Result: Burnley 1-3 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 12 May 2019
Venue: Turf Moor
Arsenal: Leno, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Mavropanos, Monreal, Elneny, Guendouzi, Mkhitaryan, Willock, Iwobi, Aubameyang
Subs: Cech, Koscielny, Maitland-Niles, Kolasinac, Xhaka, Nketiah, Lacazette
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang grabbed a brace as Arsenal ended the Premier League campaign with a 3-1 win at Burnley to finish fifth in the table.
The Gabon international struck twice in 11 second half minutes to take his league total to 22, enough for him to share the Golden Boot with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mo Salah.
Ashley Barnes reduced the deficit with a header as Burnley threatened a comeback before substitute Eddie Nketiah grabbed his first league goal with the last kick of the game.
After arriving back in London at 6am after Thursday’s win in Valencia, Unai Emery hinted he’d rotate his squad. He didn’t disappoint. Only left-back Nacho Monreal and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, chasing the Golden Boot, were retained from the lineup that started at the Mestalla. Bernd Leno returned in goal, Lichtsteiner started on the right side of the defence and Mavropanos and Mustafi were paired in the middle. Matteo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny formed the double pivot with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and teenager Joe Willock, making his first league start of the season, ahead of them.
Arsenal’s best chance of the first half came after only 4 minutes when Aubameyang headed a Mkhitaryan free-kick against the post after keeper Tom Heaton was penalised for handling outside of the box.
Between that and Joe Willock’s curler just before the break, it was Burnley who did most of the huffing and puffing. As expected, they focused on challenging our defence with long balls and carefully rehearsed corner routines.
From the latter, Chris Wood and James Towkowski both had half chances in the air. Wood also hit the post with a decent left foot effort from outside the box after he’d chased down and controlled a big hoof up the pitch.
Our defence looked characteristically uneasy with Elneny and Mustafi having to make a last-ditch tackle and clearance respectively as Jack Cork and Matthew Lowton both went close in one passage of play. An injury to Mavropanos meant he was replaced by Koscielny on 34 minutes, after which we looked a bit more solid.
The only other talking point of a pretty dull 45 minutes was Leno’s decision to go full Jens Lehmann on Ashley Barnes. Having collected a header from a corner, the German raced straight through the back of the Burnley man. In making contact he fell over, promptly got up, kicked it clear and then had the striker go for him off the ball. Mike Dean obviously didn’t see any of it, as he booked the Burnley man. He and the Turf Moor crowd were furious.
Having been clattered by Towkowski at the tail-end of the first half, Iwobi took another bad challenge that earned Lowton a booking not long into the second. Soon after, Koscielny was pushed into the hoardings by Barnes. It was classic Burnley.
Revenge was taken by Aubameyang. On 52 minutes the Gabon international pounced on a poor backpass and sped towards goal from the edge of the centre circle. He was calmness personified as he weighed up his options and slipped the ball past Heaton for his 21st Premier League goal of the season. (1-0)
Our leading scorer, desperately chasing the Golden Boot, doubled the lead 11 minutes later. Iwobi clipped a beauty of a ball to Aubameyang at the back post and he adjusted his body to hammer home a textbook volley back across the keeper. (2-0)
Burnley looked knackered and that should have been that. But this Arsenal side are capable of conceding at any moment. Two minutes later, Barnes reduced the deficit with a header as the home side kept alive a move that had already drawn a decent save from Leno. (2-1)
As the game got stretched, Mkhitaryan started to come into his own. The Armenian had a volley blocked and a long-range effort saved and then teed up Auba who produced an unbelievable miss from two-yards out. It’s hard to be critical of our striker but he does miss the odd sitter.
There were further chances for Auba to grab his hat-trick, but the earlier miss proved costly in his quest to win the Golden Ball outright. In the end, he had to settle for a share of the spoils.
With the final kick of the game, Nketiah finally grabbed his first league goal for the club. Having opened his account with his first touch in the League Cup last season he’s had to wait a long time for another first team strike. It wasn’t the prettiest, but he’ll have enjoyed that moment. (3-1)
The win, coupled with results elsewhere, sees us fall short of our quest for a Champions League place via the league. We knew that was pretty much gone after last week, but we have at least avoided any threat of an early start in next season’s Europa League, no matter what happens in Baku or between Man City and Watford in the FA Cup. United’s home defeat to Cardiff leaves them in sixth on 66 points. We end the season on 70, just one point behind Sp*rs who drew 2-2 with Everton.
This season feels like it’s gone in a flash. Only yesterday we seemed to be waving adieu to Monsieur Wenger. It’s still too early to run the rule over Senor Emery’s debut campaign in England. Much now rides on our Europa League final with Chelsea. Win that and it definitely puts a positive spin on things.