Arsenal vs Burnley: Mesut Ozil rewards Unai Emery, Burnley fail to break record and new formation works

Arsenal 3-1 Burnley: Ozil captains the Gunners to victory as Aubameyang becomes league's leading scorer

Jack Watson@jackwatsonsport
Saturday 22 December 2018 15:28
Arsenal: A look back at 2018

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals helped Arsenal return to winning ways with a tense 3-1 victory against struggling Burnley.

Mesut Ozil, who was dropped in their last game for ‘tactical reasons’, returned as captain and wasted no time in asserting himself with a fine pass to begin the move for Aubameyang’s first goal.

The forward’s second strike after the break should have made the rest of the match a comfortable affair for the home side, but Ashley Barnes gave Burnley a lifeline with half an hour to play.

Arsenal held on through some anxious moments and Alex Iwobi sealed the three points with a late effort to take the Gunners closer to the top four.

Here are five things we learned from the Emirates

1. Emery twists the Ozil plot

Days after leaving him out of the 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat against Tottenham for ‘tactical reasons’, Unai Emery named Ozil as Arsenal’s captain against Burnley.

The club are open to transfer offers for the German playmaker given he does not fit into Emery’s pressing style of play, but believed he would give them enough to win against Burnley.

As well as being named captain, this was Ozil’s first start in over a month, and it took him just 15 minutes to create the first goal.

Burnley gave the playmaker too much space on the corner of the box to curl a pass that only he could see to Sead Kolasinac at the back post. The full-back worked the ball to Aubameyang and the in-form forward converted from close-range, all thanks to Ozil.

2. Burnley fail to expose Arsenal’s troubled defence

With Hector Bellerin, Shokdran Mustafi, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos all missing through injury, Arsenal started with a back four comprised of three full backs.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac were the few defenders fit enough to start and formed a make-shift defence that is certainly far from Emery’s first-choice.

Things took a turn for the worse when Monreal’s race was run after 35 minutes and he was forced off with Stephan Lichtsteiner taking his place.

This, then, was a chance for Burnley to end their poor record against Arsenal, but it was an opportunity they could not quite take. The visitors got one goal back through Barnes, but there was a lack of clinical finishing that meant they fell short of leaving with any points.

Aubameyang is the leading scorer in the league

3. Aubameyang is the league’s best

Mohamed Salah’s goal for Liverpool against Wolves took him above Aubameyang’s 10 league goals and put him in pole position for the Golden Boot, however, 18 hours later and the Arsenal forward has reclaimed the lead.

His first goal, a close-range finish, was followed with a more emphatic second after the break to double his tally and take him to 12 for the season.

After a steady start, a respectable 10 goals from 13 league games for Arsenal last season, Aubameyang has kicked on and is proving to be worth every bit of the £56m the club spent to sign him from Borussia Dortmund.

Ozil excelled at the tip of a diamond

4. Emery experiments with diamond

From the start it seemed that Arsenal lined up with a midfield diamond, Ozil the tip and Granit Xhaka holding, for the first time in Emery’s tenure.

It is seemingly the best way to cram Ozil, Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette into the same team, and against Burnley it brought success.

Kolasinac and Maitland-Niles were given the freedom to roam forward and attack wide areas to give Arsenal their width, which was influential in the first goal.

The apparent new system only lasted 35 minutes and Emery was forced into a change of style when Monreal was replaced by Lichsteiner forcing Arsenal to revert to a back three.

However, with a fit side Emery could be tempted to lead with a midfield diamond given the initial success Ozil operated with a free role as well as the problems that Aubameyang and Lacazette caused the opposition defence with their movement.

5. Sean Dyche fails to break unwanted Arsenal record

Ahead of this weekend Dyche had lost all of his seven previous matches against Arsenal, conceding 15 goals and scoring twice, and there was no let-up in his fortune on Saturday.

Another defeat leaves Burnley in a precarious position as they enter a hectic schedule of festive matches. They remain in the bottom three and what can be excused as poor early season form because of the Europa League qualifying in August is beginning to look like something Dyche should be concerned about.

Burnley now face a run of five games without meeting one of the top-six, Everton, West Ham, Huddersfield, Fulham and Watford, and these games are increasing in important with ever defeat.

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