Wednesday 17 January 2018

Clarets outgunned as in-form Arsenal carry on winning run


Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey celebrates with Hector Bellerin after scoring the winning goal against Burnley
Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey celebrates with Hector Bellerin after scoring the winning goal against Burnley
Burnley midfielder Scott Arfield vies with Arsenal's Olivier Giroud
Arsenal midfielder Mezut Ozil is chased by Burnley's Scott Arfield


A first-half goal from Aaron Ramsey was enough to continue Arsenal's winning run and cut Chelsea's lead to four points, at least until this afternoon, leaving Burnley hoping to pick up points from more amenable opponents in their bid for Premier League survival.

Defeats for Sunderland and Hull before the game kicked off had given Burnley the chance to make a giant leap with a win.

Due to Sunderland, in particular, throwing away their goal-difference advantage, three points for the Clarets here would have helped Sean Dyche's side escape the bottom three altogether and reach the dizzy heights of 16th, which would have represented their best position this season.

The only snag was that beating Arsenal has become rather difficult of late. Tottenham were the last side to do it in the league and since that defeat in February the Gunners had posted an impressive seven consecutive wins.

Burnley's challenge was to somehow interrupt that sequence - a draw would not have propelled them so far up the table but it would have been a more than acceptable result - but on Grand National day there was never much chance of an upset. By the end of the evening Arsenal were still the form team of the Premier League and Burnley were still in trouble.

Sam Vokes had an early chance snuffed out by David Ospina from David Jones' alert through-ball, though Burnley did not make the best of starts. From the outset Arsenal kept them pushed back in their own half, moving the ball slickly around the edge of the penalty area, and the amount of time and space Alexis Sanchez was finding was ominous.

Jason Shackell increased the pressure on his own defence after 11 minutes with an attempted clearance that found an Arsenal player, and though Tom Heaton was able to beat away Sanchez's shot-cum-cross from the left yellow shirts were queuing up for the loose ball on the six-yard line.

Mesut Ozil had the first try but could not find a way through to goal before Ramsey collected the rebound and found the net.

Burnley could not gain sufficient control of the midfield to play the game further up the pitch, though Kieran Trippier did demand a splendid diving save from Ospina with a well-struck free-kick from 20 yards.

It was clear home chances from open play would be rare and Ashley Barnes was unlucky on the half hour to find the ball sticking under his feet after neat work by Danny Ings to beat Hector Bellerin on the left had created half an opening.

Arsenal can strike from set pieces themselves and Santi Cazorla was not far away with a curling effort when Sanchez won a free-kick on the edge of the area. The visitors were actually winning too many free-kicks around the area for the home fans' liking and when Olivier Giroud went to ground twice in quick succession the crowd registered displeasure with Arsenal's gamesmanship and Mike Dean's refereeing.

Sanchez joined in on the stroke of the interval, going down far too easily on the left touchline and provoking the Burnley fans once again so that the half ended with boos and cries of "cheats".

The home supporters had a point, Arsenal were pushing it a little, though they were also stroking the ball around with effortless grace and completely subduing their opponents within the rules. Arsenal had not created many chances but they were content simply to keep possession after taking the lead, fairly confident that the home side would not mount any sustained attacks while being penned back in their own half.

Barnes brought a routine save from Ospina early in the second half, after Shackell had headed down from a corner, before Sanchez brought a smarter one from Heaton with a low shot from the edge of the area that threatened to curl inside the goalkeeper's right hand upright.

The second half was not proving quite as one-sided as the first, however. Though Koscielny blocked a couple of hopeful efforts from Sam Vokes and Ings without too much difficulty Burnley were getting closer to the Arsenal goal, taking up the sort of positions from where a defensive mistake or a moment of inspiration might have led to an equaliser.

Ings almost supplied the inspiration in the 65th minute with a determined run past a couple of defenders in the penalty area, only to find he could not shake off Nacho Monreal.

When Ben Mee beat Bellerin all ends up on the right to steal into the area and cross, George Boyd failed to apply his usual reliable touch. Ings then attempted an overhead kick from close to the penalty spot; he kept his shot on target but could not summon the power to trouble Ospina. Arsenal were concerned enough to send on Danny Welbeck for the labouring Giroud, along with Ozil an almost negligible threat since the interval. While the visitors could not score another goal, they did raise their game sufficiently to push Burnley back again and there were even a couple of half-chances for Welbeck and Cazorla in the closing stages.

Not Arsenal at their classiest, indeed by their standards they were quite wasteful of possession, but classy enough to see off the Clarets.


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