Sometimes you just have to look at a game and be very glad you were on the end of the three points. We mostly controlled the game, as you’d expect, but we made particularly hard work of breaking through. At 1-0 up, you felt fairly confident we’d see out the result, but another stupid red card from Xhaka, combined with a dopey mistimed tackle in our box from Coquelin helped Burnley neutralize the game late on.
Lucky for us, the craziness wasn’t over, no sooner had Wenger been sent off for being a total badass, we’d earned a penalty after Laurent Koscielny was kicked full on in the head as he dived in to reach a beautiful Alexis Sanchez cross.
The Chilean stepped up in the 97th minute and dropped the cheekiest of paneka’s right down the middle. Wonderful way to finish a game and a superb reward for the fans that stayed long enough to see that game home.
So what to think? I guess part of me believes that having trouble against such a small team points to a wider issue, but it can’t really. We do well against poor teams and we’ve taken 6 points against Burnley. It’s a perception problem that really doesn’t matter when you look at the win.
However, my worries sit a bit with Xhaka. He’s just not up to pace in the league. He has a tendency to do something kind of dim in every game and he can lack mobility and timing when it comes to tackling. I think it’s a bit unfair to say he has a discipline problem, 3 bookings in 27 games show he’s not a major problem… but the clutz like red cards tell a story. Can’t hit him too hard, his passing was top notch at 90% completion, he created 3 chances and made 7 ball recoveries along with 3 successful tackles. Those red cards cancel the good out.
He had a similar issue when he was given the captaincy at BM. I think he picked up 5 reds in 95 games and a whole chunk of them start of the 2015 season. Things were so bad he had to make a donation to a charity to appease the fans. Then he turned it on and we bought him. So let’s forgive him, let’s not read too much into and let’s hope he starts to pick up the pace a bit more and learns from his mistakes.
My bigger fear is that another game, another Giroud up front performance. He should be slipping in against Burnley, but my concern is that we had a great system with Alexis through the middle and we’ve sacrificed it for Giroud. Works against poor teams, but I think Chelsea are going to have very few problems with our lumbering hit man. We should be hitting them with pace and unpredictable movement. I don’t think we will though, we’ll go for players over a system and we’ll try and slug it out against the league’s form side.
That’s not to say I think we’ll lose. We beat the Champions twice last year, and I’d Eden Hazard a guess we’ll do the same this year. Fits nicely with the narrative that we’re pretty damn good, if only for… <insert whatever the 5% extra thing Wenger could do this summer>.
There’s also some pretty mental chat about Wenger being harshly punished for his handbags with the 4th official. It’s so pathetic, 10 game ban? Why, because it’s Arsene Wenger and he won’t call the press out in a conference? Arsenal’s bad behaviour is always latched onto harder than anyone else’s for some reason. Can’t remember too many people talking about Mourinho with the same viciousness despite him being sent off twice and being a far nastier influencer on refs over all. But there you go.
Right, podcast will be recorded tomorrow as we preview the Chelsea game.
Have a great day!