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Good, Bad and the Ugly: Smash and Grab at Burnley

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Arsenal sneak out of Turf Moor with three points in their hands.

Burnley v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

You have got to hand it to Arsenal. When it looked like the game was slipping from their grasp after a hard fought 90 minutes in which Burnley barely gave them elbow room, the team stepped up and produced a late show winner to snatch a victory and three big points. Armed with the more potent attack, the Gunners found Burnley a staunch opponent ready to shoulder the load of stout defense. They did everything they could think of to claw their way out of the mire and nail down a win, but found every attacked slapped aside.

It took a brave showing by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on his off side no less, to help bungle the ball into goal scorer Laurent Koscielny, no Maradona he, for the winning goal. Some may have found this outcome humorous but in the radius of Burnley, it was a thumb in the eye of a great team effort.

The Good

Winning Ugly. This will likely be a game we look back on at the end of the season, see the score and think “right, business as usual.” 1-0 away is a good game. Arsenal won, three points, took advantage of a weekend where two top teams played each other. It by no means tells the story of how hard and ugly it was but these are the two extra points that are crucial to sneak off with in a long, hard Premier League campaign. And that’s about as positive as you can get about this win.

The Defense is Strong. If Wenger fixed anything this year, it is the defense. Shkodran Mustafi appears to be worth every penny and his fellow defenders and Petr Cech are no slouches. Aside from a botched offside trap that led to a free header here and there, they have looked very solid and an improvement over previous years. That’s four straight clean sheets and only one game of allowing more than one goal. This is a very good sign.

Return of Possession Football. Burnley deserve full credit for crowding out and muscling the Arsenal attack but they ceded a lot of the ball and if not for a few poor efforts, Arsenal could very likely have broken through. The midfield three of Xhaka-Cazorla-Ozil continue to have their way and when supported by Koscielny, who had a very good game from the back, Arsenal once again look like a team that can consistently dictate play.

The Bad.

Boooooring. Sadly, for all that possession, not much happened in the game. Neither net was threatened greatly and most attempts were tamed. Both teams rattled the woodwork but largely that was as close as they would come. It was not memorable in any way.

Shortages Up Front. Alexis Sanchez once more had a good game, but the lack of support on the bench was a big problem for Arsenal in this game. Lacking Olivier Giroud and Lucas Perez to injuries, Arsenal had no other attacking option save the Ox who plays wing. Burnley set up tailor-made for a Giroud inclusion but the team had to muddle on without him. With luck, everyone will come back ready after the interlull because Arsenal need those options in games like these.

The Ugly.

The Goal. It was ugly. It was a scrambled, probably hand ball, definitely offside goal. It shouldn’t have been a goal and Burnley have every reason to be aggrieved for being robbed of a solid home point against a title contending side.

I’ll take it.

Cows. Arsenal away supporters have a solid beef with British Rail. Early in the day, it was reported that, in fate steered wrong, a train collided with and killed eight cows, causing delays and nearly resulting in many missing the match. It was udder pandemonium that led to many cries of “bullsh*t” and causing some fans to try and hoof it to Burnley to catch the game. Such of thing is unherd of and, not to graze too heavily on the topic, tends to sour the milk, so to speak. Hopefully, there will be changes in the rail system to make sure this doesn’t happen again so we can all moove on.