The Bash Street Kids of Burnley arrived at the Emirates ready to smash the Arsenal but, for once, the Gooners were made of sterner stuff.
Part of the reason for that may have been the addition of David Luis to the starting eleven, which was a slight surprise given the impression made by Chambers at Newcastle. What a difference the Brazilian made! Elegance personified, Arsenal’s new number 23 was stroking the ball from the back and, in a way alarmingly, even across the six-yard box with aplomb. Luis is a talker and not easy to rough up, which as just as well as he was facing an opponent of Orc-like proportions in Ashley Barnes.
Unfortunately, despite the 2-1 victory, there was no clean sheet to celebrate. Leno looked decidedly dodgy under pressure from the rugby-cum-football team from the north-west. How those mud wrestlers didn’t get more yellow cards is a question that only referee Mike Dean can answer, but Leno needs to try to command his area better. Of course, it’s not easy when ten or eleven two-ton Teds from Turf Moor are bearing down on you but Leno need to improve that aspect of his game. Despite that, his shot-stopping was excellent and he was not at fault for Burnley’s goal.
Given that football is a team game, it’s a bit mean to single out individuals who were at fault, but Ceballos could have pressured O’Neil more than he did, rather than allowing to cross for Barnes to side-foot home from close range.
Nevertheless, Ceballos had an excellent game from an offensive point of view and was the provider of both of Arsenal’s goals. The Spaniard’s tasty footwork was a delight to watch, although I sense he will end up flattering to deceive like Alex Hleb did in during a less successful Wenger era.
Arsenal fans have become used to seeing players with the ball glued to their feet like Harry Enfield’s Charlie Charlie-Charles character. The bottom line, though, is attractive football is no guarantee of good-looking results, although no one would complain about the entertainment value offered by Ceballos, Luis and substitute Pepe, all of whom offered glimpses of magic that Burnley could only gawk at.
Overall, the Arsenal display was reasonably impressive, with Sublime-Ridiculous being possibly the best performer of the youngsters. Although Willock finished the game, I don’t think he’s been at his best so far this season, while Nelson scored a superb goal that was disallowed thanks to VAR technology, but did little else of note.
Up front, Aubameyang continues to be a handful for defences and, once again, Arsenal had to rely on him to provide the winning goal.
His strike partner, Lacazette, got off the mark for the season, with a slightly fortuitous goal, which he deserved for the skill that preceded the strike.
Once Pepe gets up to speed, Arsenal could be unstoppable going forward, so the only worry is the defence.
Personally, I wonder when Unai Emery will realise that playing from the back doesn’t work if it involves taking a short goal kick. Burnley worked that tactic out and Arsenal were lucky not to concede, as the Turf Moorians, or should I say Moorlocks, pressed the Gunners extremely high up the pitch.
If Leno can’t kick the ball long accurately then let David Luis take the goal kicks. The fact is nearly every deadball taken from that position resulted in a Burnley attack. Surely, in this age of technology and statistics, one of the backroom staff will tell Emery to stop instructing the team to play out from the back.
On the one occasion when Leno pumped the ball long, possession was also lost. However, at least it was well over the halfway line and less threatening to Arsenal’s goal.
Nevertheless, on this showing, perhaps Arsenal can make a game of it at Anfield versus Liverpool. I’d have a lot more confidence, though, if they’d stop these ridiculous goal kicks.
Leno 7: panicked at times, but showed off his good reflexes.
Maitland-Niles 7: solid by his standards.
Sokratis 7: quietly effective.
Luis 8: assured debut.
Monreal 8: caused a lot of problems for Burnley on the overlap and defended well.
Guendouzi 7: always involved.
Willock 6: effective at times.
Ceballos 8: set up two goals, but defensively weak.
Nelson 5: ran hard, but didn’t produce much except a disallowed goal.
Aubameyang 8: a constant thorn in Burnley’s side.
Lacazette 7: a good shift from a player returning from injury.
Pepe 7: looks an amazing acquisition.
Kolasinac 5: didn’t have much of an impact.
Torreira 6: went close to scoring near the end, but didn’t have time to accomplish much else.