High flying Burnley welcomed a hugely inconsistent Arsenal side to Turf Moor for what was to be an intriguing upper mid table clash between two teams with vastly different expectations. Sean Dyche’s side are once again performing well above their means and had climbed to seventh spot in the Premier League table going into this fixture, level on points with their opponents. Arsenal have been struggling to keep up with their conventional rivals, and this was a must win game for Arsene Wenger’s men.
Burnley dominate the early exchanges
Burnley have established themselves as a formidable side at Turf Moor and they started quickly in this game, putting the Arsenal players under a lot of pressure and fighting for every second ball with some vigour. Unsurprisingly the visitors began to maintain the majority of the possession, but it was the Clarets who looked more dangerous going forward. Ashley Barnes in particular proved a handful for the Gunners defenders in the opening minutes. The striker had a few decent aerial chances, and he would surely have earned a penalty following a push by Nacho Monreal had he not strayed half a yard offside.
The home side were firmly in control of the game in the opening 15 minutes and were pegging Arsenal back with relative ease, reducing the visitors to speculative long-range efforts. The intensity of Burnley’s play was sensational, and the best chance of the game fell to Johann Gudmundsson after a good spell of pressure. The Iceland international turned neatly past Monreal into the Arsenal box, before striking a venomous shot that cannoned back out off the post. Just moments later Arsenal had their first real chance on the break as Alexandre Lacazette curled in a brilliant cross towards Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman timed his run perfectly but flashed his shot wildly over the bar, squandering a golden opportunity.
Arsenal’s resurgence is quashed by stout Clarets defence
In truth Arsenal did well to weather much of the home side’s pressure, and they soon began to force a way into the game. Monreal almost broke the deadlock with a hopeful driven effort from 40 yards out, but the fullback dragged his shot a foot wide of the post. Burnley’s initial dominance quickly became a distant memory as the Gunners pushed for an opener, and Monreal was involved all over the pitch, winning possession high up the pitch before striking another shot which this time flew over the bar.
As half time approached both sides seemed intent on going in ahead, and the game became an end-to-end affair. Sean Dyche’s side probed the Arsenal defence with their exhaustive crossing based attacks, but it was Robby Brady who came closest with a curling free kick that forced a decent save from Petr Cech. The visitors meanwhile struggled to create any real penetration, and Burnley headed into the break very much in control of the game.
Lack of urgency limits Arsenal’s attacking threat
Dyche’s men came out for the second period with the same intensity that defined their first half performance, and Barnes almost caught Arsenal on the break immediately but lacked the necessary pace to get past Laurent Koscielny. This initial scare seemed to spark the visitors into action, and Lacazette fired a shot straight at Nick Pope as his side tried to seize control of the game. The Gunners began to press Burnley much higher and maintained consistent possession in the home side’s half.
Lacazette and Alexis Sanchez cut frustrated figures up front for Arsene Wenger’s side, starved of service by Bunley’s midfield pressing game. Consequently Arsenal’s attacks were largely toothless and marred by unforced errors and misplaced passes in the final third. As the game progressed past the hour mark both side’s attacks became more frequent as they began to sense that one goal would be enough to win it, but neither side could find a killer ball to create a clear cut opportunity.
Sanchez snatches victory in the final seconds
With less than 15 minutes to go Sean Dyche sent on another striker in Chris Wood, signalling his intent to win the game outright against an Arsenal side that wasn’t playing anywhere near its full potential. With both Wood and Barnes leading the line, the home side were a huge threat from set pieces and always had an out through a long ball up the field. Unfortunately for the home side their delivery on dead balls was often lacking, despite the quality that Brady usually possesses.
Arsenal spent the final minutes pushing for a winner, but even as the game entered added time the Gunners’ lacked any real urgency. Thankfully for the visitors they were helped out by a controversial penalty decision in added time. Tarkowski was penalised for a soft push on Ramsey, and the stadium erupted in a chorus of boos as Lee Mason pointed to the spot. In a spooky repeat of last year’s meeting, Alexis Sanchez stepped up to convert the spot kick in injury time. That was to be the final action of the game and Arsenal ran out as winners, very much against the run of play.
The loss was a hard one to take for Burnley as they put together another impressive performance at home, only to trip themselves up in the final minute of the game. In truth Sean Dyche’s side could have won the game, and were arguably the better team for large spells of the game, but they remain in seventh position despite this frustrating result. That is in itself a remarkable achievement considering their resources and personnel, and the Clarets also remain just three points off the Champions League spots. Dreams of a securing a European spot are perhaps not that farfetched after all.
Arsenal will be thrilled with this result after a frustrating afternoon at Turf Moor, and it keeps them very much in the race to keep up with their conventional title rivals. The Gunners still sit nine points behind Manchester City, who are yet to play at the time of writing, but capitalised on their opportunity to break into the top four this weekend. A lack of decent chances created is a worrying trend that has pervaded many of their games this season, even if it didn’t cost them again against a defensively stout Burnley side.
Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Ward, Gudmundsson, Defour (Wood, 78’), Cork, Brady, Hendrick, Barnes
Arsenal: Cech, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac, Iwobi (Wilshere, 67’), Sanchez, Lacazette (Welbeck, 79’)
Goals: Sanchez (0-1, 90+2)
Referee: Lee Mason
Yellow Cards: Defour (16’), Brady (25’)
Red Cards: None
Burnley: Pope 7, Lowton 7, Tarkowski 7, Mee 7, Ward 7, Gudmundsson 8, Defour 7 (Wood n/a), Cork 7, Brady 6, Hendrick 7, Barnes 7
Arsenal: Cech 7, Koscielny 7, Mustafi 7, Monreal 7, Bellerin 7, Ramsey 6, Xhaka 7, Kolasinac 6, Iwobi 6 (Wilshere 6), Sanchez 7, Lacazette 6 (Welbeck n/a)
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