I must say that Burnley has been a different outfit under Sean Dyche this season. The only team that has humbled them in the campaign was Manchester City and there’s no shame in that, especially when you remember how they thumped five past fellow top four rivals, Liverpool.
Coming off four clean sheets on the bounce, the home side were very confident and the game yesterday proved it. They matched the Gunners pound for pound and even smashed the post with a well taken shot from Gudmunsson. Arsenal’s back three of Laurent Koscielny, Skhodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal worked overtime as they continued to receive several aerial onslaughts from the Burnley side. Alexandre Lacazette had one of those games he’d want to quickly forget but there was a moment his quality shone through when he found Aaron Ramsey from the byline but the Welsh midfielder skied his effort over the bar.
Just went it seemed like the Gunners were going to drop points in a weekend where Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham did the same, James Tarkowski was adjudged to have pushed Ramsey in the box, leaving the ref no choice but to point to the spot. It’s one thing to get a penalty with literally the last kick of the game, it’s another to actually convert it. Up stepped Alexis Sanchez, a man so vilified by his fans this season in the wake of his contract saga, but you cannot doubt his commitment on the pitch. Maybe he may join Manchester City or PSG at the end of the season, but he’s still our player and it’s the manager’s responsibility to use him well this season. The Chile converted the spot kick, taking his tally in the league to two goals in two and you know how Sanchez loves to find the back of the net.
That win has propelled Arsenal to fourth place and with the margins so close in that section of the table, they have to continue getting a string of victories while the opposition continues to drop points.
With more games coming up tomorrow, we can only hope the Gunners build some momentum and take it from there.
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Yesterday’s game was quite frustrating. We have seen the Gunners have sweep teams apart in recent weeks and we might have become spoiled but Burnley gave Arsene Wenger’s men a run for their money.
That was the Gunners third game in eight days and I expect Wenger to at least shuffle things to a bit but it was a case of if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I might associate things to fatigue but I will also credit Burnley for a resilient defensive performance.
Against the run of play, the home side had the best chances of the game with Sam Vokes heading just wide and Keane clipping the cross bar but there was a moment when Alexis Sanchez had a goalscoring opportunity in the six yard box but he glanced his effort wide.
Late on, the Gunners surged for a late hurrah and had Theo Walcott to thank for a header across the goalmouth that was converted by Laurent Koscielny. It was one of the scrappiest goals you’d ever see but the fans didn’t care. With Arsenal’s fellow title rivals securing wins, it was important to get maximum points in a ground like Turf Moor.
The international break is around the corner, and I’m hoping there would be no injuries.
As expected, Arsene Wenger shuffled the squad minimally for the Burnley game with the likes of David Ospina, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista, Calum Chambers, Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Alex Iwobi and Alexis Sanchez coming into the side.
It was particularly good to see two important first team players like Sanchez and Coquelin return to the side as both players got injured in the month of November.
Arsenal huffed and puffed on the Burnley back line but the match opener arrived from the unlikeliest of sources. Alexis found a tight opening on the Burnley defense and threaded a through ball to Chambers. The right back used the outside of his foot to blast the ball past Tom Heaton in goal. His only goal for the club came against Burnley last season and he had repeated the feat.
However, the Gunners went to sleep and Sean Dyche’s team pegged the hosts back with a glancing header from Sam Vokes that left David Ospina flat-footed. The Emirates was silent after the equalizer as both teams went into the break at 1-1.
Arsenal began firing on all cylinders in the second half and Alexis scored what proved to be the winner from a perfectly timed team goal. Iwobi instigated the counter attack with a pass to Alexis. The Chilean teed up Giroud that flicked it first time to Iwobi. The Nigerian forward found Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on his right hand and the Englishman drilled the ball into the danger area. Up stepped Alexis to blast the ball past a hapless Heaton.
There were a couple of chances for both sides but in the end, Arsenal had enough in the tank to see out the threat of Burnley. There was also a return to action for Tomas Rosicky and the ageless Czech made some decent touches in the course of the game.
It was good to return to winning ways after a poor return of two points from a possible nine. All focus will be shifted to Tuesday’s game against Southampton.
More on that came in the coming days.