Numerous banners were hanging from the second tier, the whole first team wearing t-shirts, giving their best wishes to Aaron Ramsey, rallying Arsenal to do it for their fallen comrade. This game was for him. Surely Arsenal would easily overpower a terrible on-the-road Burnley.
With last weekend’s events still clearly in the memory, it almost seemed a taboo to put in a tackle and for the first twenty minutes, the game pretty much played itself out with a few half chances for Arsenal, some of which fell to Nicklas Bendtner, but we’ll come to him later on.
Despite Diaby warming up on the touchline, ready to replace the Arsenal captain, it was Fabregas, carrying a knock, who got the first goal. A delicate chip from Nasri finding Fabregas’ clever run who then put the ball through Jensen’s legs. 1-0 Arsenal.
In the second half, after a few wasted opportunities by Bendtner, it was Burnley who got the next goal. Without wanting to be harsh, it seemed a mixture of Silvestre’s flat footedness, Almunia’s indecisiveness and a perfectly weighted lob from Nugent which brought the goal about. 1-1.
It didn’t take too long for Arsenal to regain their advantage. In a week where he had been labelled ‘brainless’ by an ex-Tottenham player, Theo cut inside from the right wing, and finished beautifully with a left footed shot round the outstretched Jensen. It was not just this moment that should be remembered about Theo from this game though. Numerous times his energy down the wing, both right and left, caused Burnley problems, and if many of his great crosses, much like his one for Lampard mid-week, had been met by good finishing, there would be a lot less, if any, doubt about his place on that plane to South Africa.
There was a clear sign of emotion from him after a strong challenge soon after Arsenal’s first goal, retaliating with a bit of pushing and shoving, a nice bit of self preservation after an injury plagued season. Overall, a really reassuring performance from a young man who has only asked for a little time and patience in order for him to equal the high expectations set of him. 2-1.
If at this time it seemed like Arsenal were cruising for victory, they weren’t. There were a couple of wasted opportunities by Arsenal and suddenly the match was filled with anxiety and some real nervous play. One moment especially, following a Burnley corner, had Arsenal heart’s in their mouths but the finish, which fell to Steven Thompson, went mercifully over, somewhat Bendtner style.
The Great Dane had been replaced by this point and he is probably the one who will grab the headlines, if not for the right reasons. Bendtner had so many chances I honestly lost count. As mentioned earlier, Theo did a lot of good work which wasn’t rewarded with goals, and it was Bendtner who was culpable for much of this. You could argue that he had a bit of bad luck and it was ‘just one of those days’ and to be fair to him he provided some nice link up play. He also came away from the game with an assist and more importantly, a smile.
At times I honestly thought we may have another Eboue vs. Wigan debacle, but in the end the crowd backed him by singing his song, almost every single time.
Arshavin who replaced Rosicky, finished things off late on from a corner, well worked between him and Eduardo, beating Jensen at the near post. 3-1 in a match where Arsenal made things much more difficult for themselves than they would have liked.
Man of the match for me was a coin toss between the very obvious darting runs and a fine goal from Walcott, or the pulling of the strings, fine performance from a much more central (after Fabregas injury) Nasri, who in my opinion has not dominated a game like this in quite some time.
Before Saturday’s game the script told of a team that was ‘us against them’/doing it for Ramsey, and I was fully expecting Arsenal to beat Burnley without so much as a whimper. It did not work out like that however, and in a season where consistently things are not abiding by the script, many Arsenal fans are starting to wonder if the alternative ending may see them prize the trophy away from the previously much fancied destinations of either West London or Manchester.
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