the bottom corner. 3-0 Arsenal and now Burnley could only hope for some sort of consolation and they nearly got in the 85th minute. Caldwell got up to head the ball from a Blake corner only to see it come off the bar and away to safety.

There was also just time for the referee to deny giving the Clarets a penalty in the dying moments of the game after McCann on a run looked to have been impeded by Johan Djourou.

So a game really that was never ours to win although we tried our best and that`s all you can ask. As I made my way back to Huntingdon on the Peterborough train from Finsbury Park, I was actually quite proud of the lads in that losing sort of way. Being surrounded by Gooners in my colours I had quite a peaceful smirk on my face thankful I supported a proper team and not one garnished to the hilt with money supported by many fans who have probably not been born within 20 miles of Arsenal!

No disrespect to them and there are of course a number of proper Gooners born and bred in the area who deserve our respect. Fair play to all the Gooners though, they are a likeable bunch and I had some great banter with quite a few of them.

Interestingly though I then looked more closely around me on the train and at the stations as folk got off.

Blow me there were also quite a few Clarets on board that train and I can guarantee most if not all of them would have been born locally and yet like me have to endure being a Clarets fan in exile living in Cambridgeshire. We truly are everywhere and it warms the cockles of your heart!


Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Gibbs, Eduardo (Walcott 71), Song Billong, Diaby (Ramsey 71), Vela (Van Persie 60), Eboue, Arshavin.

Subs Not Used: Almunia, Clichy, Bendtner, Bischoff.

Goals: Vela 25, Eduardo 51, Eboue 84.

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, McDonald (MacDonald 75), McCann, Gudjonsson (Thompson 58), Eagles (Elliott 53), Paterson, Blake.

Subs Not Used: Penny, Mahon, Rodriguez, Jordan.

Booked: McDonald.

Ref: Chris Foy (Merseyside).