Tuesday 17 September 2019

Ceballos stands out but familiar faces seal the deal

Arsenal 2-1 Burnley

David Luiz during the Premier League win over Burnley. Photo: Michael Regan
David Luiz during the Premier League win over Burnley. Photo: Michael Regan

Ed Aarons

In the end, two familiar faces settled this victory for Arsenal. But while the strike duo of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang secured a second victory of the season for Unai Emery's side, it was the performance of new boy Dani Ceballos that had the home supporters licking their lips at full-time.

The Real Madrid loanee received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Lucas Torreira with seven minutes to play after a brilliant display. Along with David Luiz, Ceballos was making his full debut.

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Arsenal's Dani Ceballos reacts. Photo: REUTERS/David Klein
Arsenal's Dani Ceballos reacts. Photo: REUTERS/David Klein

When Ashley Barnes equalised on the stroke of half-time, it was tempting to think Arsenal's old vulnerabilities at the back would undermine them, but a dominant second-half display, capped by Aubameyang's ninth goal in his last seven games, was the least they deserved.

There was no place in the squad for Mesut Özil, although Sead Kolasinac did make an appearance from the bench. With Granit Xhaka also ruled out through injury, Emery opted to pair teenager Joe Willock with Matteo Guendouzi, meaning that Arsenal's midfield pair boosted a total of 39 years.

David Luiz had already served warning of his threat from corners in the 10th minute before Lacazette's excellent finish two minutes later, after his header had been tipped over by Nick Pope. Showing superb strength to hold off the challenge of Erik Pieters, the Frenchman's shot seemed to take the goalkeeper by surprise and the ball squirmed through his legs.

Lacazette's return to the side saw Aubameyang shifted to the right flank, where his pace was a constant menace. But for all their flowing attacking play, which often began at the feet of Ceballos, there was always a sneaking suspicion they were vulnerable on the break. One corner midway through the first half was scrambled away to safety with the dangerous Barnes lurking, while David Luiz's new partnership with Sokratis Papastathopoulos looked rocky whenever Burnley delivered a ball into the box.

Ashley Barnes scores for Burnley. Photo: REUTERS/David Klein
Ashley Barnes scores for Burnley. Photo: REUTERS/David Klein

Two saves from Pope to deny Reiss Nelson and Guendouzi kept his side in the game and there was a sense of inevitability about Burnley's equaliser when it came two minutes before half-time. David Luiz was guilty of playing Barnes onside after Dwight McNeil's shot deflected into the path of the striker, who made no mistake from 12 yards out.

Arsenal thought they had restored their lead straight away, only for the assistant's flag to rule out Nelson's tap-in after Nacho Monreal was ruled offside. The England Under-21 forward could feel unlucky to be withdrawn at the break for the £72m signing, Nicolas Pépé, with Aubameyang switched to the left to accommodate the Ivorian.

Burnley were convincing winners over Southampton last week and could easily have found themselves ahead had Ashley Westwood hit the target with an unmarked header 15 minutes into the second half. By then, Aubameyang had twice come close to scoring at the other end, the second effort well saved by Pope after a lovely pass from Pépé.

The England goalkeeper then had to go full-stretch to tip a shot from Ceballos around the post. But he could do nothing about the next chance, which began with Ceballos pinching the ball from Johann Gudmundsson before Aubameyang did the rest from just outside the area.

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