Arsenal on survival mode after they escape with goalless draw against Burnley
Gunners push themselves into the top half as they approach 38-point mark
Point by point, game by game, Arsenal are edging closer to the magical 38 required to stay up. Facetiousness aside, it is scarcely an achievement to find themselves seven points clear of the relegation zone, even if they limped back into the top half of the table, but it could have been worse as they were held to a goalless draw by Burnley on Sunday.
They were inches from defeat when Jay Rodriguez met Dwight McNeil’s header with a volley that hit both the bar and the line, Burnley agonisingly close to a first league win over the Gunners since 1974.
Instead, having registered a first win at Old Trafford since 1962, Burnley recorded a minor milestone by chalking up a maiden point against Arsenal under Sean Dyche. “When you play like that you come away thinking: ‘was the one we should have won?’” asked Dyche. “The only thing missing was a goal.”
“We were fantastic in some moments but we were so sloppy and put ourselves in big trouble,” said Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta. “We started really well. We could have scored at least two. But we allowed a lot of crosses and second balls inside our box and were lucky not to concede a goal. We have to improve a lot.”
It was a familiar result for their visitors. In time, Arteta has to implement a winning habit. For now, he has a drawing one and, for the fourth consecutive game, Arsenal shared the points.
“We need more consistency,” the new manager said though, in a sense, he has an unwanted variant. “I hope it will not take time,” he added. Now, however, he has a team in transition, with expensive components and loftier ambitions, but who are roughly on a par with most sides they face.
Burnley shaded an even contest, finishing the stronger and imposing themselves upon Arsenal. The visiting fans disdainfully chorused “anti-football”, a frustrated and ineffectual Mesut Ozil was booked for dissent and various of Arteta’s players sustained knocks, with David Luiz looking luckless when Nick Pope accidentally trod on him.
“It is lovely to watch when people are falling over, it is my favourite part,” added Dyche, and it was an awkward experience for some. Arteta lamented that the long grass made it difficult to play but had prepared accordingly. “I didn’t water the grass yesterday at the training ground,” he said.
His defence was without the recent reinforcements Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares but kept a clean sheet and featured Shkodran Mustafi, who was stretchered off at Bournemouth on Monday.
“You could see how good he was,” Arteta added and Arsenal did not shirk the physical element, even if it is rare a team has two players booked in as many minutes for fouling Burnley’s full-backs. They survived the Clarets’ aerial attack, but partly through good fortune and Burnley’s lack of a clinical finish. James Tarkowski and Rodriguez both headed wastefully wide from Ashley Westwood’s free kicks. Jeff Hendrick was a greater culprit, missing the target from McNeil’s enticing centre.
The Irishman also came close from distance as Burnley showed a fondness for long-range shots. Rodriguez, who had scored in spectacular style at Old Trafford, and McNeil also tried their luck. “We had enough chances,” said Dyche. “They had one golden chance.”
That was understating it. David Luiz and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang both returned from suspension and the Brazilian fed the Gabonese with a precise long pass. The forward’s finish was altogether more wayward. Aubameyang’s capacity to burst in behind the Burnley defence enabled Arsenal to chip passes over them, but when Granit Xhaka found him, the captain could not lob the gangly figure of Pope.
The profligate Aubameyang also headed wide from an Alexandre Lacazette cross. It was a role reversal of Arsenal’s first chance, when Aubameyang centred and the unmarked Lacazette missed the target and still has not scored in a win since August. “We have to improve the end product,” added Arteta. But for now, Arsenal may end up in mid-table.
Published: February 2, 2020 09:31 PM