Arsenal crumble in loss to Burnley; Xhaka earns foolish red card
Arsenal - Burnley saw Mikel Arteta’s Gunners reach a(nother) new low as they once again finished with 10 men and were beaten 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored the game’s only goal — on the wrong end of the field — as Arsenal slumped to yet another pathetic performance and result. Fortunately for the Gunners, 16th-place Brighton were beaten badly by Leicester City on Sunday, allowing Arsenal to hold onto 15th in the Premier League table for a few more days.
On the other side, Burnley will finish the weekend outside the relegation zone after picking up their second win of the season.
3 things we learned: Arsenal - Burnley
1. Cross, cross, cross: Arteta has insisted in recent weeks that attempting more crosses would be a good thing for Arsenal, as if Olivier Giroud is still bouncing around the penalty area in a red and white shirt. Not only does the idea of crossing the ball upward of 30 and 40 times per game not suit Arsenal’s current forward options, but it also lacks imagination and smacks of desperation. Please, Mikel, we’re begging you — shelve the “cross and pray” approach as a last-resort approach; not the first, second and third points in your team talk.
2. Midfield to blame for the crosses: Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny are highly capable midfielder destroyers who’ll consistently break up opposition play and win the ball back. Here’s what they won’t do, with any success, ever: progress the ball and create advantageous attacking situations. Perhaps — with extreme emphasis on perhaps — with a classic no. 10 player in front of them, it could work. Perhaps that player is, and should be, Mesut Ozil. But, based on Sunday’s 90 minutes of evidence, Xhaka, Elneny and Alexandre Lacazette do not, and likely will never, work as a midfield-three. Lacazette is fine to drop in occasionally as the no. 9, but he’ll never link play well enough to work as a no. 10.
3. Not entirely clear if Arsenal players care: One could make a (rather strong) case that the Arsenal players are (already) no longer playing for Arteta. At the very least, they’re an undisciplined bunch that Arteta has been unable to reach and inspire. Nicolas Pepe’s recent red card was a worrying sign given its general absurdity, and Xhaka followed up with an even more foolish act deserving of a full ostracism from the squad.
The game’s first golden scoring chance fell to Burnley’s Chris Wood, and he made an absolute mess of it in the 14th minute. Robbie Brady’s cross came in from the right side and found Wood’s head, completely unmarked, just eight yards out. Somehow, against all logic, Wood put his effort wide of the post and let Arsenal off the hook for more lackadaisical defending.
Arsenal’s first genuine chance came in the 28th minute, when Lacazette latched onto Kieran Tierney’s cut-back ball. Lacazette struck the ball well, but hit it straight at Nick Pope who made the save rather comfortably in the end.
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Things went from bad, in a boring sense, to worse, in a painfully foolish way, when Xhaka was sent off for grabbing the throat of Dwight McNeil in the 58th minute.
Elneny could have very well been sent off for a violent shove in the 72nd minute, but the Egyptian only saw yellow. The final blow to Arsenal came immediately thereafter as Aubameyang headed the ball into his own net from the ensuing corner kick, handing Burnley a goal (and victory) they had done very little to earn.