Result: Arsenal 0-0 Burnley
Competition: Premier League
Date: 23 January 2022
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Lokonga, Ødegaard, Smith-Rowe, Saka, Martinelli, Lacazette
Subs: Leno, Tavares, Chambers, Alebiosu, Patino, Salah-Eddine, Hutchinson, Biereth, Nketiah
Arsenal were held to a frustratingly poor 0-0 draw at home against Burnley, as they failed to reclaim fourth place in the league and it became glaringly obvious just how short the team were in terms of clinical finishing up top.
The first half saw Arsenal struggle to create many clear-cut chances, despite having the lion’s share of possession. A couple of fine passing combinations ended in somewhat toothless end product, as the need for a ruthless striker appeared more and more evident.
The Gunners turned up the heat in the second half, with a succession of oppurtunities that were simply not taken. And as the team toiled, the crowd grew ever more frustrated – demanding more urgency as the game drifted into stoppage time.
Following the midweek home defeat to Liverpool, which dumped Arsenal out of the Carabao Cup, the Gunners were looking to end the month on a high in the Premier League against bottom-placed side Burnley. A win would put them back in fourth place, with a game in hand on Manchester United.
Mikel Arteta was forced to make one change in Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was evidently playing through the pain barrier on Thursday. The right-back has also withdrawn from Japan’s World Cup Qualifier squad as a result. Rob Holding came in to partner Gabriel in central defence, whilst Ben White shifted to the right-hand side.
‘Play the kids’ was a popular phrase thrown at Arsenal, who have the youngest squad in the league, following their postponement of the North London Derby last weekend. The subs bench for this game included five youngsters who haven’t played a single minute of Premier League football, and four of those hadn’t even played senior football for the club.
Arsenal dominated the early possession with Lacazette dropping in to receive the ball and slip a nice ball through for Martinelli, which came to nothing, but it was Burnley with the first chances of the match. A ferocious Dwight McNeil shot was palmed over the bar by Ramsdale, before the following corner fell to Ben Mee, who fired over the bar from the edge of the area.
After the early scares, Arsenal tried to build some pressure but struggled to penetrate the Burnley defence. Some shouts of ‘faster!’ rang round the Emirates as the fans called for the team to up the tempo. However, the crowd were lifted in the 17th minute when Lacazette made an uncharacteristically mazy run into the opposition box before firing his effort wide.
A couple of minutes later, it was all aboard the emotional rollercoaster for Arsenal fans when Ramsdale flapped at a Burnley corner, before the bouncing ball was eventually hoofed clear. And within seconds, the Gunners put together their best passing move of the game as Ødegaard and Smith-Rowe orchestrated a ‘tiki-taka’ style attack which ended with the former’s effort being saved.
There was more than a fair shout for a potential red card when Ashley Westwood stamped on Tierney’s leg after the ball was gone, but VAR saw no reason to overturn David Coote’s infield decision of a yellow. This was then followed by Burnley’s second booking of the game when Josh Brownhill unsubtly scythed down Smith-Rowe in the middle of the park. To top it all off, Ashley Westwood escaped a second booking, just after the half-hour mark, when he appeared to strike Gabriel in the face with his arm.
As the first half edged into 2 minutes of stoppage time, Arsenal produced one more sweeping attack, which ended with Saka shaping up a left-footed effort inside the corner of the box, but he fired just wide.
It was a quiet start to the second half and the Emirates held it’s breath as Saka stayed down after a clash of knees with Erik Pieters, but much to the crowd’s relief, Arsenal’s favourite son was able to carry on.
Arsenal were laboured in their approach up until the hour mark, when Saka was brought down by McNeil to give them a free kick right on the edge of the Burnley box. Ødegaard was the man to take it and his clipped effort just cleared the crossbar, kissing the roof of the net on the way over.
Not long after that, the Gunners produced a fantastic corner routine that saw Smith-Rowe catch the low-driven ball sweetly, but it was brilliantly saved down low by Nick Pope. Then Smith-Rowe came close again after some nice sustained possession, when his shot was deflected wide.
The Arsenal team and crowd were lifted by their flurry of chances and had their tails up as the game approached the 67th minute. Once again, it was Smith-Rowe at the heart of the action, with a lung-busting run to the byline, but Lacazette couldn’t turn in the cut-back – much to the audible frustration of the home faithful.
Arteta’s first substitution came in the 76th minute, when Eddie Nketiah came on to replace Smith-Rowe. One would assume it was a case of preserving Smith-Rowe’s fitness rather than a reflection of his impressive performance. But even with two strikers on the pitch, Arsenal continued to look devoid of any cutting edge in the box.
A total of 4 minutes was added on at the end of the game, and Arteta’s flailing arms signalled his desperation as his players continued to lack that crucial quality on the final ball – right up until the final whistle.
When all was said and done, Arsenal failed to bounce back after a poor run of form and couldn’t continue setting pace in the race for Champions League football. With 18 days before their next game, and a week left in the January transfer window, there’s an awful lot of work to do for Arteta and Edu.