Burnley (1) 1 Arsenal (1) 1
Turf Moor, 52-56 Harry Potts Way, Burnley BB10 4BX
Saturday, 6th March 2021. Kick-off time:12.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Calum Chambers, David Luiz, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Willian Borges da Silva; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Magalhães, Dani Ceballos, Alexandre Lacazette, Rob Holding, Nicolas Pépé, Mohamed Elneny, Mat Ryan, Gabriel Martinelli.
Scorers: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (6 mins)
Yellow Cards: Bukayo Saka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 59%
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Eddie Smart
Fourth Official: Anthony Taylor
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Kevin Friend; AVAR Matthew Wilkes
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Because of the hectic schedule Arsenal face over the next weeks or so, with important matches against Olympiacos on Thursday, and the North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur next Sunday, our manager Mikel Arteta has been forced to make five changes for the match here in Lancashire this lunchtime. Let’s go!
After a bit of a scrappy and messy start, we took the lead after just six minutes, when an advancing Willian slotted the ball out to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the left. He cut inside and hit a strong, low shot towards the Burnley goal, and all goalkeeper Nick Pope could do, was to push it into his own net, to give us the lead on this cold Lancastrian lunchtime. Of course, such an early goal only served to make us stronger, and for the home team to start chasing the game, which is exactly what started to unfold here with two teams with radically different agendas; Burnley playing a game of containment hoping to break out and score in a traditional smash’n’grab raid, and Arsenal who are confident, and looking for that second goal of the afternoon. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang almost fulfilled that desire after eighteen mintues, when a cruelly bounced ball (via Thomas Partey) meant that it ricocheted frrom his left boot at an obtuse angle (when by rights, on any other day, he most certainly would have scored), and three minutes later, when young Bukayo Saka was left with only Nick Pope to beat, and his normally trusty left foot flicked the ball past the Burnley far post, one was starting to wonder if that elusive second goal would ever come our way. At the other end, Bernd Leno had not much to do, but however, he did zip quickly from his goal to gather the ball after James Tarkowski connected with Charlie Taylor’s free-kick which did have the whiff of a goal about it. Just before the half-hour mark, Thomas Partey was unlucky not to hit the target, when his twenty yard shot bobbled from the surface of the pitch before it reached him, and then six minutes from the break, calamity occurred. As usual, we tried to play it out from the back and, not for the first time, we got it horribly wrong.The catalogue of disaster happened when Bernd Leno played the ball to Granit Xhaka, who tried to pick out David Luiz, who was deep inside Arsenal’s penalty area, but his pass bounced off Chris Wood’s chest and into the net. After all that hard work, as well. From this point onwards until half-time, the momentum was the home side’s and to be fair, we looked a different team. Thank heavens for the half-time whistle from referee Andre Marriner, otherwise I dread to think what wouldy have happened.
However, these silly things happen (due to a lack of concentration), and the second half started in earnest. As expected, it was quite a tough start for us, all in all, with the home side feeling the wind in their sails now after the goal incident late in the previous half. Bukayo Saka got the first yellow card of the afternoon for a clumsy tackle on Charlie Taylor, and it was becoming obvious that we were losing our grip on this match. In an attempt to get more firepower up front, Alexandre Lacazette replaced Martin Ødegaard after sixty-two minutes, and then, Burnley opened up our defence with Bernd Leno making a fantastic save from Chris Wood shortly afterwards. After Nicolas Pépé blatantly missed an open goal, a few minutes later he was involved in an incident when we thought we were going to be awarded a penalty, when it was thought that his shot hit Erik Pieters on the arm and rebounded onto the crossbar; however, as usual in these matters, VAR was consulted, and it became apparent that it hit his shoulder, so the obligatory red card was rescinded by Andre Marriner and the penalty was denied. In the last few minutes of the match, the game started to get more frenetic and cut-throat, with David Luiz blocking a surefire goal from Dwight McNeil, and in the four minutes’ injury time, the home side were living on the edge when a crucial block by Ben Mee to deny Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang looked as if we were grab the winner, and then, unbelievably, Dani Ceballos hit the post with a superb strike from outside the penalty area. After all this, and more, the game finished as a one-all draw just seconds after the Dani Ceballos shot.
There’s no two ways about it, and no way to dress it up, we should have won this match easily today at Turf Moor. The inability for us to kill off matches and neutralise opponents is something that needs to be addressed by Mikel Arteta very quickly, otherwise this could seriously hamper our attempts to win trophies, not just this season (in reference to the Europa League), but in future seasons also; in the football world of today, you don’t win any sympathies for a club of Arsenal’s stature to be labelled as “the nearly men”. Agreed, that we should have been awarded a penalty earlier in the game (when VAR should have been used), but at the end of the day, we have only ourselves to blame for not returning to London with all three points. An opportunity lost, rather than one gained. Still, best foot forward, let’s consign this match to history and concentrate on the Olympiacos match on Thursday evening.
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: Olympiacos at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, Piraeus, Athens, Greece on Thursday, 11th March at 8.00pm (Europa League). 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.