Arsenal left frustrated by bottom side Burnley in Emirates stalemate

Arsenal 0-0 Burnley: Sean Dyche’s Clarets boosted their hopes of survival with a goalless draw at the Emirates

Vithushan Ehantharajah
Emirates Stadium
Sunday 23 January 2022 17:50
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<p>Arsenal defenders Rob Holding, Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes bemoan another chance that goes begging </p>

Arsenal defenders Rob Holding, Ben White and Gabriel Magalhaes bemoan another chance that goes begging

As stale as a stalemate can get. As dead as a deadlock can be.

What conclusions to be garnered from this 0-0 draw between Arsenal and Burnley don’t exactly move the conversation along too much, given the poor result for the former and better result for the latter. Arsenal could still get into the top four. Burnley could still get relegated.

This felt like a game that did not need to happen – always a possibility, given how little these two have played over the last month. That being said, it was one Burnley will be grateful for, if only to ensure their run of consecutive defeats did not extend to three stretched out over the last 43 days. Arsenal had 76 per cent of the ball, and they were given most of that. They should have done more with it, but certainly should have converted one of their five shots on target. Alexandre Lacazette would furnish the most glaring miss, but not one of Arsenal’s players will leave with any satisfaction in their own performance.

Burnley’s victory in this corresponding fixture at the Emirates last season was a snapshot of ghosts past. Chris Wood led the line in an encounter Arsenal should have won, had it not been for Granit Xhaka’s red card and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s own goal. With all three protagonists absent this time around, it was no surprise the game had a wildly different feel.

This is no longer a Burnley to fear, bottom of the league with games in hand that feel like magic beans. Xhaka’s suspension and Aubameyang recovering from illness were hardly disguised blessings. But certainly the away side felt more like their old selves: defending valiantly, pushing the limits where they could and emerging with a valuable point for their survival hopes.

Martin Odegaard reacts following the goalless draw with Burnley

For Arsenal, a relatively depleted squad was more evident on the bench with five of the nine substitutes having no Premier League experience. On paper at least, they had enough in the starting XI to get the job done, even with Ben White having to deputise at right-back. And however stretched for personnel, they looked vaguer in ideas to unlock suitably robust opponents. Mikel Arteta’s side head into the two-week break without registering a win in 2022, out of both cup competitions and now giving up more ground in the race for the top four. Three points here would have seen them move into fourth.

The first half was not too dissimilar to an instalment of Prime Minister’s Questions. Both sides had their opportunity to piss and moan at the other without either coming up with anything worthwhile, whether solution or entertainment. And by the end, you understood why both these teams have rightly and wrongly limited themselves to just two Premier League games in 2022.

Arsenal were the most engaging, allowed as much of the ball as they pleased by Sean Dyche who had two banks of four in front of goalkeeper Nick Pope, with forwards Jay Rodriguez and Matej Vydra, with one goal between them, holding the line rather than leading it. That being said, Burnley threatened first, with Dwight McNeil’s deflected cross requiring a save from Aaron Ramsdale at his near post.

Matej Vydra (left) and Rob Holding battle for the ball

What was clear was Arsenal’s best efforts came from simply raising the tempo. First on 17 minutes when Lacazette’s give-and-go with Sambi Lokonga allowed the former to break from the No 10 position, beat two defenders then strike wide of the near post. He then had a second crack at breaking the deadlock after Pope saved Martin Odegaard’s strike with his right foot – Arsenal’s first shot on target.

Another effort off a counter-attack, this time Bukayo Saka firing wide from the right, led us into the break. But the overriding feeling during it was a sense Burnley were lucky to still have 11 on the field. Ashley Westwood fouled Kieran Tierney with a late challenge that on replay looked far more of a stamp than at first glance. VAR did not take a second look and Westwood was given a caution, though he could have picked up a second yellow when he caught Gabriel Magalhaes with a raised arm in the middle of the pitch. Had the Brazilian sold it a little better, the visitors might have been in more trouble.

Nevertheless, they emerged with a full complement of players even more focused on holding firm. By about an hour, its had become one-way traffic: red wave after red wave alternating from either flank.

Odergaard had a set piece sail just over the bar after Saka had jinked infield and won a free kick on the edge of the box. The Norway international then pinged a corner to the edge of the penalty area for Emile Smith Rowe to draw a smart save from Pope, albeit having duffed contact on the effort. Then came the best chance of game at the time: Smith Rowe busting a gut down the left and squaring for Lacazette, whose outside of the foot finish went beyond the far post with the goal at his mercy.

Bukayo Saka is fouled by Aaron Lennon

All that, by the way, came in the space of eight minutes that hit the Emirates and all inside it like a triple espresso. The moans had given way to encouraging roars, reflected on the field by a speed of movement threatening to leave Burnley behind. Even the managers got caught up in the fervour, as Arteta’s protestations of time wasting were dismissed theatrically by Dyche, who was already having his own back and forth with the home fans in the stands behind his dugout.

That was to be the last of the unwavering encouragement for those in red, as Burnley fans began shouting their team towards that final whistle. Sloppiness polluted Arsenal’s build-up from deep, with the odd unnecessary throw-in and corner conceded. In among those, Gabriel put a free header straight at Pope.

Before the boos greeted the full-time whistle, there were a brace of Burnley counters, both led by the relentless McNeil. Both were missed by the winger: a shot over the bar then a tired drag wide of the far post. Either going in would have been the most hellacious smash and grab and certainly more than Burnley deserved. Nevertheless, they leave London with a sense of pride that can give them hope over the next fortnight.

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