It wasn’t that long ago that the English media and what seemed to be every pundit in the country were criticizing everything Arsenal. They couldn’t do anything right, squad wasn’t good enough, Spu*s were miles ahead, power shifts, and everything else.
Thirteen matches into the season, somehow, that same Arsenal find themselves ahead of Liverpool and the beloved Spu*s. The obsession with our annoying neighbors from the media is ridiculous, and humorous all at the same time.
When they suck, not much is said. Everyone goes into hiding, as they search for other things to talk about. When they win, everyone wants to get in bed with them.
Have you heard anything about them after that draw at home against West Brom on Saturday? The same West Brom that are toying with the relegation zone, and sacked their manager earlier this week? Or how about the ball Alli lost in the midfield cheaply, which resulted in Rondon’s goal? Where was Lloris on that goal? Caught flat-footed at his near post as the ball trickled by him. Had that happened to Arsenal, we all know what the media would be talking about.
Instead of talking about all of that and more, they’ll choose to focus on Alli’s assist to Harry Kane. And after the final whistle, they must have all been desperately praying for Arsenal to also drop points, so they could obviously turn their attention to the so called crisis and power shift. As the seconds ticked away at Turf Moor, they will have been salivating, already preparing their headlines, until, Alexis Sanchez changed all of that.
By no means was it beautiful and free-slowing footy, but hey, all that matters is the three points right?
Going into the match, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Burnley have been playing well, they’ve been defending well, and, given our recent history against them, we were destined for a tense affair, and we got just that.
Arsenal’s First Half Tactics
What confused me, apart from not seeing Ozil in the starting XI, was how we were setup off the ball in the opening 45 minutes. I may not be a tactical genius, but I do like to think I know a decent amount of footy.
Against the likes of Manchester City, or even Spu*s, who are sides that can pick a pass, and are comfortable in possession, we opted to pressure high, not allowing them to come out from the back, or at least we tried to do that. Against Spu*s, it worked much better, but, why the hell did we sit so deep in the first half, treating Burnley like they were the new coming of Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka, Lancashire style.
Just as I struggled to understand the logic behind our approach off the ball, Arsenal was struggling to really get anything going offensively.
Burnley would pick the ball up in their defensive third, essentially walk it to the midfield, move it comfortably in our half, and when they weren’t trying to work it into our 18-yard box, they were launching balls towards Petr Cech. Fortunately for us, Mustafi was up for the challenge yet again, a was the forme Czech international.
The German international won the most aerial battles (9), was joint leader in tackles (3), and he threw his body around the pitch, something Arsenal defenders don’t always do. This guy is quickly becoming a fan favorite, and it’s all for the right reasons. A proper footballer, with the hunger and passion to win, something that not all players have.
Back to the frustration that was the first half, there were just too many gaps in between lines, and with the squad sitting so deep, it made things so much easier for the hosts.
We had a few decent spells in the first half, and Rambo had a great chance to give us the lead, but I’ll cut him some slack considering the ball bounced just before it got to him. Apart from that, we were on the back foot for most of the half. My positive from all of that would be that despite what I thought were the wrong tactics, we still looked somewhat organized off the ball.
Second Half Changes & Alexis Sanchez At It Again
Alexis wasn’t all that great in the first half, and at times, looked very uninterested. Maybe it was just his lack of involvement, or Arsenal’s inability to keep the ball for long periods of time. Either way, in the second half, things certainly changed, and even Le Prof said there were changes.
Arsene Wenger mentioned that Alexis became more dangerous in the second half because he had more freedom to operate down the middle of the pitch. I think that not sitting so deep also helped contribute to his second half performance.
I tweeted at halftime that we needed to move up the pitch about 10 yards when we didn’t have the ball to really cause problems, and I could be wrong, but, it seemed that we did keep a higher line. Burnley was struggling to replicate their first half performance, we were winning the ball back further up the pitch, which in turn allowed us to be more dangerous.
There were less gaps in between lines, and it all just looked a hell of a lot better, which makes me wonder why the hell we didn’t start that way.
Time was ticking away, Jack was finally coming onto the pitch, Lacazette came off AGAIN, and it was just looking certain we’d do the usual Arsenal thing, which is to also drop points when your rivals do.
I’d be lying if I said the idea of a late goal wasn’t bouncing around in my brain.
As I tried to feed my three month old, each second that ticked away became more painful and frustrating. I cursed and yelled at the TV, fortunately he doesn’t understand any of it yet. I thought for sure it was over, we’d missed an opportunity to go ahead of Liverpool and Spu*s.
Even after the penalty kick had been awarded, my brain kept taking me to bad places. All I could think was that Alexis would somehow miss the spot kick, sending neutral supporters and every god damn pundit into celebration. How appropriate would that be though? With all the contract talks, everyone saying how he’s unhappy and wants to leave, he hates Ramsey, doesn’t get along with Wenger, his dogs are unhappy, etc., for the non-Arsenal supporter, could you write a better script? Want away Alexis shows he’s mentally checked out and misses late spot kick.
Santi was almost done with his bottle, my hands were occupied, and I was sitting down. I was either going to yell in excitement, or, I’d possibly throw his bottle across the room. Fortunately for him, he was able to finish his bottle, and fortunately for me, I didn’t make a mess for which my wife would have killed me.
Just like we did last year, we left it late, but boy did it feel good, although my heart rate would say otherwise.
I can’t even imagine how many headlines were already written prior to that spot-kick, and everyone either had to hit backspace on their keyboard, had to get whiteout, or, had to erase what they had written. Not to mention the posts on social media that were just waiting to be submitted. To that, I say fu^& you to all the doubters and haters who have been year on year painting this beautiful portrait of a sh*t club in North London that hasn’t won silverware in quite sometime, yet, you choose to talk about power shifts and all that other bullsh*t.
We are now onto Huddersfield at home, before we welcome Mourinho and his double decker bus!