Burnley (0) 0 Arsenal (0) 0
Turf Moor, 52-56 Harry Potts Way, Burnley BB10 4BX
Sunday, 2nd February 2020. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-3-3) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz, Bukayo Saka; Mattéo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Özil; Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dani Ceballos, Lucas Torreira, Nicolas Pépé, Emiliano Martínez, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah.
Yellow Cards: Mesut Özil, Granit Xhaka, Lucas Torreira
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 58%
Referee: Chris Kavanagh
A cold Lancashire afternoon that sees our chaps play in front a full house at Turf Moor. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in February? Great to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back after serving a three match suspension, and one of three strikers in an exciting 4-3-3 formation which shows Mikel Arteta’s intent to play attacking football in order to gain maximum points from today’s must-win match for us.
We started the match confidently, pushing the ball around in midfield and finding gaps in the Burnley defence. Indeed, not only did we have the best of the early chances, but were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring after Alexandre Lacazette’s header went narrowly wide. Undoubtedly, the best chance for Arsenal to score came when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was put through from an excellent David Luiz pass, and from about ten yards from the goal he directed it wide of the mark. Put it down to match rustiness this time. The home side started to come back into the game, and twice in as many minutes, Bernd Leno did well to prevent them from scoring, firstly from a Jay Rodriguez long-range shot, and secondly, a cheeky shot directly from a corner which saw our goalkeeper tip it over the bar. In the main, these attempts were totally against the run of play, as we were by far the dominant side here at Turf Moor in the early stages of the game. Unfortunately, young Bukayo Saka was having mobility issues due to an earlier injury and looked as if he had difficulty moving around as quickly as he had previously; because of this, the home side sensed a weakness and probed our defence through the left side of the pitch. By now we struggled to keep possession as the home side started to assert themselves at our expense in all areas. This match was now getting dogged and tough for both sides with no quarter taken nor given, with hard tackles going in everywhere. Poor marking by our defenders allowed Burnley to come close to scoring on several occasions before the break, and when Mesut Özil received a yellow card from referee Chris Kavanagh just before half-time, it was more out of frustration than anything else more malicious.
The start of the second half mirrored the end of the first; Burnley looking more organised and showing desire to come forward and open the scoring in earnest, with more and more dangerous balls flying into Bernd Leno’s goal from both wings. Granit Xhaka was booked for an obvious foul, and the resulting free-kick saw Burnley squander yet another chance from close range. A few minutes later, Lucas Torreira (who replaced the injured Bukayo Saka at half time) received our third yellow card of the day after a pointless foul on Charlie Taylor, and by now things were starting to look very iffy for us. Mesut Özil was substituted by Joe Willock after sixty-three minutes, and the more we tried to advance and change the pattern of play, the worse it became. However, with a quarter of an hour of the match left, Hector Bellerin was unlucky not to score when he cut inside the Burnley defence on the right and blasted it over the bar, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s header went just the other side of Nick Pope’s post. After Jay Rodriguez’s shot came off the inside of Bernd Leno’s bar and down and out, we regrouped and came forward again. Alexandre Lacazette was unlucky not to score from close range; this was the last attempt that he had today, as minutes later Eddie Nketiah took his place for the remainder of the match. Despite a late chance by Gabriel Martinelli which was easily saved by Nick Pope, a draw was the final result. It could have been a lot worse, quite frankly.
Sloppy, inconsistent and lacklustre. And that was just the defence. Firstly, the positives; a clean sheet and we didn’t lose. The negatives; poor shooting, indecisive movements in midfield, non-existent game management. Why Lucas Torreira didn’t start the match is a mystery, but at least he played half of it. Shkodran Mustafi was excellent, as was Hector Bellerin; everyone else were basically pedestrian. Perhaps when the players come back from their winter break, they will be refreshed and raring to go; they had better be, as out Premiership position needs to be moving in the upwardly direction rather quickly, starting with a victory against The Magpies at home in a fortnight. We’ll see. 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: Newcastle United at The Emirates on Sunday, 16th January at 4.30pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
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.