Arsenal (0) 0 Burnley (0) 0
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
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.
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.