Arsenal 2 – Burnley 1
This was new v old, modern v ancient.
Arsenal sporting a new look with two teenagers, a Brazilian defender, a Spanish midfield maestro playing 4-2-3-1 versus good ole 4-4-2.
Burnley showed the gap between the mid-lower table teams and the top has shortened considerably – helped by extremely efficient organisation and method.
The early signs for Arsenal were promising. Ceballos showing his range of close skills, and box to box engine. He gave an early chance to Aubameyang and then combined with Nelson for a one-two and shot.
On 13, from a Ceballos free kick, Lacazette backed up against Pieters in the Burnley area, showed his strength and twisted a shot whilst grounded past Pope and into the Burnley goal.
Arsenal’s new Brazilian defender showed anther new weapon for the team – an accurate long ball to the strikers – this time to Aubameyang. A corner lead to Sokratis heading to Lacazette in the Burnley area, bringing a save from Pope.
But Burnley’s method was working. Solid pressing and defensive organisation, they pepper you with crosses – like the Spanish Inquisition, and bombard you like the Blitz. Sokratis didn’t get close to Wood in the Arsenal area on a couple of occasions leading to anxiety in the Arsenal defence, which transferred to the crowd.
But everything was coming through Arsenal’s new Spanish midfielder, showing a couple of flashes of skilful footwork before running half the length of the pitch setting up Guendouzi for a delayed shot, and potential second Arsenal goal, which Pope saved with his feet.
Burnley were having some joy with McNeil’s penetrative runs. And on 43, after Nelson lost the ball on the edge of the Burnley area, and a quick counter, a cross from the left for Barnes who moved to go inside and went out, out-foxing Luiz and jointly forcing the ball past Leno via an attempted tackle by Guendouzi.
For all Arsenal’s creative approach play, it was the northerners who had the most attempts and shots on target at half time.
The question persisted in the second half. Would creativity outdo methodology? Emery tried to stack the odds in favour of the former by introducing Pepe for Nelson, who had a relatively quiet first half.
A link up between Ceballos, Monreal and Aubameyang on the left produced a shot which went wide.
But Burnley kept the Arsenal crowd anxious, as Westwood ghosted between Monreal and Guendouzi for a header in the Arsenal area.
Ceballos, who was still running the game worked his way across the Burnley 18-yard line and unleashed a curler, saved by Pope.
On 63, the Spaniard showed his all-round game winning a tackle from a high press, setting up Aubameyang one on one with Tarkowski. He went central, created space and unleashed a low shot into the left-hand corner of the Burnley goal.
Pepe showed some great footwork – and broke forward in a two-on-one, but his pass was the wrong speed not giving Aubameyang a clean shot.
Emery brought on Kolasinac for Lacazette on 71 and Torriera for Ceballos, who received a standing ovation, on 83 to shore up the defence, which held out against more aerial bombardment.
After the game David Luiz said it was good performance – but there is a lot of work to do. Certainly true, plenty of promise, but plenty of gelling and bedding in needed, amidst healthy competition for places once the long term injured are fit.
Emery said he was pleased with the performance, and praised Joe Willock unprompted. But he said Arsenal didn’t control all the 90 minutes like they wanted to.
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Papastathopoulos, David Luiz (Booked 90), Monreal, Willock, Guendouzi, Aubameyang (Booked 38), Ceballos (Subbed for Torreira 83), Nelson (Subbed for Pépé at 45), Lacazette (Subbed for Kolasinac 71).
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Pieters, Berg Gudmundsson (Subbed for Lennon 72), Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Wood (Subbed for Rodriguez 61), Barnes (Booked 90).