What a bizarre game that was today. Arsenal were totally in control but just lacked that bit of sharpness to get the all important second goal and settle our nerves once and for all… But then, a totally unexpected and uncalled for red card for Granit Xhaka gave the Clarets colour back to their faces; and his rusty replacement, le Coq, clumsily gave away a penalty in extra time to cheaply offer them an opportunity to take a rare, and probably never envisaged, away-point back to Burnley.
They scored the pen, even though Cech, for once, was very close to saving it, and it looked like we dropped two very big points. Fortunately, Koscielny had other ideas and forced a penalty for ourselves from the linesman, who left Moss with no other option then to point towards the penalty spot. With just a few seconds to go Alexis produced the calmest of Panenkas – apologies for the tautology – only to burst into total extacy when he realised his wickedness had been successful. That celebration had me go all emotional, but then I am a romantic. 🙂
I thought the team was set up perfectly for this match with Xhaka and Rambo interchanging vertically constantly and bossing the midfield with ease. There was plenty of movement up-front from Ozil, Giroud, Alexis and Iwobi, and even though Burnley played very disciplined defensively, we made chances on a regular basis and played some fine football in general. Just a shame the attackers were more interested in the colours of their footwear than in their deadly shooting precision, before the game.
The Swiss hothead and Welsh duracell are slowly starting to form a fine duo in the DM pivot, but it is a real shame that they will not be playing together for a while now, after Xhaka switched off for a second to lunge forward with two stretched legs and get a straight red. Other referees would possibly have given a yellow card rather than a red as there was no malicious intention, but Xhaka should know much better by now. He comes with a reputation and Moss, who consulted the linesman to be fair, did not hesitate much before showing Granit the dominant colour of his country’s flag – and for the second time this season. Before his sending off, Xhaka had played some sublime football, dominating the midfield with flair and distributing the ball with clockwork precision. He read the game well and intercepted powerfully a few times, just a shame that he has not picked up yet that his ‘Most Wanted’ picture is on the wall in every referee’s office. Stay calm and strut your stuff, Granit, if you want to succeed in this league. Wenger has a job on his hand to train these sorts of fouls/moments of madness out of him. Maybe he should show him a video of Joey B, who was also briefly on show today…: ‘Do you want to end up like him, Granit?!!’
Mustafi scored our, and his first for the club, goal with a well placed header from an Ozil precision-rocket corner that found its way to the far, unprotected, corner and beyond the outstretched hand of Heaton. It is amazing that he has yet to lose with Arsenal, and we can only wonder what our position in the league would be right now had he not been injured during the two crucial PL away defeats in December. The spirit of Koz and Mustafi – KozMus, owners of space and time – is a joy to watch and vital for winning any silverware this season. With the cool and fearless Cech behind them, and the hard working Gabriel and Nacho working besides them, they are a defence to be proud of and believe in. Having said that, in terms of having width and attacking menace on our right side, Bellerin is the better option as FB and we missed him today.
Koz and Mustafi saved the attackers’ blushes today but I am sure they will be back to scoring ways soon. With Xhaka most likely out for four games, it is now up to Coq and Rambo to form a winning partnership in midfield. Against the Saints they will get a very tough test.
Well done the boys for winning three very big points and moving to second in the table despite all the adversity. They did the Shirt proud today.