Burnley 1 -1 Arsenal
Well that was disappointing. A must win game in which we were the much better team but still managed to give away two precious points. I know that Arsenal are in transition under Arteta and that setbacks are to be expected, but too many times have we lost now to a team that we should have beaten with some ease.
The main culprits are a lack of concentration/calm and a much needed sense of urgency and purpose, leading to both costly mistakes and untaken great chances in almost every game. Today, we saw Xhaka misplacing a ball under pressure and via a lucky bounce disappear into the net. So frustrating. The Xhaka-haters are out in force tonight but, although it was him who should have passed better, it clearly was also a team mistake. Xhaka, facing his own goal keeper in the box, had a player closely behind him and his passing options were limited after he received the ball from Leno who, in my opinion, should have opted for a different player at that moment in time. Fact is that we allowed Burnley back into the game when we should have been up by two or three goals already, if we had had the better bounce of the ball. That is football, though.
The second half performance was frustrating for a long time but, clearly, VAR(ce) and lady luck were not on our side. It was not to be and we just have to move on.
Eight quick observations:
- The pitch was slow and hard. This did not help us in moving the ball quickly and accurately, and the ball had more bounce than usual, which may explain Pepe’s air shot in a great position.
- After Arsenal scored the early goal the boys put the foot off the gas. I missed the required urgency to get that all important second goal, and it showed in the way the likes of Auba and Saka took their chances. Then in the second half there actually seemed to be too much urgency, leading to a lack of composure when it mattered.
- Partey had possibly his worst game in an Arsenal shirt. For large parts he had to chase the game and he offered very little going forward. I am a huge fan of Thomas and I expect he was nowhere near 100%, but he should not play if this is what he is going to do on the pitch. Arteta waited much too long with replacing him. Ceballos made good contributions from the moment he came on and was unlucky not to score.
- We missed the glue-man, ESR, a lot. I like Odegaard and thought he worked reasonably hard, but running constantly between the lines and being the one that connects them is not Martin’s big skill, it seems. I also thought that Saka looked rusty, which goes to show that sometimes a break is not what a player needs.
- However, Willian did a lot of the link up play well today, and it was his quick move – letting the ball roll past him rather than taking a first touch with his back towards the opponent’s goal – that made all the difference: he was able to give it quicker to Auba who then had enough space to do his dance and surprise the keeper enough to score again.
- It was great to see Chambers getting a start today but he struggled in the RB position, both defensively and in attack. I will not be hard on him as he deserves more time to get back into the rhythm of things. Not having the attacking threat of either Soares (ideally) or Bellerin really did not help us today, though.
- Tierney was also much quieter today, and it made me wonder whether the boys were holding back a bit for what they may see as the much bigger game: the Europa League encounter with Olympiacos. The pitch was slow but the players were too, and maybe that early goal really did not help us in that respect.
- We all know that we should have had a penalty for handling in the box, and it is clear that VAR remains a work in progress. Subjectivity and interpretations of the rules seem to dominate certain aspects of VAR decision making, and as long as this is the case it will remain contentious and, to be frank, a pain in the backside.
Let’s quickly forget about this game. Arteta knows that these continuous silly mistakes have to be ironed out, but this will take time. We also lacked luck, but in the end we did not deserve to take all three points because the boys left it too late to mean business and turn things round.