Well, that was an interesting lunchtime spent yesterday afternoon, wasn’t it?
Actually, probably not, because like Arsenal like to do I chipped off most of the fingernails I had with my teeth in the last ten minutes or so.
It’s not that we were massively troubled and it’s not like Burnley were overly quality, but more that we made it a little harder than we should have probably have done so in the end.
But I guess when I reflect on the game and the result it’s not as if Bernd Leno had too much to do over the 90 minutes. Burnley had a couple of chances and tried to be as physical as possible with long balls from deep and whipped in balls from the wide areas, but they didn’t really make him have as much to do as Pope did at the other end, who I thought had a pretty decent game. Made some good saves from Auba, Guendouzi and Laca overall.
We perhaps should have made things a little comfortable than they were though. The goal just before halftime was a bit of a kicker. I was in the midst of grabbing my freebie Camden Lager so only saw it on the screen, but that does have the advantage of a replay and with the benefit of that I’d have thought that Luiz could have done better with it. There was a touch of a deflection about it – that has to be said – but his clumsy challenge looked a little off and Barnes bulldozed the ball home.
He’s a dirty little scroat. Real old-school striker, with modern twist; the twist of course being that he knows when to fall down easily and does it with some skill. Dyche had talked up the clinical edge he has found but that finish was spawny in my opinion and we just didn’t deal with it.
And it was after we’d gone ahead through a lovely bit of play from Lacazette. His strength really belies his size and whilst I’d hope that the VAR would have given a penalty had he not scored (let’s face it, Dean would have had none of it), I was pleased that he did finish it despite being hauled down. It was composure personified and gets him off the mark.
And Auba in the second half too, restoring our lead, which had me turning to my companion for the day and saying (not for the first time since he signed) that we have a “Rolls Royce footballer” up top. Clinical, strong and already two in two, which works a-ok with me.
Goal-scorers always get the headlines but how about a shout out for some of the other players in the Arsenal team? First and foremost I thought Ceballos was excellent. He is so good with the ball at his feet and he’s stronger than he looks too. I love the way he drops the shoulder one way and then the other and I can totally see why the comparisons with Santo are made. He’s stronger and quicker than Santi though and whilst he’ll need many more performances like that for us to be able to properly make that comparison, yesterday’s performance set him on the right track I thought. He presses hard too, always willing to chase down and that energy didn’t go unnoticed by the home crowd.
I thought Willock was good too and I’m surprised just how strong he is for a guy who’s only turning 20 next month (I think – haven’t bothered to check his birthday to be honest). He did so many good things yesterday and although there were one or two slightly silly moments, I think we’re looking at an Arsenal regular within a couple of months at this rate.
And that’s always lovely to see. Again, like Ceballos, he has plenty more to do before people start to get too excited. But his first couple of games have been really impressive and I just can’t see how you can leave him out of the team next weekend against Liverpool. It’s a gamble of course but he’s worth it; I think we could have a fantastic player on our hands and I know I’m not exactly early to the party on this.
Even though we laboured to this result I’m taking plenty of positives from it. I’ve pretty much written off next week’s game as a defeat so that’s not a problem, but after two games I’m quite excited to see how the likes of Willock, Pepe and Nelson get on. Pepe looked really lively. The kid is rapid and he also has plenty of tricks about him. It’s a new league, against a whole new style of defenders and certainly the more rugged type, but he managed to beat a few quite easily and little things like that will make a massive impact in his confidence I reckon. I’ve never played at a high level but when I came on to a football pitch and realised I could beat a player, or the people I was against were at a certain level, it gave me confidence to try more stuff. That’s what I’m hoping Pepe’s 45 minutes will do for him moving forward. It’s a sterner test next weekend but this 45 minutes in the second half will have done him the world of good.
Despite his injury I hope the first 45 will also have done Nelson good. He looks class. Very good with the ball and his quick-touch passing and he didn’t look out of place for a second in this first team. Let’s not forget he’s still young so this will have been good for him and I’m hoping he has a good season ahead. Was unlucky not to score either because of Montreal’s offside foot that meant he got his first goal chalked off. But it’ll come. More games like that and it’ll come.
Onwards and upwards and a difficult afternoon awaits against Liverpool next Saturday.
Up the Arsenal.