This was a game where we could have broken all scoring records. It was also a game where we could have ended up with a disappointing draw. That’s an incredible amount of drama for a ninety minute show!
I think this was a strange sort of a game, and if it had been a person, this would have had multiple personality disorder.
Our start was cautious but aggressive. I think we showed Burnley a lot of respect and our midfield stayed somewhat deep. This meant that the visitors got a chance to play in the middle third and left a lot of gap in behind their defence.
In my match reviews, I’ve often wondered why we don’t use this space to get in behind when the opposition tries pressing us in our own half. We finally saw how effective this strategy can be and Walcott and Bendtner made some good runs behind the Burnley defence. Even though we didn’t score from those early bursts, this tactic will help us in future games.
In the first half hour or so, I felt we weren’t getting enough men forward and into the box. Walcott got behind often but just didn’t have targets in the box as Bendtner was alone with three or four defenders. Once we realized Burnley didn’t have any real attacking threat our midfield pushed forward a little more and the half chances started turning into gilt edged ones.
The first goal was a work of genius. We moved the ball beautifully and with patience in the final third. Ultimately, Cesc made a penetrating run through the middle and Nasri’s ball will be a big contender for the assist of the season. Cesc made the finish look ridiculously easy.
When Cesc had to leave the pitch with an injury, it was the second time in consecutive games that I had a discomforting sense of Deja Vu. We had a similar situation in the reverse fixture and even though we were dominating this game, the scoreboard didn’t reflect it.
After the goal we continued pushing forward and we could have scored another four or five. Unfortunately, Bendtner was having one of those days. When a team knows that it should have been dead and buried but instead is just one goal down, it tends to give them some belief that this could be their day.
In the second half the visitors came out with that belief. Burnley started pushing forward with some purpose as they couldn’t have done much worse defensively anyway. The relegation battlers didn’t have enough quality in the final third and were not really troubling us in spite of their endeavour.
The customary gifted goal arrived when least expected. Eboue hacked a ball clear from our box and it bounced harmlessly, just short of the centre circle. Bendtner should have challenged for that one but he seemed to wait for it to bounce, thereby allowing a Burnley defender to attack it. His header went straight through our defence and no one seemed to pick Nugent’s run. Almunia didn’t stand a chance. I was left wondering what our central defenders and defensive mid-fielders were doing!
The team deserves some credit for keeping the spirits high. Given the number of chances we were creating one was certain to go in. After a while, I guess, Theo was tired of setting Bendtner up and decided to take the task upon himself.
He had a couple of good attempts before finally putting one past Jensen. Collecting the ball out wide the youngster cut in across the defenders and placed it in the far corner. No football brain, eh!
It was a brilliant finish, Walcott is a natural and clinical finisher when he is in the zone. I feel our wide players should score these type of goals more often. Arshavin, Rosicky, Nasri and Walcott are all quite capable of doing it.
After the second goal we lost our momentum. Once Rosicky was withdrawn, Arshavin took some time to gel in. Diaby too was struggling to gel with the pace and flow of the game. Neither of the substitutes was poor but our movement just wasn’t as good as it was before they came on.
Then at some stage, we completely lost our game and Burnley started getting back into the game. I could see the negative headlines as there was an element of panic about our game. I could also see that the visitors didn’t pose a serious threat except for set pieces. Almunia had a couple of shaky moments as he wasn’t helped by the defenders.
In the final ten minutes we got our act together and started keeping the ball better. While we didn’t create too many chances, Burnley were pushed back into their half once again. The third goal came out of nothing. Nasri, Walcott and Arshavin were trying to keep the ball from a corner but it broke nicely for the Russian. His finish was sublime. The real quality of that strike can be seen from the angle behind the goal.
Three points and focus on the positives is what we needed. Mission accomplished.
Almunia: Had a good game except a couple of moments. Those problems are collective in nature so I wouldn’t really blame him.
Eboue: Another good game. Tends to make mistakes but the smaller teams can’t capitalize on them.
Vermaelen: Effective, but partially at fault for the Nugent goal.
Silvestre: Decent game. Should have covered Nugent’s run.
Clichy: Efficient defensively. Didn’t have much to do in attack.
Denilson: Kept it simple. Didn’t make any blunders. Good enough.
Cesc: I think he was really having fun in this game. Walcott and Bendtner gave him enough chances to play his trademark long passes. Nasri and Rosicky were there for the quick short passing.
Nasri: Another brilliant performance. I think he has been getting better and better over the last few games. Really enjoyed the central role. He uses his body really well and being stuck on the wing it limits his talents.
Walcott: Easily the man of the match. Some of his crosses were unbelievable. We should not get carried away as Burnley were really poor. If he can do even half as much on a consistent basis, England will rediscover a star.
Bendtner: Had a really bad day. I don’t want to criticize him too much but these are the kind of games where he should establish himself as a big player.
Rosicky: Moved around effortlessly and interchanged positions with Cesc and Nasri at will. I do feel he is a little casual at times. I’ve not seen him finish too many games, wonder if his fitness levels have been affected.
Subs: Good to have Diaby back. Arshavin missed a few and scored a peach. Eduardo looked out of touch.