Mikel Arteta remains confident his Arsenal side are on the right track despite Saturday’s frustrating 1-1 draw at Burnley dealing another blow to their European push.
The Gunners remain unable to lift themselves out of mid-table as results remain inconsistent, every good moment seemingly followed by a backward step that puts the top six further out of reach.
The first half at Turf Moor was the perfect illustration – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s sixth-minute opener was followed by a string of chances as the Gunners picked up where they left off against Leicester last week – but instead of putting Burnley away, Arsenal shot themselves in the foot.
Granit Xhaka was the culprit, taking a short pass from Bernd Leno and then bizarrely firing the ball against Chris Wood and into the net, a goal gift-wrapped for the Burnley forward.
Xhaka was sent off when Arsenal lost to Burnley in December, while 13 months ago the sides shared a point in a goalless draw at Turf Moor on their way to an eighth-place finish, but Arteta insisted progress had been made since then.
“It is getting tough but some things take time,” he said. “If you compare it to the game last year, it is a different world. We completely deserved to win the game, where a year ago we deserved to lose.
“The result is the same but a lot of things are very different and now we are very disappointed we did not win the game.”
It is true Arsenal finished on top, with Dani Ceballos striking the post in stoppage time after Arteta was left incensed that his side did not get a penalty for a ball that struck Erik Pieters on the arm at close range.
But the late push came after a long spell in which Burnley enjoyed the better of the second half, with Arsenal unable to rediscover their swagger after that bizarre equaliser.
Asked if his side had been feeling sorry for themselves, Arteta said: “It can happen to the individual, the player that made (the mistake) but it cannot happen to the team.
“In the second half (Burnley) were really direct and stretched the structure so much it becomes an open game. We didn’t have any composure on the ball or understanding and it becomes difficult to play.
“That is when you lose the belief that we could win. The reaction in the last 15 minutes was the answer but it wasn’t enough to win the game.”
One bright spot on the afternoon was the performance of Calum Chambers, who made his first Premier League start since December 2019 following a serious knee injury.
“I am extremely happy with him,” Arteta said. “He deserved completely his chance to start the game with the recovery he has done and the preparation to get to the level he’s at.
“This was a really good game for him. I think he had a really good performance.”