… and the supporters feel the pain. There is no easy way to talk about the game as Arsenal were shocking at Turf Moor in what was our worst performance in the league so far. If we get outthought, out fought, and completely outplayed by a Burnley team with a midfield consisting of defenders like Bikey and Alexander, there needs to be a serious inquisition and consequences.
Cesc was the star of the initial minutes as he ran and harassed the Burnley defenders and nicked a goal. How easy it looked! Scoring an early goal was probably the worst start we could have had as our players just seem to need a reason to switch off.
Fabregas was the only one putting in an honest shift and picked up a hamstring injury for his efforts. So much for Catalonia! It is a price we have to pay for Wenger’s reluctance to rotate and back up his words of confidence in the squad with affirmative action! The extent of damage to Fabregas and to our title hopes will be known in the coming days, but we really cannot blame anyone bar ourselves for this one.
Burnley won the tactical battle by forcing us to play the ball in the air. They closed down space for our short passes and we were too slow to move it around on the ground. We have been hoofing the ball upfield quite often in the recent games and it’s a dangerous trend. We hardly ever win it in the air and it tends to come back within seconds. This seems to strike panic in our ranks and a vicious cycle begins.
Once again we were clueless in the face of relentless endeavor and tactically naïve to the point of being school boyish. By the end of the game no one really knew what they were trying to do. There was, of course, a lot of shapeless running with players bumping into each other more often than creating spaces and opportunities. More significantly, there wasn’t even a five minute spell of sustained pressure from a team that has pretentions of being champions.
A couple of chips behind the defence and half chances that didn’t work the keeper cannot be given any significance. In the end, we were lucky to come away with a point. Burnley created far more with their limited resources and deserved a win on the balance of play.
I don’t think there is much to say about the team selection. We should have won this game with any starting line up. At the end, given our effort levels, we would have faltered with any starting eleven. Similarly, there is no point in singling out individuals. Pretty much everyone was below par.
Individual Performances (or lack thereof)
Almunia: Looked shaky once again, made a decent save, was at fault for the disallowed goal (once again the officials bail us out!), does not inspire confidence.
Sagna: Wasn’t at his best but didn’t make any major errors either. Had an average game.
Gallas: Did work hard in defence but nothing extraordinary for a center back. Tried to go forward and deserves points for that effort.
Vermaelen: Made a bad error of judgment on the lunge that lead to the penalty. Handled the pressure as he usually does and cannot be faulted for effort.
Silvestre: Burnley got in behind on the left on multiple occasions. I am not sure if it makes sense to criticize the old man as this wasn’t really unexpected. We should have been tactically aware of this possibility and provided extra cover.
Cesc: Was looking great during the time he was on the pitch.
Song: Another Song like performance but lost composure in the last half hour. Wasn’t sure what his role was.
Diaby: Ever heard of a man given a free role in defense? I think Diaby has created quite a niche for himself. Turned up when he felt like and vanished when the mood struck. Should have made runs into the box at least towards the end. Return from injury cannot be an excuse.
Ramsey: Carried on where Cesc left in terms of effort. Does not have the experience or the passing range of the Captain. Difficult to find faults with a youngster when the senior pros do not perform.
Walcott: Was missing for most parts of the game. We haven’t learnt or, rather, have forgotten how to use his strengths to our advantage. With Burnley pressing so high up in our half, one would have thought pace would be our biggest weapon. Did not get behind their defense even once.
Nasri: looked jaded and lost. Can do much better. Didn’t make any runs into the box or the final third as we normally expect from the wide attacking players.
Arshavin: Was his usual self. Didn’t get the end product this time around. He can create moments of magic and at times lose possession in important areas. That is his game and we have to build around it.
Eduardo: Poor decision to send him on the pitch after an hour. He hasn’t played for a while and would have been better off starting or not coming on at all. If he had started he would have had some time to adapt to the pace of the game. Coming on under pressure just made life more difficult for him.
Vela: We weren’t winning but the boss didn’t bring on the young Mexican striker even in the final few minutes. Why didn’t he come in ahead of Eduardo, especially given the fact that he has played a few games recently and is in better touch than the Crozilian? Does it show a lack of confidence in Vela?
I guess you can see this is an article based more on feelings than rational analysis. I will probably look at this one in detail next week when there is no midweek fixture. Right now I am just drawn towards sadness and frustration.