The Carling Cup is traditionally a time when managers run out a few reserve players they feel might just be on the cusp of first-team action. This week was no different, and of the limited amount of games we saw, there were a few significant standouts. Jack Wilshere for Arsenal should be no surprise, as the 18 yr-old has played more than a few minutes of league action this season already. And admittedly, we were psyched to see Man United’s Portuguese signing Bebe sent on with 16 minutes left in the match. The 20 yr-old mostly ran around chasing the ball all over the pitch at first, then seemed to settle a little. He’s big, fast, and not shy about uncorking a shot from the corner of the box.
Now lets focus on the most exciting game of the round, without actually talking about the game. Chelsea sent out 20 yr-old Patrick van Aanholt in left back against Newcastle, and the pacy Dutchman quickly got on the scoresheet. More impressively, he set up Anelka’s first goal as Chelsea pressed late in the second half. Van Aanholt simply passed to himself up the wing, then ran forward with some impressive speed to send a really smart cross to Anelka arriving in the box.
The Blues also put 17 yr-old, Oxford-born Joshua McEachran into the center midfield position in the second half. Either by way of composure beyond his years, or the impetuousness of youth, the kid was consistently on the ball, making defenders miss and sending intelligent balls forward. 17 years old! He is very slight though, and I can’t imagine him being thrown on in a serious match until he gains some muscle on that tiny frame.
Chelsea fans may say, well what about this Daniel Sturridge everyone is talking about? He looked greedy, and not in an “I’m a striker and I shoot” sort of fashion. He had a couple of opportunities to send a ball across the box to well-positioned teammates, but decided instead to fire at goal from a tight angle. Unimpressive. Granted, I only watched him while Chelsea were playing with 10 men, so I shouldn’t judge him harshly on his movement, but he didn’t seem to be finding the space he needed to make anything happen.