After a rollercoaster ride of a match last week which propelled Arsenal back into the t
itle race, the Gunners welcomed relegation threatened Burnley to North London. It was good to be finally watching some football again-and I don’t mean meaningless midweek friendlies-to get away from debates over the character of those who commit dangerous tackles. This of course was a massive opportunity for Arsenal to keep the pressure on Chelsea and United and there was also a chance to go top (albeit only for a few hours if Wolves were not to win later) if the Clarets were beaten by a 4 goal margin. Arsene Wenger continued with the in form attacking full back extraordinaire Eboue in place of Sagna, Silvestre replaced the injured Campbell, Rosicky moved into into central midfield and the much maligned TW14 started on the right wing. The two teams both walked out into the sunshine wearing white, as the Arsenal players wore T-shirts reading ‘Get Well Soon Aaron’. The supporters were shared the sentiment as they unfurled banners reading similar messages, hoping that Arsenal could win the game (and the title!) for Ramsey.
Arsenal started the game reflecting this attitude; a gap between the two Burnley central defenders was exposed by Fabregas’ long pass to Bendtner. Just when it looked like he was going to pull the trigger, Paterson slid in to rob him of the chance. It was a sign of what was to come. From the resulting corner, Tomas Rosicky saw a snapshot drift just wide of Jensen’s left hand post. Arsenal were dominating the game and particularly were having a lot of joy down the right hand side, with Walcott and Eboue combining to good effect. Eboue was at his marauding best, and this was evident when Fabregas played a quick one-two with Eboue, who produced a delightful back heel through the defence and Fabregas shot wide from a tight angle. Walcott was especially using his pace to trouble Fox and delivered good crosses into dangerous areas. He definitely seemed like he has a point to prove, after the criticism of his England performance, and looked to me like he fired up and motivated to do well.
It was concerning to see our captain talking to Colin Lewin the physio, as he seemed to be having some sort of problem. But he continued to play. Good thing he did because, the ball was played to Nasri-who had an excellent game- just outside the box, who played a pin point chip over the defence to find the run of Cesc, who had escaped his designated minder (Alexander is 16 years his senior!) slotted it through the legs of Jensen. Unfortunately, as is often the case with Arsenal, our star player was unable to continue and came off for Diaby. Hopefully, it is not serious and it was just a precaution with the midweek game with Porto coming up. But it seems that every time Arsenal look to be mounting a title challenge, one of players gets injured especially after/during pointless international friendlies. Walcott’s motivated, almost angry; attitude combined with the after effects of the Ramsey injury caused a brief scuffle with Danny Fox before Walcott himself crossed for Bendtner who screwed it wide while sliding. At half time, Arsenal had got the bare minimum score that their dominance deserved.
At the start of the second half, Arsenal started where they left off. Walcott again beat Fox and produced a perfect cross for Bendtner, but the Great Dane somehow did not put the ball past his compatriot and put it wide. (It reminded me of the miss by Darren Bent last season which prompted Harry Redknapp to claim that his missus would’ve scored and crushing Bents confidence. Good thing we don’t have such a manager!) Only a minute or so later, Bendtner missed another chance, blasting over a half volley from a few yards out. It looked like Arsenal were to rue those missed chances when Eboue’s clearance was headed back into the box, through the partnership of Vermaelen and Silvestre who were wrong footed as they attempted to push out, and into the path of David Nugent who lobbed the ball over Almunia. Once chance for Nugent, one goal. The Emirates was stunned. However I can’t say I was too worried, as we had created so many opportunities and it was a matter of time before we got another.
Walcott still was proving to be Burnley’s tormentor, and he finally got his goal on the hour mark. Bendtner and Walcott switching roles as Nicklas became provider passing it to Theo, who cut inside and buried it with his left foot as he scored his second goal of the season. He celebrated by pointing to an imaginary watch. It was about time Arsenal had scored again? It was about time Walcott scored again? He got a new Rolex? The possibilities of interpretations are limitless.
Arsenal wanted to make sure they got the two goal cushion and Wenger put on the returning Arshavin for Rosicky to do so. But once again, Walcott was able to put it on a plate for Bendtner with a perfect cross, but he skewed the ball wide a few yards away from goal, when it looked like he would finally score. The supporters laughed in disbelief as Bendtner continued to chew his gum, looking bemused. This was just one of those days for the striker, who had a very similar game against Blackburn last season: the goal was just not coming. He however never hid, and continued to show for the ball and get in the right areas. He actually had quite a good game other than finishing. Some criticized his attitude after scoring, but shrugging the misses off was a good sign in my opinion rather than letting the misses really getting to him. Soon after he went on a run in and around the box before shooting high into Jensen’s hands. Credit to the supporters: they applauded him for his willingness to make up for his misses, and sang ‘Super Nicklas Bendtner’, rather than really getting on his back which might have been the case last season. He was warmly clapped off as he was substituted for Eduardo, which should do well for his confidence ahead of the game against Porto midweek. He laughed when he got to the bench looking quite embarrassed, let’s hope any resulting banter pushes him to score to Tuesday.
Eduardo himself missed from another dangerous Walcott cross, and Arshavin also missed a good chance which was saved by Jensen. The last ten minutes were a lot nervier then they should have been, with Burnley still in the game. Chris Eagles was allowed to dribble into the box but his cross was over hit. Substitute Thompson also shot over from a half volley resulting from a corner. Arsenal showed a sensibility that they didn’t have too much of last season by wasting time in the corner, and they actually got a goal in stoppage time because of it. Eduardo attracted players towards him in the corner, and then played the ball to Arshavin who ran into the box from the right and powered the ball low to Jensen’s left to finally kill the game off. A good result for Arsenal, although it was not as easy as many thought pre-match, mainly due to some wasteful finishing. Fabregas’ injury is a concern, but if it is short term, Nasri showed he was capable of fulfilling his role with an impressive display. If it long term, it looks like it a major, major, blow. A motivated Walcott was constantly dangerous, beating men, providing great crosses and scoring a goal, while looking like he is shaking off his injury plagued season. Thanks for criticizing him, Chris Waddle. Bendtner just had a bad day which hopefully he will be able to shake off as he is our main striker for the rest of the season. Overall, we should have gone top but a win will suit me any day. 9 more and we have a real chance.
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