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Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Burnley was another hugely frustrating 90 minutes for The Arsenal; another 90 minutes where Mikel Arteta’s side produced the better chances; and another 90 minutes that saw individual mistakes become part of the narrative.
Calum Chambers made his first league appearance of the season slotting in at right-back, perhaps influenced by Pep Guardiola’s decision to start Aymeric Laporte at left-back when Manchester City played away at Burnley a month ago.
Sean Dyche’s side are not blessed with natural pace up-top and so it allows the inclusion of extra height and defensive ability to counter their inevitable style-of-play. Buakyo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Partey also returned to the starting line-up.
Arsenal dominated possession throughout and of all time spent in the final-third Mikel Arteta’s side amassed 63% Field Tilt – averaging a shot every 6.3 minutes. However Arsenal only found the target with 2 of their 15 shots (13%) as opposed to Burnley’s 5 of 9 (56%) and would go on to rue the 4 Big Chances they missed (Burnley scored 1 of their 2).
Mikel Arteta has insisted his team play out from the back since being appointed manager in December 2019, and it’s something they’re generally good at. The central defenders split wide and one of the central midfielders normally drops in to advance the possession. Both goals at Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon came from a similar sequence of play as shown above.
Arsenal were superb in the opening 20 minutes and their goal early on epitomised the managers philosophy in playing out from the back. In contrast, what happened for the equaliser highlights the limitations within the squad.
Granit Xhaka demanded the ball from Bernd Leno, stepped into the pass and controlled it with his strong foot before attempting to curl the ball around Burnley’s Chris Wood. The margin for error was small, and the execution was abysmal.
Granit Xhaka found a teammate with 76 of his 89 passes (85%), ranking 3rd for completed passes on the day for Arsenal and led Arsenal for Progressive Distance (distance completed passes travel towards the opponents goal), but the mistake that led to the equaliser puts his Net Possession Value at close to zero and, in turn, sums up his Arsenal career to date. There is much to like about the Swiss international and the way he plays football but the perpetual mistakes are never far away and it continually negates everything he does so well.
Willian ranked 1st for Passes into the Penalty Area (4), 2nd for Progressive Passes (8) and played the final pass before Aubameyang’s goal. The Brazilian is generally improving and he seems to be working harder than before. It would be useful for this form to continue because he fills a number of squad positions and would provide a viable alternative in terms of creativity with Emile Smith Rowe being injured and Gabriel Martinelli and Nicholas Pepe offering a different profile of player.
Pablo Mari and Granit Xhaka led Arsenal for tackles won (2) but no one applied more successful pressures than the midfielder (12/19) during a performance where his name was consistently topping every metric: he was also 1st for Mistakes leading to Opposition Goals.
Callum Chambers won 3 of his 5 aerial duels and made 20 recoveries producing the performance his manager expected.
Despite having the better chances throughout, Arsenal’s performance outside of the opening 20 minutes and the final 10 left a lot to be desired. However, Mikel Arteta’s side hit the post, the bar, Bukayo Saka missed a clear cut opportunity in the first half, Pepe missed a sitter in the second half, saw another shot cleared off the line, and was involved during the obvious handball in the area not being given. It just wasn’t Arsenal’s day. The worry is that it’s becoming a bit of a theme.
That’s all from me – next up is Olympiacos on Thursday. Follow me on Twitter @jonollington