After Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham all drew yesterday, Arsenal came to Turf Moor with a chance to move into the top 4. The match looked quite familiar. Burnley’s stout defense kept the Gunners at bay for ALMOST the entire game.
When the referee’s watch hit 90 minutes, much to the Clarets’ chagrin, a familiar script played out: Arsenal snatching the points with a late goal. Alexis Sánchez’s 92nd minute penalty was the third time in the last three matches between the sides that Arsenal have won on goal scored in the 90th minute or later.
It was not a pretty game. Burnley played compact, clogged the box, and committed a lot of fouls not all of which were called (cough Robbie Brady’s slide on Héctor Bellerín cough). As the game wore on, Burnley became more defensive-minded, Sean Dyche’s aggressive second-half substitutions notwithstanding.
It was Burnley who looked the more likely to score in the first half. The Clarets pumped crosses into the box, and the Arsenal back three did well to prevent Burnley from generating many dangerous headers / shots. Shkodran Mustafi had a particularly strong match. When called upon, Petr Čech made the saves but caused a few heart attacks as well – he barely got to a few of the balls he came for.
Arsenal looked the better side in the second half. They had much more of the ball, and Burnley looked content to hit on the counter. For all the possession, however, Arsenal didn’t look like they would find a breakthrough. The Gunners’ inability to generate quality chances showed just how much this side needs Mesut Özil on the pitch – Özil took ill before the match and was unavailable.
Arsene Wenger’s substitutions didn’t help things either. Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck both failed to make an impact, and you have to wonder why he keeps taking Alexandre Lacazette off in the second half, especially when Arsenal are searching for a goal.
Was the shove on Aaron Ramsey worthy of a penalty? Maybe. Probably. If you’re James Tarkowski you cannot give Lee Mason the opportunity to make that call. You cannot extend your arms into an attacker’s back like that. But he did, the penalty was given, and Alexis put it away.
Bad calls tend to even out over the course of a season. Arsenal were on the receiving end of some pretty egregious ones early on. The last two games, the calls have gone the Gunners’ way. Leaving things up to the officiating, however, is not how you’d like to see Arsenal do it.
But let’s give credit to Arsenal. Burnley are a tough side that plays strong defense. The Gunners have struggled away from the Emirates in 2017. The #narratives would say this is a game Arsenal loses.
But they didn’t. And that’s something.