A Point Gained Or Two Lost? Time Will Tell
Burnley 1 – 1 Arsenal
0 – 1 Fabregas (7)
1 – 1 Alexander (28 pen)
The weight of expectation followed by the second half performance at Anfield was high. This is a match that title contenders do not lose, the perceived wisdom went, despite the fact that Manchester United lost in August at Turf Moor.
As it turned out, Arsenal played more in line with the first half at Anfield, pressurised constantly by the hosts, determined to repeat their Carling Cup victory last season. Events transpired that make this a point gained this morning rather than two lost.
The match itself was open with chances at either end. The tone for the evening’s defending was set early on with a lack of communication between Vermaelen and Almunia as the Belgian dropped a header back to where he expected the goalkeeper to be; no-one had told Almunia this as he was more advanced towards the ball and arched his back to tip the ball onto the bar. It was the sort of goalkeeping for which Cech has been lambasted in recent weeks. Almunia has not escaped such chastisement either.
Within minutes, the incident seemed irrelevant. Bikey dithered; Cesc with the nimbleness of a cat burglar in books of yesteryear, smuggled the ball away, leaving it nestling in the net an instant later. One-nil to the Arsenal and shortly after it should have been two. The Spaniard lifted ball over the defence, chested the ball into space and lashed the ball into the sidenetting. It seemed his toes were twinkling like the stars in a crisp winter’s night and Burnley were reeling from the weight of the Arsenal attack.
As the quarter hour mark passed, the woodwork intervened in Burnley’s favour, Arshavin striking a fierce drive against Jensen’s post. Arsenal were in control, containing Burnley but being pressed themselves. The breakthrough for the hosts came from the penalty spot. Vermaelen was deceived by the sloppiness of Bikey’s control as he ventured forward, the Belgian diving in with a rash challenge, the outcome of which cannot be argued with. Alexander has missed five penalties throughout his 2o-year career. There was no danger of last night seeing the sixth.
As the half drew to a close, Fabregas was replaced, apparently a hamstring injury suffered, keeping him out of the coming match against Hull City as a minimum. Ramsey replaced him and chances were spurned, Arshavin denied by Jensen, Vermaelen likewise as the giant keeper pushed a header over the bar.
In the second half, Arsenal became more reticent in their attacking. Walcott suffered a lack of composure having latched onto Song’s pass, blazing high and wide when a cooler head or more in-tune international would have surely buried the opportunity?
Eagles rattled the woodwork from an acute angle having skipped past Silvestre before Fletcher had a goal disallowed, dubiously, at the end. It denied Burnley a win but an undeserved one.
There is a lot of talk this morning of how they were denied but evidentially, they only managed two shots on target all night, Arsenal seven. Presumably whoever thought that stat up at the Daily Telegraph does not count Almunia pushing Vermaelen’s effort onto the bar. Burnley do deserve a lot of credit however for the level of the performance, pressing without descending into the physicality that sides lower down the Premier League often resort to.
The Arsenal performance was disappointing given the finish at Anfield. It seems that Jekyll and Hyde will be used to describe our performances. Some solace though can be taken from the fact that a month ago, we would probably have been bemoaning a defeat such was the manner in which November transpired.
The gap to Chelsea remains as it was prior to last weekend’s fixtures. Win the game in hand and it is down to five points. Win twice as Chelsea draw and the gap closes further. That is not the problem; consistently winning afterwards is an issue that needs to be addressed.
In the end though, whether this is a lost opportunity will be decided when the League title finds a home at the end of the season. Otherwise, we move forward and look to bury the ghost of 2008/09 with a victory over Hull on Saturday.
Posted on December 17, 2009, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer, Transfer Gossip and tagged Arsenal, Burnley, Football, Premier League, Soccer. Bookmark the permalink. 207 Comments.