Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Arsenal 3 Burnley 0

Paul Merson said it was about time Arsenal had ripped somebody apart and he was predicting an emphatic 5-0 home win. But were we, the supporters, as optimistic as the former Gunner? The north London club have been struggling to find their trademark fluidity and form. In fact, the last weekend's 2-0 triumph over Sunderland was their first back-to-back win this season following an unconvincing victory against Anderlecht. The Gunners were strong favourites, going into the clash with bottom-of-the table Burnley, but we never expected a victory to come so easily. Pre-match reports suggested that the Turf Moor side was likely to sit back like all the visitors (even Chelsea) do at the Emirates. We were ready for another frustrating afternoon.

With Kieran Gibbs (hip) passing a late fitness test, Arsenal's starting XI remained intact from a 2-0 win at Sunderland last weekend. The more conservative Flamini-Arteta partnership in midfield raised some eyebrows, but a clean sheet still seemed to be the priority for Arsene Wenger. On the back of the success at the Stadium of Light, Alexis Sanchez was awarded a free-roaming No. 10 role again in this game. A fit-again Theo Walcott was on the bench once again, alongside Aaron Ramsey, Emiliano Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky, and Yaya Sanogo who had recovered from a hamstring (or back, according to some sources) injury.

We always knew that once we had got an all-important first goal, the flood gate will open. It took us 70 minutes to break Burnely's resistance. The man to break the deadlock was once again Alexis Sanchez. Meeting with Calum Chamber's cross, the 5'7" forward rose high between the two Burnley centre-backs to head the ball past Tom Heaton. Arsene Wenger heaped praises for Alexis' desire and determination later, describing his first goal as "an English forward's goal".

Two minutes later, Calum Chambers converted the rebound from Welbeck's close-range shot to mark his first senior goal. In injury time, Alexis added the 10th goal of the season to his tally, almost walking into goal after collecting Gibbs' low cross from the left-hand channel.

Arsenal's onslaught in the closing stages was just breath-taking. We had finally seen our Arsenal at their fluent best. One of the differences in this game was the use of width. The two full-backs were excellent going forward, with Chambers and Gibbs both providing assists for Alexis' goals. Perhaps the fact that Burnley did not stretch our defence helped the full-backs join the attack more freely. The Ox also made runs to the by-line, whipping a few good crosses into the box. When Theo replaced the Ox, the England striker took over the responsibility and nearly made an assist through an inch-perfect cross to Poldi, whose powerful shot was denied by the post.

Our defence still looked fragile at times, but they were in a much better shape than before. According to Welbecks, they were told to press high up on the pitch prior to the Sunderland game. They continued to do so in this game, perhaps encouraged by Alexis' two goals against Sunderland.

One of the biggest positives from this game was Theo's return to action for the first time since 4th January. It is an exciting outlook for the future Arsenal line-up once the England striker gets up to the speed. But who would you drop for him?

Another positive aspect of the game was the number of shots we had. Arsenal registered 32 shots, more than any other Premier League team in a single game this season. One could argue that 3 goals are a poor return on the home side's overwhelming domination and the number of shots on target (12), but it is an encouraging sign as we are always screaming at them to shoot, while watching them play on the TV screens.

They say it's getting harder and harder to get a penalty these days, the fact that was highlighted in the Manchester derby this weekend. We had a legitimate penalty claim turned down in this game, too. Boyd handled the ball in the box, with his arm in the air in order to change the direction of the corner. With this incident happening in early stages of the game, its outcome could have undoubtedly changed the course of the game.

For the first time this season, we didn't want the game to end. We imagine that the dressing room must have been equally buzzing after the match. Arsenal's attack seemed to have clicked finally. Hopefully, the team will build on this performance, going into the crucial home game against Anderlecht on Tuesday night. Our win combined with Dortmund win or draw against Galatasaray will ensure our place in the knock-out stage with two games to spare.

Players ratings

Szczesny: 6
With Burnley registering only 2 shots on target, he had little to do. His decision and concentration level were severely questioned after he needlessly rushed out despite the situation perfectly covered by Mertesacker, who actually made a tackle to avoid the danger.

Chambers: 8
Scored his first senior goal and provided an assist for Alexis' first goal. Went forward more often to support the Ox. 

Mertesacker: 7
Solid. Made a last-man tackle.

Monreal: 7
Had a steady game. He has been improving in an unfamiliar role game by game.

Gibbs: 8
Great going forward. Made an assist for Alexis' injury-time goal.

Flamini: 7
Made a mistake in the first half, but made up for it with the two crucial last-ditch interceptions. He snuffed out any attack instigated by Burnley in midfield. Solid game.

Arteta: 7
Quietly did his job, but he should have done better, when he had a clear sight of the goal, rather than shooting hastily with his weaker left foot. Replaced by Ramsey
 in the 63rd minute to give more attacking impetus.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Lively. Created 4 chances. A better passing accuracy of 82.9% in this game.

Alexis: 9

Unanimous Man of the Match. Worked tirelessly and rewarded with two goals.

Cazorla: 6
Created 5 goal-scoring opportunities and had 6 shots, one of which was on target. Made 5 key passes with an impressive 95.6% overall passing success rate. Although some of his efforts were good and close, his finishing needs improving. He should have scored at least a goal out from a number of opportunities he had.

Welbeck: 6
Worked hard, but largely ineffective, although he was unlucky on some occasions. On other occasions, his final decisions left much to be desired. Had 5 shots, one of which was on target.


Ramsey: 6
Replaced Arteta in the 63rd minute to add attacking impetus. Had 3 shots, one of which forced a superb save from Heaton. 

Walcott: 6
Came off the bench in the 80th minute for the Ox. Great to see him on the pitch again. Looked sharp. His shot drew a fine save from Heaton and nearly made an assist.

Podolski: 6
Replaced Welbeck 10 minutes from time. Had 3 shots. He was unlucky not to score, with his two powerful efforts denied by Heaton's sublime save and the woodwork.

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