Another hard fought win against a team that is likely to end in the bottom six by the end of the season. There were plenty of individual positives to take from this game and the biggest one is of course the three points, but it had me also quite worried, especially with big games v top-six contenders coming up.
We struggled playing out from the back all game long and this was mainly to do with the lack of cohesion in midfield. Nobody of Guendouzi, Willock and Ceballos was playing the Xhaka role and it showed. The Clarets had 18! shots – two more than Arsenal – in an away game of which five were on target (Arsenal had nine shots on target though).
Emery also saw a need to improve things (as per his post match interview with the BBC): “We didn’t control the game as much as we wanted. We need to improve. Each match is giving us a lot of information. I think we can do better. We lost some easy balls at times, but in general we can be proud of our first match here“.
Luckily, Emery instructed our players to push up and keep Burnley as much as possible in their own half during the break; so our second half, as so often with our new manager, was much better. This meant we had to play significantly less build-up footie from the back and that suited us, given the absence of both Xhaka and Mesut.
For the usual observations I have not got too much to add to the ones of last week – and in the below player ratings you will still read a few – but one thing is clear IF we play like we did v NU and Burnley we will get punished mercilessly in the two upcoming games.
Leno: 7 – less calm than usual but with the aerial threat of the Clarets and a new CB in front of him this was to be expected.
Nacho: 7 – captain today and a decent defensive performance. Worked hard to be involved in all areas.
Luiz: 8 – Man of the Match (together with Ceballos). Good positioning and calm but extravert leadership of the defence. Must have been quite shocked with our lack of dominance and limited passing ability in our own half. But his experience and positivity made a difference and for me he was our best player on the pitch.
Sok: 7 – Had to work hard especially v aerial menace Barnes. I expected more joined leadership with Luiz from him but Big Sok put in a performance and helped us in keeping the damage to the one goal.
Ainsley: 7 – similar to Nacho’s performance.
Willock and Guendouzi: 6.5 and that is me taking into account their age. They tried hard and both had good moments but failed to dominate the midfield and allow us to pass out the ball from the back in a controlled way. This is of course a new partnership and it will take time to flourish, but today it was below par and the main reason we struggled against Burnley.
Ceballos: 8 – Man of the Match (together with Luiz): worked hard to connect midfield with attack and help out in deeper midfield. He clearly enjoyed himself with some fine Santi-esque twists and turns and wonderful ball control. He also had two assists which will do him really good.
Nelson: 6.5 – very unlucky not to score (assister Nacho ruled offsite). Clearly a work in progress and we need more penetration from him but I liked his work rate. Missed Iwobi today.
Laca: 7.5 – scored a superb, individual goal and worked hard.
Auba: 7.5 – same as Laca.
Pepe: 7 – keen to get involved and some fine ball control and passes to his fellow attackers. Needs to start a game soon.
Kola & Torreira – 6. Didn’t see enough of them to comment.