Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mavropanos, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Wilshere, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Ospina, Mertesacker, Mustafi, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Ramsey, Welbeck
Arsenal played beautiful attacking football and gave Arsene Wenger the Emirates Stadium sendoff he deserved, dominating Burnley in a comprehensive 5-0 victory.
Emotional significance outweighed the football implications on Sunday, as Arsenal fans got a final chance to say goodbye to Arsene Wenger at the Emirates. Although the match had some bearing on whether Arsenal would finish sixth, and secure qualification for next season’s Europa League group stage, those ramifications were significantly overshadowed by the historic moment of Arsene’s final home game in charge of Arsenal. There were additional farewells for the club captain and big fucking German, Per Mertesacker, as well as kit man and former women’s team manager Vik Akers, who spent over 30 years at Arsenal. It was a day that truly marked the end of an era.
Arsenal lined up with a much changed side from the one that lost to Atleti on Thursday. There was another start for Mavropanos while Ozil missed out altogether. According to the manager, Ozil suffered a recurrence of a back injury that threatens to keep him out of Arsenal’s remaining games. His absence will certainly fill some column inches this week and lends unfortunate credence to Martin Keown’s explosive comments about the German after Thursday’s match.
The game kicked off following a guard of honor for Arsene Wenger. Arsenal started the game with good early possession but little in the way of penetration as Burnley defended well. Iwobi tamely bounced the first shot on target after some good work down the right flank. Xkaha pinged a nice cross-field pass to Kolasinac whose low cross was cut out for a corner just before reaching Aubameyang. It brought the first noise from the Emirates crowd.
Burnley continued to defend very deep while Arsenal probed for openings on the edge of the penalty area. Despite the significance of the occasion, the prematch excitement had given way to subdued atmosphere. As is often the case, it was going to be the responsibility of the players to lift the fans.
And in the fourteenth minute they did just that with the opening goal. Aubameyang started the move on the edge of the final third delivering a little dagger ball to Lacazette near the edge of the area. After Bellerin and Lacazette exchanged passes, Lacazette and Iwobi played a give-and-go in the box. It was a clever little chipped ball between two defenders from Iwobi to Lacazette and from the right side of the penalty area he delivered a perfect low cross for Aubameyang who tapped home to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.
Just a few minutes later there was a strong shout for a handball on the edge of the box, but the replay showed that Kolasinac’s cross hit the Burnley defender on the hip before deflecting off his arm. At this point it was all Arsenal, with Burley looking shaky trying to repel waves of attack. Ashley Barnes and Xhaka collided contesting a ball in the air with the Burnley man having to come off with an injury to his arm. He was replaced by Sam Vokes.
Burnley enjoyed a little spell of possession without threatening to break Arsenal down. Arsenal tried attacking down Burlney’s right side. Kolasinac stumbled over the ball before Lacazette and Mkhitaryan nearly executed a nice 1-2 inside the area but Burnley were able to get the ball clear.
Considering the occasion, it was a remarkably flat atmosphere in the stadium. But in the 33rd minute there was nearly another cause for celebration. Mkhitaryan slid the ball to Xhaka in Burnley’s half and he was just able to poke the ball out wide to Lacazette. His cross into the box was volleyed well by Mkhitaryan but just over the bar.
There were a few more nearly moments with Iwobi arriving in the box but seeing his cross blocked. Then Aubameyang slipping the ball into the box for the ever-present Lacazette but the Burnley defender was able to get to it just ahead of the Frenchman. Iwobi got the ball out wide right to Mkhitaryan on the counter but his good cross to Aubameyang was cut out for a corner. The ensuing corner routine came to nothing.
Lacazette and Aubameyang exchanged passes on the edge of the Burnley area but the move was easily snuffed out. However, the Burnley defender was slow to clear and Lacazette was able to take the ball off him in the box before the keeper eventually was able to fall on it ending the threat.
Arsenal were comfortable and seemed to have at least another gear if required. Burnley weren’t posing any threat. Arsenal were able to pass the ball through the midfield with ease. Xhaka picked out Mkhitaryan with a lovely line breaking pass through midfield and he exchanged passes with Aubameyang on the edge of Burnley’s penalty area before unleashing a strong deflected shot that was well saved.
Burnley missed a good chance to level the score when a nice cutback through the Arsenal penalty area from the right flank just missed 2 Burley attackers. An equalizer would’ve flattered Burnley but hardly surprised anyone at the Emirates. Just before injury time, Aubameyang attacked down the left before being cynically hacked down by Long. The crowd wanted a card but nothing was given.
Then on the stroke of half-time, Arsenal doubled their advantage. Three minutes into four minutes of injury time, the excellent Granit Xhaka found an influential Iwobi in right half-space. Iwobi slide the ball to an overlapping Bellerin who cut the ball back into the penalty area from the end line. Lacazette, who had a brilliant first half, arrived just in time to squeeze the ball into the net at the near post with a deft volley. It was the fourteenth Premier League goal for Lacazette in a possibly under-appreciated first season at the club.
Shortly after the goal the referee blew for halftime with Arsenal leading 2-0. All in all, a perfect 45 minutes in front of a pleased but quiet Emirates crowd.
Both teams returned from halftime unchanged. The second half nearly got off to the perfect start. Aubameyang cleverly got himself free down the left touchline and carried the ball into the box. His little cutback found Wilshere arriving on the edge of the six yard box but he was only able to stab the ball over the bar.
Xhaka pinged another perfect long ball out wide to Aubameyang. He slipped the ball to Kolasinac on the overlap but his cross from the end line was cut out for a corner. Unfortunately the corner delivery was poor and it was easily claimed by the keeper. Burnley’s ensuing attack brought their best chance of the game. A lofted cross from the left found Vokes who rose above Mavropanos but his header down was straight into the arms of Cech. It was the first concerning moment of the game for the young Greek defender.
Arsenal were getting sloppy and Burnley had a good attack end with a Cech punch. This time it was a cross from their right hand side that caused the danger after a poor Mavropanos clearance went back to Burnley on the edge of the final third.
Mkhitaryan started a one-man counter attack and had the chance to pick out Lacazette who was making a good run, unmarked down the left hand side. Instead he attempted to slip in Iwobi through the middle. It was the wrong decisions and the difficult pass was poorly weighted allowing Burnley to easily get the ball clear.
In the 54th minute, Kolasinac made it 3-0 after a Jack Wilshere run that turned back the clock. Wilshere picked the ball up deep in central midfield before tricking his way past his marker and surging forward to the edge of Burnley’s area. From there he picked out Kolasinac in the left channel and the full-back unleashed a forceful, straight shot across the goal and into the side-netting. It was a lovely finish started by a Jack Wilshere move that was reminiscent of the player he was before his injury problems began.
Arsenal’s tails were up and Mkhitaryian nearly made it four. His run to the edge of the penalty area resulted in a curling shot from top of the box that just flew just past the left goal-post. Hendrick unleashed a shot from outside the box that was blocked by Mavropanos out for a Burnley corner. Arsenal dealt with the resulting set piece comfortably enough.
After some nice Arsenal possession, Burnley worked the ball down their right side and delivered an excellent early cross that Chambers did well to head out for a corner. That corner fell to Burnley on the edge of the area where Burnley worked the ball around before having another cross deflected out for yet another corner. Arsenal cleared and were able to start a nice counter attack. And from that move, Arsenal made it 4-0.
Iwobi picked the ball up in the defensive half and carried into the Burley half. He gave the ball to Aubameyang on the left wing and Iwobi continued his run into the box. Burley gave him the freedom of their penalty area and when Aubameyang slipped him the ball, Iwobi took one touch with his right then blasted into the roof of the Burnley net with his left. A deserved goal for him on the day and some much needed end-product for a talented player who has often disappointed in the opposition penalty area.
By now the Emirates crowd were in a festive mood, lifted by the performance and the occasion. Arsenal tried to give them more to cheer with another penetrating move into the Burnley penalty area that resulted in a Kolasinac shot from close range being blocked into touch.
A Bellerin foul gave Burnley a free kick from a dangerous area but the in swinging delivery was headed out for a corner. That corner was taken poorly by Burnley and the ball went all the way back to their keeper.
When the ball went out for a throw in the 71st minute, Arsenal made two changes. Wilshere was replaced by Ramsey and Danny Welbeck came on for Lacazette who turned in another good home performance. Burnley also took off some Burnley players who were replaced by some other Burnley players.
A comically poor Burnley free kick resulted in some Burnley possession that ended with a terrible shot off target. Then Cech saved another long range shot comfortably down to his left. Then, in the 75th minute, it was 5-0.
Ramsey drove through the midfield, poked out wide to Bellerin, and the Spaniard delivered another good cross, this time to Aubameyang, who slammed it into the back of the net from close range once again. Another typical center forward’s goal from a man who would’ve been a helpful addition on Thursday night.
On 77 minutes, it was time for some sentimentality. The BFG gave Arsene a hug as the board went up and Arsenal’s captain came on for Calum Chambers. The crowd gave a lusty rendition of Per’s song. The chorus was cut short however when Aubameyang had a chance to make it 6-0. He worked his way into the box but his attempt to find a teammate rather than taking the shot himself was cut out by a defender.
There was a nice moment in the 78th minute as the crowd cheered a flurry of Mertesacker touches in the defensive third, the last of which set Arsenal off on a counter attack that resulted in a wayward Bellerin shot. The crowd continued to cheer the captain’s every touch as the game wound to a conclusion.
The game opened up in the final few minutes and Aubameyang had several opportunities to show his pace and quality on the counter attack. He just missed Ramsey running into the box for a good chance to make it 6. Then Mkhitaryan setup Welbeck on the edge of the area and his powerful shot cannoned off the far post. Mkhitaryan continued to setup teammates, this time finding Ramsey running beyond the last Burnley defender but he shot directly at the keeper from an acute angle.
Then, on the stroke of 90 minutes, the referee blew for full time, ending Arsene’s final game in charge of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. There would be post match festivities and a lap of appreciation before bringing the special day to a conclusion. It was a five-star performance on a day when the football paled in significance to the historic nature of the occasion.