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Burnley 1 Arsenal 1

Burnley 1 Arsenal 1

A third seasonal trip to Turf Moor in succession and once again we departed London with the first snow of the winter, the brisk electricity of the cold winter air apparent as I left for North London to finish off some Christmas shopping in the Armoury prior to picking up the coach from Queensland Road-where we witnessed the filming for a road safety advert. With ice prominent and snow settling on the North London streets, one was put in mind of the potential banana skin that lay ahead at Turf Moor. Burnley have set their chances of survival against Stoke`s blueprint of last season to a certain extent, making home form their figurehead, with United and Everton already vanquished in Lancashire and Villa only able to pick up a solitary point. In the build up to the game, Arsene spoke of his side building on the win at Anfield and digging out a win on a tricky evening at battle hardened Burnley.

Predictably, the Clarets made a bright start and might have scored after four minutes. Wade Elliott`s right wing free kick caused confusion in the Arsenal area as Almunia came to collect but didn`t shout, causing Vermaelen to loop a header backwards towards his own goal with Almunia seemingly stranded, but the Spaniard made amends, shifting his feet excellently to claw the ball onto the cross bar. But the Gunners rode the early scare and moved into a 7th minute lead. The very impressive Abou Diaby found Fabregas on the edge of the area, Andre Bikey intercepted but then dithered in his own box, Cesc won the ball back before coolly pushing it into the corner to give the visitors the lead. Burnley looked positively shook with Arsenal pressing them all over the pitch and were there for the taking. Fabregas nearly added to his twelve goals this season a few moment s later, collecting Diaby`s pass whilst in forward momentum, he lifted the ball over Carlisle, chested down but volleyed into the side netting on his left foot. The home crowd were hushed and Arsenal should have been out of sight on fifteen minutes, Fabregas` low raking ball found Nasri; he cushioned the ball off to Arshavin who took one touch on the edge of the area before hitting a left foot shot across the goalkeeper but cannoned away off the post. Burnley were quaking and a ruthless instinct would have finished them off. Lamentably, Arsenal chose to let them dangle on the edge of the bait hook and let them back into the game.

Probably the most decisive moment of the game came when Cesc Fabregas clearly felt his hamstring and signalled to the bench to be taken off. The manager instructed him to try and run it off and it was this affliction that indirectly led to the goal. As Elliott and Jordan traded passes on Burnley`s left, Fabregas might well have intercepted the exchange but for a weak challenge in light of his ailment, the ball was tossed towards the onrushing Andre Bikey who was upended by a rash Thomas Vermaelen tackle in the area. It was an almost identical challenge to the one Gallas executed on Steven Gerrard in the area on Sunday. On this occasion, Mike Dean was not as generous as Howard Webb had been. Graham Alexander stepped up and lashed the penalty straight down the middle for the equaliser. Having let Burnley off the hook at 1-0, Arsenal had made the game difficult for themselves as a new vigour appeared in Burnley`s tackles, they suddenly began to close down with greater ferocity. That said, Arsenal might have moved back into the lead when a hobbling Fabregas split the defence with a slide rule pass to Arshavin who had manoeuvred into space, but Brian Jensen was out quickly to close down the angle and force the diminutive Russian to shoot straight at the Dane`s giant frame. Thereafter, Fabregas could continue no more and the dynamic of the game changed as a result. Jensen was again equal to an Arshavin strike when Silvestre had picked him out with a clever ball and Vermaelen powered a Nasri corner towards goal with his head only to see Jensen tip it over.

In the second half, Burnley sat their midfield slightly deeper and looked to play on the counter- a ploy they executed to a tee rabidly closing down any Arsenal player in possession and making chances a premium for the hungry visitors. Though we matched them for work rate, the sharpness in the final third had gone and without Fabregas providing the ammunition, the forwards were feeding on scraps. Walcott had a largely anonymous game on this occasion, his pace impotent against a deep defence. He did find one breakthrough in the 60th minute in front of the visiting support in the David Fishwick End, Alex Song evaded two challenges before picking out Nasri on the edge of the area, he shifted the ball right to Walcott in space, but the ball hit a bobble on a tricky surface and he skied his shot well over. The pointed chant of "Eduardo" that followed immediately after can only have harmed his confidence and suggests the honeymoon period has ended for Walcott. Burnley were still looking dangerous on the counter attack and when Chris Eagles motored past Nasri and Silvestre his shot looked goal bound but for the interception of the post. The home side had their tales up and Steve Fletcher should have done better when he controlled Elliott`s cross and turned in the box under little pressure only to sky his shot. This was not a game of the utmost quality, nor was it a technical masterpiece, but high octane and pulsating it most definitely was.

Burnley began to tire and Arsenal tried in vain to pick them off. Arshavin, now on the right of the attacking triumvirate, played a delightful through ball to Eduardo, but the Crozilian`s shattered confidence was in clear evidence as he approached the ball with all the vigour and purpose of a five year old boy trying to get the ball off his big brother in the garden, allowing Jensen to easily gather. I repeat, Arsene`s public assertion that he was definitely going to purchase a striker in January looks to have been an incredibly foolhardy move when one assesses the demeanours of Eduardo and Vela right now. It`s telling that the manager has been backtracking on that ill considered comment ever since. Burnley did have the ball in the net with ten minutes remaining, Alexander`s shot was parried by Almunia and Steve Fletcher tucked the rebound away only to be thwarted by an offside flag. I`m told that it was incorrect, for my part, the incident occurred at the other end of the field so I have no idea as to the validity of that claim. Arsenal picked their way through once more, Song finding Arshavin in the left channel, he cut the ball back into the six yard area with Jensen all at sea but once more Eduardo did not attack with verve and conviction, allowing Caldwell to clear.

In the dying minutes, William Gallas moved upfront and could so easily have won the game for Arsenal, Ramsey`s clipped ball over the top found Gallas in space in the penalty area, he needed a call from the nearby Eduardo to inform him of the time he had to control and shoot. Instead, Gallas headed tamely at Jensen, aware only in retrospect as to the time and space afforded him. In the end a point was probably a fair result against an incredibly dogged Burnley side who won`t give many teams change at Turf Moor. Arsenal`s big regret will be that they had Burnley cowering in a corner after twenty minutes but lacked the instinct and ruthlessness to kill them off. This lack of killer instinct is what separate champions from nearly men and one has to deduce that this sort of flakiness holds Arsenal back from the big honours. That said, Arsenal would have lost this game twelve months ago-particularly shorn of van Persie and Fabregas. In the end, it was the loss of the latter that probably prevented us from winning the game. We have taken four points from two very tough away assignments, but the feeling that we could have had more is palpable. Not the nest result in the world, but far from the worst.LD.

TEAM: 1.ALMUNIA, 3.SAGNA, 10.GALLAS, 5.VERMAELEN, 18.SILVESTRE, 17.SONG, 2.DIABY, 4.FABREGAS(c) (16.Ramsey `42), 14.WALCOTT (9.Eduardo `64), 23.ARSHAVIN. Unused: 12.Vela, 19.Wilshere, 21.Fabianski, 27.Eboue, 38.Emmanuel Thomas.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday December 17 2009
Time: 6:10AM


nice write up. a point is not as bad as it might seems but we should killed them off in the first 20 mins but how many times did we said that befor. i wonder how much thoes who who kept booing nick and singing for walcott they miss nick now? they boy refuse to learn, he NEVER cut inside, in the first half fabregas gave him great pass, still he ran from the outside, if he ran to the isnide he would be one in one with the goalie. i really believe he could of been henry in the making but the boy refusing to learn world-class football is just suprising. please dont jump to defend him, he already much more than his fair share of support only cause he is english player.
Gooner SA
17/12/2009 08:16:00
This is a problem Walcott was always going to have and you can fully understand why Wenger seeks to protect Wilshere so much. If Walcott puts in an 8 out of 10 performance, it's eleven out of ten, out of this world, the boy is the next Henry and the bestest young player ever, ever. When he has a six out of ten performance, he's an over rated sprinter in a football kit, not worthy of the shirt and should be sold immediately. Football's an emotive subject, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish people could look at it a little more dispassionately. Walcott serves a purpose and gives us something nobody else in our squad has- certainly not in our forward options. He's been out for a long time and I sense he's still feeling his way in- really he's still at pre season stage. I'm not saying I think he's wonderful or that I cannot see people's criticisms, but I wish people could be more moderate with him. It will be the same for Wilshere, mark my words. Give it eighteen months and this and other messageboards with be full of, "Ooh, he's a big time Charlie, thinks he's made it and has stopped working hard, sell him." As with Almunia, sometimes you have to accept that players go through bad form, it happens to every footballer.
Little Dutch
17/12/2009 08:24:00
Good report as ever. It seems either side of their goal the lads tried hard enough not to let them off the hook but it just didn't happen. It is hard to be a supporter and look at these things dispassionately, it's the passion that makes us supporters instead of just observers I suppose, but it does help to try to be as objective in our passion as we can.
17/12/2009 08:49:00
Reading back one thing I don't think I emphasised enough was just how well Abou Diaby played. I was rubbing my eyes in disbelief at times, he was working hard, most of his tackles were successful, he used the ball well, protected it well and without looking, I'd be willing to bet money his pass accuracy was as high as it's been all season.
Little Dutch
17/12/2009 09:01:00
Diaby's pass completion rate was 90.5% so it must have been one of his better performances - certainly better than the team average on the night. He also made 13 tackles - more than any other player - though to be fair the whole team put themselves about. There can't be many games where we have made 70 tackles in a match. Dropping points in this game wasn't due to lack of effort or a failure of mentality. Just a failure of expectation.
17/12/2009 09:16:00
There certainly was no shortage of effort and we went into every challenge as full blooded as Burnley did. On the evidence of the second half, I wasn't disappointed with what I saw and felt it was a very even, committed but very fair game. My big disappointment was that we didn't push home the advantage, had Arshavin's shot been an inch to the left, then I guess we would have done. But I felt we should have kept pressing them thereafter for the second and we let them dangle off the hook. That said, in retrospect, I think that drop off coincided exactly with Cesc pulling up and when you look at the build up to their penalty, I'm sure Cesc wouldn't have shirked two challenges in central midfield had he been fit. Without Cesc and van Persie we struggled to establish rhythm which is to be expected I guess. If we're that committed in every game we play, we'll win a lot more often than not. I just really hope Eduardo can get on the scoresheet sooner rather than later because he's looking very low at the moment.
Little Dutch
17/12/2009 09:34:00
Just for the record, Almunia didn't parry that shot at the end, which would've been bad enough, he let the **** thing slide under him, it was shockingly bad. Burnley were there for the taking in the first 20minutes and we didn't 'finish 'em'.
17/12/2009 09:41:00
LD - I possibly take a different view on Wenger's comments about bringing in a striker in Jan. Could he have meant them to be a proverbial kick up the arse for Eduardo + Vela?
NI Gooner
17/12/2009 09:50:00
It would've been had he not said he was 'definitely' signing another and only hinted that way.
17/12/2009 09:54:00
Possibly NI Gooner, but I'm with shewore here. In the aftermath of the Chelsea game he appeared very ratty and I think this was an impassioned comment that he regrets. He's backtracked on the comment ever since he made it, which suggests to me he didn't really think it through. Besides which, he didn't bring Vela on last night despite the fact that we needed a goal and had a spare sub, which suggests he knows Vela's confidence is such that he probably wouldn't have made the difference anyway.
Little Dutch
17/12/2009 10:00:00
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