That was enjoyable, wasn’t it? What’s not to like about the last-minute winner against a team stubbornly denying you for the entirety of the game? How many times have we watched these games fizzle out to a draw, or even worse, a narrow defeat after we pile numbers forward?
We seem to do that
a little a lot less these days. Yesterday was a case in point. We kept at it till the end, demonstrated discipline and resolve at the back to snuff out any potential danger, and rubbed it into the Burnley players’, fans’ and manager’s face(s). And it was delightful.
Let’s get to the finer points, shall we?
The picture of the game
It went down almost exactly like I thought it would. We had the lion’s share of possession (64%), Burnley had around their usual average of 39% (36%). We attacked, they defended in a deep block, thus 45% of the action happened inside the middle ⅓.
They threatened occasionally from set-pieces (creating 3 shots from those), we tried to dilly-dally through the middle and resorted to distance shots quite often (taking a total of 8). They let us take a load of shots (17) as they usually do (only West Brom allowed more shots this gameweek – 25), yet we only created 2 big chances – Ramsey shot and the penalty.
In short, Burnley played exactly like they did this season, and almost got exactly the result they were hoping for. Almost. I can see why their defence is one of the best in the league though, and why Pope isn’t as overworked as you would expect from a goalkeeper playing in such a team.
‘Hard’ Burnley men
This myth evaporated shortly into the game. True, their players defended like hell inside their own box, and were more than happy to throw their weight and might around in other parts of the field when challenging our players (do one, Brady). What’s no less true is their playing going down under the slightest of contacts from our guys.
It was both hilarious and infuriating to watch Gudmundsson, Barnes and Ward fall to the ground in seeming agony when confronted by the huge and intimidating Ramsey, Mustafi, Bellerin and Lacazette. What further fuelled my rage (good morning, Sean Dyche!) was how Lee Mason bought into this. However the ref was at least consistent and awarded a pen when Tarkowski pushed Ramsey, the same way he gave the Clarets a free-kick when Mustafi shoved Barnes early on.
In short, Burnley didn’t show themselves as macho men, but rather as cheating lilywhites, hypocrites who enjoy gaining advantage through their double standards.
That marvellous back three
There was a spell during the first half when Burnley put us under some pressure. They put in a series of crosses, taken several corners in quick successions, and on top of that benefitted from some top-notch diving and ensuing free-kicks. In short, they did everything to test our back three where they presumably were weakest: aerial duels.
The Clarets had another thing coming though. Our back three weathered the storm fantastically. Unfortunately the handy StatsZone app is no longer around for me to isolate a specific period of time and watch what actions our back three took during that period, but I still can give the overall numbers.
Combined, Mustafi, Kos and Monreal contested 20 aerial duels, winning 14 (9 out of 14 for Mustafi, 3 out of 3 for Kos and 2 out of 3 for Monreal). Kolasinac chipped in with 5 out of 7, by the way. Koiscielny was top in clearances though (8) and I suspect most of those were during that 15-20 minute period of Burnley’s domination, and most were headed clearances. Mustafi had 5, Monreal 4. Finally, Kos also blocked 2 shots, which might not seem like a lot, except that Mee (top of the league this current week) blocked 4 shots.
After the game Wenger credited our character and singled out the back three for additional praise too:
“We kept a clean sheet and they were really up for it, Burnley.
“We won 1-0, but I’d like to congratulate our three centre-backs again today, because they did a remarkable job.
“I give us a merit today because we didn’t concede a goal. Our defence worked well again and we were relentless in the second half. We kept our heads and in the end we got the penalty that we wanted. The first half was an even game but in the second half it was all us.”
The last word
Sometimes you feel sympathy towards a team which did their best, defended stoically and were unlucky to concede a late goal. This is not one of those times.
You see, this is the part where the fair play notion comes in play. Did the other team waste time? Did they try to make the contest stop-and-start? Did they dive? Did they go into dirty, sometimes dangerous, challenges?
If the answer to any of those is “yes”, you are unlikely to feel much sympathy. Burnley ticked at least a couple of those boxes yesterday. Throw in a set of fans approaching Stoke fans in their behavior (no mean feat!) and the glee expressed by our fans at nicking a late winner is understandable.
Burnley, again much like Stoke, only appear to project a certain macho image. In reality, they are sneaky cheats, quite unable to play fairly. Beating them looks like divine justice today, and you have to be a biased journo, a Burnley fan, or both, to feel any sympathy towards the Clarets if you watched the game yesterday.
Our win allows the Gunners to move into 4th, above Spurs (who hilariously drew against West Brom) and Liverpool. We are just a point behind Chelsea, and four behind United, who we face next Saturday. But before that we host Huddersfield, on Wednesday.
Naturally I’ll be back with you to cover that game.
Until then, and enjoy our jammy, but deserved, win.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.