After all the controversy of last week, it was really great to have a ‘nice and easy’ game at the Emirates. Burnley have the worst away record in Premier League history and I doubt many people would have been holding out for anything other than an Arsenal win.
The only question being asked really, was how many goals we would win by. If we won by 4 clear goals, we’d go top of the league on goal difference, subject to Man Utd’s result against Wolves later on. In any event, Utd squeaked past Wolves 1-0 so we would’nt have been top at the end of the weekend.
Four changes were made to the team that beat Stoke. With Gallas still out injured and Sol picking up a knock against Stoke, most fans’ least favourite defender Silvestre had to be paired in defence with Vermaelen. Sagna was rested (presumably), meaning Eboue had to drop into right-back from midfield. With Song (suspension) and Ramsey (injury) missing, our front six were Nasri, Denilson, Rosicky, Cesc and Walcott.
Eboue – Vermaelen – Silvestre – Clichy
Denilson – Nasri
Walcott – Cesc – Rosicky
As this was the first home game since Ramsey’s injury, there were loads of banners wishing Ramsey well and the players all wore T-shirts saying ‘GET WELL SOON AARON’, with his squad number on the back. This was really nice to see, and I’m sure if Aaron was watching, he would have appreciated the effort and support from everyone.
We started the game on the front foot as you would expect, cutting Burnley apart with ease. Bendtner tried to slip Cesc in just inside 2 minutes, but the ball wouldn’t quite fall for him and it was cleared by a Burnley defender. Fabregas later turned provider for Bendtner but he dallied a bit on the ball, but the defender recovered, just as Bendtner was about to pull the trigger. More chances were to follow, but we just couldn’t put any away, with Bendtner being the guiltiest party.
The goal finally came, courtesy of Captain Fabtastic. Nasri played a fabulous ball over the defenders after spotting Cesc’s run into the box and all he had to do was sidefoot the ball from close-range through Jenson’s legs. It was a beautiful goal, giving us the lead we very much deserved after 34 minutes. Fabregas got substituted shortly after that, as he had felt his hamstring, with Diaby replacing him. Arsene said after the game that he wasn’t sure yet of the severity of the injury. Hopefully it will turn out not to be serious, but he’s a doubt for the Porto game.
It still looked like we’d go on and score more despite losing Cesc, but we didn’t. Theo was having a lovely time on the wings, creating chance after chance. One such chance fell to Bendtner after Theo delivered the perfect of crosses onto his head, but he headed it wide! Unfortunately for him, that’s pretty much how the rest of the afternoon went for him. I think he might have left home in a hurry and forgot his shooting boots, or something.
It ended 1-0 at halftime, but it really should have been more.
We started the second half a bit sloppily though, letting Burnley back into the game about 5 minutes after the restart! David Nugent grabbed the equaliser after some loose play at the back. Eboue initially did well to clear the danger inside the penalty area, hooking the ball back towards the half-way line. But the ball was headed straight back and bounced right in-between our centre halfs, leaving an onside Nugent with the chance to lob it over Almunia. He took it and out of nowhere really, we were back level. Sloppy stuff.
But it didn’t matter though, as were back level 10 minutes later, through the excellent Theo Walcott. And he did most of the work himself. The ball was played to him on the right side by Bendtner. He cut inside, and from just inside the box caressed the ball past Jenson with his left foot. I don’t really understand what his celebration was about but he ran to the touchline towards a member of the coaching staff, tapping his wrist. It doesn’t matter what that was about, anyways. It was a great goal by Theo which I thought he thoroughly deserved. He’d received some stick during the week which I felt were totally harsh on him and I thought he responded the best way possible. Theo’s back, and I hope he maintains this form until the end of the season.
Rosicky got substituted for Arshavin who’s been out injured for a few weeks, and it was good to see him get a run out after being sidelined for so long. We had loads more chances to extend our lead, but like I said, Bendtner just didn’t have the right boots on and the chances went begging. To be fair to Nick, though, he played really well and if only he’d finished one or two of those chances, he would have had the perfect game. He got subsituted shortly afterwards for Eduardo, and it was great to see that he got a standing ovation as he left. He’d put in the effort all game and everyone appreciated that. And like Arshavin said after the game, maybe he’s saving all his goals for Porto!
It wasn’t just Bendtner with the misses though, Eduardo and Arshavin both squandered opportunities. Burnley barely posed much of a threat so even though there were still very much into it, they never looked like scoring! The 3rd goal finally came deep into injury-time and was scored by Arshavin. After a short corner routine on the right, he cut inside and into the box, firing a low shot into the near post. The full-time went shortly after, and I think Burnley would count themselves lucky not to have conceded way more than that.
Here’s Wenger’s take on the game:
“It was closer than you and I expected but we had the chances to score plenty of goals. We didn’t take our chances today and that’s why I believe it was very tight until the end. It could have been four, five or six but as well they had a chance to make it 2-2 after a corner. In the end you are happy when you miss the chances we missed today but you get the three points.
We didn’t score the 4 we wanted, but it was still the 3 points we needed to remain firmly involved in the title race. It was great to see Theo fit and firing, and Arshavin showed us that he still knows how to do it. Eboue did really well at right-back too and if continues to play this well, Sagna may struggle to regain his place! I haven’t mentioned Nasri yet, but he had a brilliant game too, and he was my Man of the Match after Theo, if that makes sense! Wenger said this about Nasri:
“He is improving, and in the last month, he is getting better. He had a good game today. The ball he gave to Fabregas to score was absolutely fantastic. He has a great work-rate and runs well with the ball. His passing is getting better and is really improving.
We need our players to step up as we go into the last few games and Nasri’s shown that he is capable of doing that. He took charge after Cesc was taken off and I’m sure if Cesc can’t play against Porto that Nasri’ll be a good enough deputy. Arshavin is another player who will have to deliver big performances for us and I think he’s ready to do that. I thought he needed a rest before he got injured, so hopefully now he’s back, he can continue to deliver those excellent performances we know he can produce.
We still remain third in the table, but we’re level on points with Chelsea but they do have a game in hand. United currently lead the way with 2 points having played the same number of games as us. It’s very easy to see that the top 2 will drop points, especially as they still have to play each other! As long as we continue to win our games and stay in touch, I’m pretty sure we’ll be in the best position to take advantage when they finally do.
But for now, all we need to worry about is the next game.
PS- I forgot to mention ‘little’ Jack! You probably know he’s on loan at Bolton until the end of the season. He played against West Ham on Saturday and he scored a really lovely goal! Good to see Owen Coyle making good use of our Jack! Can’t wait to see what he can do for us next season.