MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0-0 Burnley

Arsenal (0) 0 Burnley (0) 0

Premier League

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Sunday, 23rd January 2022. Kick-off time: 2.00pm

(4-1-4-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Albert Sambi Lokonga; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Nuno Tavares, Calum Chambers, Eddie Nketiah, Ryan Alebiosu, Mika Biereth, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Omari Hutchinson, Charlie Patino.

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 76%

Referee: David Coote

Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Nick Hopton

Fourth Official: Robert Jones

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Chris Kavanagh; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis

Attendance: 59,255

The facts are plain and there for all to see. We are coming up to the last full week of January, and the boys have no chance of winning any silverware in this campaign whatsoever, and all we can do is make a spirited attempt to finish in fourth position in the Premiership, which, as we know, will ensure a place in next season’s Champions League. Make no mistake about it, we have to return to winning ways, starting with this afternoon’s game with Burnley here at the Emirates. Where we will finish in the Premiership table at the end of the season is very much open to conjecture, but all we can do is try our darndest to finish as high as we possibly can, as another season without European competition is almost too much to bear, let alone contemplate.

Right from the start, we played with purpose and desire, and early on in the match, Martin Ødegaard passed a superb ball through to Kieran Tierney, which was blocked by a Burnley defender, and the ball fell to Ben White who slipped in behind the Burnley defence, but was unable to find a team-mate quickly, so somehow Alexandre Lacazette picked up the loose ball and fired wide. Bukayo Saka wriggled free on the right and ran towards the visitor’s penalty area, lost the ball in a tackle, and as Burnley descended on our goal, Gabriel dispossessed Ashley Westwood, and the ball went out for a corner. Unfortunately, Aaron Ramsdale dropped it in the six-yard box and luckily, Rob Holding was on hand to clear the ball. We are playing some good football, but we are not getting any returns for our efforts at the moment. Kieran Tierney and Bukayo Saka are doing some sterling work, but there appears not to be too much direct assistance for them, and the only way that Burnley are be able to stop our men is to foul them; Josh Brownhill bundled into the back of Emile Smith-Rowe to stop an impressive counter attack, and received a yellow card for his trouble. From the resulting free-kick, Bukayo Saka found some space, and ran down the right channel once more, but his cross was deflected behind the byline for a corner, which sadly went nowhere. After a long-range effort from Dwight McNeil that went miles over Aaron Ramsdale’s crossbar, again the ball fell to Bukayo Saka, who moved over to the right wing again, found a speeding Alexandre Lacazette, who simply slotted the ball over to Kieran Tierney, who was drifting in from the left wing, but unfortunately he side-footed it over the crossbar and into the crowd. The remaining few minutes of the first half were very flat, and disappointingly we went into the break in a goalless situation, despite being by far the most dominant team out there this afternoon.

And so the second half got underway, and with it, many questions remain as to whether we can break down this dogged and determined Burnley defence. It looks as if we are trying to change tactics a little bit, by spreading the play out in an attempt to stretch the Burnley defence out wide, and run through the available gaps. Early on, Bukayo Saka and Erik Pieters looked as if they clashed knees and were both are having treatment from their respective medical teams. The visitors tried their luck with two low shots from Dwight McNeil that Aaron Ramsdale managed to get down to, and almost immediately we snapped back into life when at the other end, Bukayo Saka beat his man and chipped a ball over the Burnley defence to try to get to Gabriel Martinelli, but Connor Roberts kicked it behind for a corner. After the subsequent corner, which went nowhere, Bukayo Saka was badly fouled on the edge of the box and won a free-kick in an extremely dangerous position for the visitors. Martin Ødegaard took the free-kick, but it appeared to catch the roof of the net and go behind for a goal kick. A great chance wasted. Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope saved a surefire goalbound shot from Emile Smith-Rowe that came to him via a corner, and the crowd are now feeling that something is building for the boys now, with twenty minutes of the match remaining. In an exciting move, Emile Smith-Rowe ran down the left wing, drew out Nick Pope and picked out Alexandre Lacazette, but with an open goal to aim at, our captain’s effort went wide of the far post, which was disappointing to say the least. The frutration wass building in the stadium now, none more so than with Mikel Arteta, who was visibly berating the officials from the technical area! The difference between the two sides is becoming more clearer as the game trundles on; the visitors are merely blocking Arsenal at every turn, relying on “smash’n’grab” tactics, whilst we are doing our level best to break them down and score. Somehow the visitors managed to get a corner which Aaron Ramsdale parried away, and with twelve minutes of the game remaining, Emile Smith-Rowe was substituted for Eddie Nketiah, hoping that fresh legs can make a difference. Alexandre Lacazette tried his luck with an angled volley that deflected off a defender and straight into the Burnley goalie’s arms. With five minutes of the match remaining, a spirited effort by Eddie Nketiah went nowhere as the Burnley defence easily blocked his effort, and after yet another Arsenal corner, James Tarkowski rose to head away the danger fairly easily. Frustration has crept in as Bukayo Saka was brought down by Aaron Lennon, and Martin Ødegaard’s free-kick was thumped away by the Burnley defence yet again. In the four minutes’ injury time, despite the best efforts by everyone concerned, this disappointing match finished exactly the same way as it started ninety-four minutes ago. Goalless.

Despite the statistics which were heavily loaded in our favour, the fact remains that this is the fourth consecutive match across all competitions in which we have not scored a goal; hardly top four material is it? January 2022 finishes without a victory, and our lack of goals is a serious concern, now. Today we were comfortably kept at bay by Burnley, and the inability for our players to break them down was truly unbelievable. Nobody came out of this match exactly smelling of roses, and it has to be said that this kind of performance won’t guarantee us top six (let alone top four), and if we cannot defeat a team that is bottom of the Premiership, then what does that say for us? Quite bluntly, no new signings, first team squad massively squad depleted, out of two domestic cup competitions in eleven days and now a top four finish looks more fragile than it ever has done in the past. Make no mistake about it, this result today is a massive blow to an already wounded team. What now?

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux on Thursday, 10th February at 7.45pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.

Tired, Tired Arsenal

We look tired. And we can’t blame Covid.

Back end of 2021 games came thick and fast. We won game after game as momentum built.

Against Manchester City on New Years Day, we put in 110% and got nothing for our efforts. At the final whistle we looked dead on our feet.

I said at the time that the performance against Man City would mean nothing if it was not backed up with victories. We have failed to win a game in 2022.

Against Nottingham Forest we never got going. We played like a Sunday league team where every player was in Faces the night before. They had all rolled out of bed an hour before kick off. Quick snout and played the game.

Whilst we performed admirably in the first leg of the League Cup, Thursday was similar to the Nottingham Forest game where we just did not seem with it.

At the beginning of the season it felt like our squad was too big. We had quantify over quality. But now we do not have enough players to be able to rest and rotate.

Mikel Arteta spoke about having just 5 senior players available earlier this week. If that is true why let Pablo Mari, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Folarin Balogun go out on loan.

The African Cup of Nations has taken away 4 senior players (although Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was out of favour).

Thomas Partey had just begun to find good form. His red card against Liverpool was a consequence of landing at noon on the day of the game.

Over the last couple of weeks, Mohamed Elneny and Nicolas Pepe both would have had a role to play.

We have looked lightweight and inexperienced in midfield with Partey out and Granit Xhaka suspended. Elneny would have added some stability in the middle with his consistent 6 out of 10 performances.

This season Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have been our brightest sparks.

Against Liverpool, Smith Rowe was rushed back from injury whilst the other two could probably do with a rest. Pepe could have rotated in.

Then we have the suspensions.

Against Man City, Gabriel was sent off. Xhaka then received a 3 match ban following his challenge in the first Liverpool game. Now Partey is facing another game on the sidelines after his two yellows.

Playing for so long with 10-men against Liverpool and Man City took a lot out of the legs. Then you have the consequence of them not being available for the next game.

When we face Burnley, we will be without both Partey and Xhaka. A team ravaged by injury and ACoN damaged further with suspensions.

We need to win against Burnley to keep our top 4 dreams alive.

After this Sunday’s game we then have a 17-day break until we face Wolves.

By the time that game comes around all those from Africa will have returned. We then play once a week between then and the end of the season.

Injuries, Covid and Africa have led us to having a paper thin squad; but we have not helped ourselves with suspensions and loaning out fringe players.

We go again tomorrow…

Keenos

MATCH REPORT: Arsenal 0 – 2 Liverpool

Arsenal (0) 0 Liverpool (1) 2

Carabao Cup Semi-Final (Second Leg)

(First Leg result: Liverpool 0, Arsenal 0)

Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU

Thursday, 20th January 2022. Kick-off time: 7.45pm

(4-1-4-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Albert Sambi Lokonga; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitutes: Thomas Partey, Rob Holding, Nuno Tavares, Eddie Nketiah, Ryan Alebiosu, Karl Hein, Mika Biereth, Salah-Eddine Oulad M’Hand, Charlie Patino.

Red Cards: Thomas Partey

Yellow Cards: Alexandre Lacazette, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Thomas Partey

Arsenal Possession Percentage: 46%

Referee: Martin Atkinson

VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Darren England

Attendance: 59,360

For this critical match against Liverpool, we will be without Mohamed Elneny, Nicolas Pépé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (due to AFCON commitments), whilst several other squad members will need to be assessed over injuries or COVID-19 concerns before the game. However, their collective absences from the squad mean that some of our “Young Guns” will get an opportunity to be on the substitutes’ bench this evening, which is heartening to see. Granit Xhaka is also unavailable due to suspension, of course, and let’s hope that despite all this, and the unusual 4-1-4-1 formation, Lady Luck will be kind to us here.

The visitors kicked off the match here tonight, and with the Emirates crowd in great voice, we took the match to the visitors straight away. Within minutes, a free-kick awarded to us on the edge of the Liverpool penalty area led to Alexandre Lacazette’s beautiful curling shot bouncing off the crossbar with goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher getting the smallest of touches on the way. We have started the match with both purpose and desire, with the early exchanges taking place within the Liverpool half. Totally against the run of play, Joel Matip got the ball in our net from a corner, but thankfully VAR deemed it to be offside. The 4-1-4-1 formation is pinning the visitors back, and as such they cannot find any rhythm to their play, and it seems that our midfield four are dominating proceedings so far. However, completely out of the blue, a diagonal ball across the pitch found Diego Jota deep in our half, and he cut inside and scored a rather soft goal with his right foot to open the scoring for Liverpool. It is to be remembered that no away goals count tonight, so if the tie is level at full-time, we head to extra-time and possibly penalties too, and nobody really wants that stressful scenario. After the shock of the early goal, the match started to settle down and although we had a penalty appeal denied when Gabriel Martinelli went down in the visitors’ penalty area after a tackle by Fabinho, there started to be gaps appearing in our play which is not good. Bukayo Saka was unlucky not to score when his shot was blocked by Joel Matip, and at this point in the match, we are finding things difficult, although it has to be said that we are not playing badly, but we lack the zip and fire of the opening stages of the game. Alexandre Lacazette received a yellow card for a late tackle on Curtis Jones, and despite the one minute addition of injury time, we finished the first half one goal down.

We kicked off proceedings for the second half, and quite bluntly, we have forty-five minutes to turn our season around as far as cup competitions are concerned. Three minutes after the restart, Alexandre Lacazette received a great ball from Albert Sambi Lokonga, but his effort went flying over the bar. As in the first half, we started off very well, pressing Liverpool back into their own half; however we got caught cold when Diego Jota beat Ben White out on the left, and passed the ball to Kaide Gordon, who thankfully blasted it over the bar from close range. This led to a period of Liverpool pressure, and eleven minutes after the restart, Takehiro Tomiyasu received a yellow card for a silly challenge on Diego Jota. Thankfully, the resulting free-kick from Andy Robertson went nowhere, and we nearly conceded a second goal when Ibrahima Konate’s header hit the post, but Aaron Ramsdale saved the follow-up shot from Jordan Henderson. On the hour, a Gabriel Martinelli corner which was punched away by Caoimhin Kelleher eventually found Emile Smith-Rowe, whose half-volley shot travelled way over the visitor’s bar. Both teams are making use of “smash’n’grab” tactics which is catching the defenders of either team cold. We don’t seem to be able to find a way through the Liverpool midfield, who are standing solid despite our constant efforts. Gabriel Martinelli had a superb effort saved by Caoimhin Kelleher, but the corner that followed went nowhere. Mikel Arteta made a double substitution with eighteen minutes left of the match; Eddie Nketiah and Thomas Partey replaced Alexandre Lacazette and a fatigued Emile Smith-Rowe. Almost immediately the two lads with fresh legs showed desire and pace, but again we got caight cold and Andy Robertson’s shot flashed across Aaron Ramsdale’s goal; a minute or so later our hearts were broken when Diogo Jota ran onto a long ball, getting to the ball ahead of the advancing Aaron Ramsdale and chipping the ball into the net. Initial thoughts were that he was offside, but VAR confirmed that he was not, and so we were two down with twelve minutes of the match remaining. Thomas Partey received our third yellow card of the match with a couple of minutes to go, and unbelievably two minutes later, he received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Fabinho and he was dismissed by referee Martin Atkinson. In the five minutes’ injury time played, it was merely a game of containment for Liverpool, and so it was journey’s end for us, sadly.

So very disappointing. After all the good work of a week ago at Anfield, tonight’s result was a complete and utter kick in the teeth. We now desperately need to get into the top four to be able to make signings in the summer that will allow us to get to the next step of development, but in the meantime, Mikel Arteta has to try to sign players in the next ten days to help push for the top four position, as I am not sure that we can stand another season without European competition. But first things first; the next step is is for us to defeat Burnley on Sunday afternoon, and over the next few days, Mikel Arteta and his backroom team have to pick them up for that match. After all, if we don’t win at Turf Moor, then top four will seem like a million miles away.

Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Burnley at the Emirates on Sunday, 23rd January at 2.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.