Burnley’s soft northern underbelly exposed by a plucky Arsenal

by & filed under News Review.

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via @arsenal Instagram

Yes, yes, yes.

I will take that.

In fact, I’m going to take that result, wrap it in a smug jacket, and sit out in the bitter cold of Burnley and lap up the joy.

Arsenal didn’t have a great game, but please, hold up negative pundits, I thought the narrative was plucky Burnley were going to show us what’s what?

Well, guess what. It didn’t pan out that way, and we absolutely deserved to take the win. Last time I checked, there were no awards for a strong first half of bully boy tactics. It’s always been about the full 90minutes. That’s exactly how Arsenal rolled yesterday, they clearly wanted it more, and made it happen when Aaron Ramsey took a tumble trying to connect with a Kolasinac headed cross.

Now here’s the thing party people. If you have two hands on the back of a player as he’s trying to attack the ball, and that player is pushed off balance, it’s a foul. Was it soft? Well, not really, it was a foul. Was it surprising that it was given? Of course it was, Arsenal don’t get big decisions like that. We’d also not been awarded an absolutely nailed on penalty when ‘Roy of the Rovers’ Robbie Brady made a terrible tackle on Bellerin when he downed him in the box.

The ‘controversial’ moment didn’t phase Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean part-timer stepped up and padded a bad game with a cool finish in the bottom right corner. A bit close to the keeper’s hands for my liking, but impressive when you think of the stinging atmosphere and what was riding on it!

What I found interesting after the game was despite feeling like it was a really horrible game, when I asked the good people of the internet to name a MOM, I had about 6 names thrown at me. Aside from Lee Mason, there really were a lot of stand out performances.

Petr Cech continued his good form with some delightful saves. I thought he had a really strong game, he marshalled his defence well and he controlled his box like an Amazon picker at Christmas, no space or time afforded to anyone. He dealt very with the crosses well, I’ll pass on the Christmas related analogy for that one. Padded hat, doffed.

The entire back three were exceptional all day, they haven’t conceded in the 5 games they’ve started together. There were a few hairy moments, like Monreal losing his man early on, and a semi-penalty shout before offside was called. Outside that, the three amigos (Monreal, Mustafi and Koscielny) were immense. Mustafi was particularly impressive again, he was a brute all game, absolutely relishing the battle. Koscielny showed great composure and hunger all game, never looking under threat. Monreal keeping his consistency going and proving the doubters wrong time and time again.

The midfield took a while to find the right gear. Our first half was uninspired, to say the least. However, as the 90 wore on, Ramsey and Xhaka started to control the tempo and we looked more of a threat moving forward. I thought the introduction of Jack Wilshere gave the game more intrigue, the Englishman finding the nooks Iwobi really struggled with.

I thought Lacazette looked hungry, his hustle in the forward line was noted. I do feel his lack of physical presence is a problem, that’s both moving at pace and dealing with hulking defenders getting in his way. He still managed to carve out chances, I thought he was unlucky not to land an assist with a wicked cross that Ramsey put over the bar.

Alexis was frustrating. If you watch the game back, you’ll see what I mean. He wants to operate in the half spaces to make things happen, when his value isn’t really there if he’s part of the front three. He’d also pick and choose when he fancied getting involved, sometimes preferring not to join an attack for no real reason than being a brat. He wanted to be the number 10 sometimes, other times he’d float out on the wing, or he’d slink into the middle. I really don’t think his attitude is where it needs to be and I honestly think that late penalty saved him some grief.

Trouble is, I think Wenger knows there’s a class gap between him and Lacazette. He brought the Frenchman off at 70m again, bringing on the more physical Danny Welbeck. He decided to forgo finishing for brute strength, a telling sub. I really don’t want the Chilean around the club, I think he’s a bad egg, but the problem is what you do without him? Lemar isn’t going anywhere in January, and I have my doubts even a Draxler is going to make much of an impact in our squad at this point in the season.

So we’re stuck with him.

Also, what the f*ck is wrong with Mesut Ozil? How many times is it feasible for a professional athlete to pick up illness? Honestly, the man is fed, watered and exercised to optimum levels.  It’s such a shame as well, because we really could have done with his class in the final third today.

Those three points were immensely important today. I totally fucked my math yesterday, not realising we climb a point above Spurs. Great to put that lot back in their place… and no, it’s not too early to talk about the gap. I also thought it was important to keep up the pace with United and Chelsea. We host Mourinho in the next 5 games, wouldn’t it just be amazing to deal them a hammer blow before Christmas?

Yes it would.

Right, see you this afternoon for the podcast!

P.S. Big shout out to the club and their push on the Rainbow Laces campaign. Great to see so much support of the LGBTQ Community.