After a couple of draws and a disappointing Sunday afternoon against Chelski, it was good to see Arsenal get back on the victory trail by overcoming a stubborn Burnley side yesterday afternoon, as well as get a decent look at some new and returning faces.
As expected, Arsene made some changes to the squad and with Tuesday and next Sunday in mind, it was understandable that we saw returns to the starting line up for Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, Coquelin, The Ox, Iwobi and Alexis. It also made sense to give Elneny his first run out on home soil, in a game in which we would dominate possession and chances, pretty much throughout.
Burnley too made a few changes, benching a certain pantomime villain in the shape of Joey Barton, but Sean Dyche still kept a pretty strong side and it still had some familiar faces to it. I seem to recall their ‘keeper Keaton made a number of decent saves for the game at the Emirates last season and their defender Mee was in the heart of the back four. Sam Vokes spent most of last season out injured I think, but you could see why he was their focal point in attack. For a team that likes to get the ball in wide positions and whip it in to the box, a player like Vokes is useful, which he proved by scoring their equalizer. But that’s me jumping ahead, so let’s focus on the opening exchanges of the game.
I thought we played really well at times. There’s always going to be a little bit of disjointedness when you rotate, but I thought it was managed well, with us dominating possession for most of the first half. All we needed was a goal and what a goal we were treated too. Calum Chambers channeling the spirit of Paul Merson with his finish from the outside of his boot, which was sublime and should have set us on our way to a comfortable afternoon, or so we thought at the time.
We looked like we were in control, we created plenty of decent chances and a number of players seemed to be having good games. Which is probably why it was a little frustrating that we conceded, because it was pretty much Burnley’s only chance of the game, up until that point. We never really got the ball clear when it came out to their right back and his ball to Vokes was good, but you have to have a look at Chambers falling asleep at the back post, to allow the striker to get in front of him and nod in. Vokes is a big old unit of a bloke, but there are still things that Chambers could do to make life harder from the striker, so I think Calum might be a bit disappointed waking up this morning and having a look at his positioning for the goal.
After that you could see Burnley grow in confidence and they started to have more possession and pin us back a little bit. Half time was probably a good thing, as it allowed Arsene to have a word and get his team back on track in terms of dominance with the ball, and it was only eight minutes we had to wait until we were ahead again. The move was great and had plenty of great build up, but the finish was equally as good from Alexis. It was an assist from Ox that cut across the box and I thought overall he had a really good game. He looked more like the Ox of old yesterday, taking on players, wriggling himself some space and it will have done him the world of good to get a game like yesterday’s under his belt.
I thought Iwobi looked good too. He is so good on the ball and with it at his feet. He has a quite leggy and languid style, but he was very composed throughout and you’d have to say he looks a good one for the future. Elneny too had a decent enough game. His game w as nothing fancy, but he retained possession, won a couple of tackles and also got nudged off the ball a couple of times. It’s the sort of thing you expect from an overseas player and he’ll get better, but whether or not he gets that many chances with so many more established players coming back, does make you wonder if he’ll get more chances next season rather than this.
The return of Alexis and Coquelin were big positives for me yesterday, too, with Le Coq managing over an hour and Alexis getting about 70 I think. We were even treated to a Rosicky return, which got the best cheer of the afternoon, and it’s so lovely to see him available for the end of season run in. That bodes well for Southampton and Bournemouth and you’d expect Alexis and Coquelin to start and perhaps some more cameo appearances from Rozza. It means we’ll have fresher legs against a hard working Southampton team and with Cech, Bellerin, Monreal, Ramsey and Ozil all sure to return, we’re in good shape to see if we can start stringing together some back-to-back wins.
The draw is this afternoon and personally I’d love an away day, as I think I might go to it, but if not another comfortable home draw would probably be nice too. Maybe we could get Shrewsbury at The Emirates?
Catch y’all tomorrow.