Burnley vs. Arsenal: Gunners overcome off day with last-minute goal

The Gunners performed poorly on Sunday but they managed to beat Burnley 1-0 with an scrappy goal from Koscielny in the last seconds of the game. They earned a fifth straight victory in the Premier League and a fourth straight clean sheet in all competitions to stay third, two points behind Manchester City and one behind Tottenham.

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Photo credit: http://www.arsenal.com

Arsenal lost their shooting boots at the Turf Moor stadium with a shooting accuracy of 27.3% compared to 50% when they routed Chelsea. At the exception of the League Cup match against Nottingham Forest, the manager has started pretty much the same players in the past few weeks. You could feel the fatigue resulting from the lack of rotation through the slow tempo and some shocking efforts off target. Iwobi sent a goal attempt into touch in the 53rd minute while Ozil fired into the stands in the 64th. The Gunners could not even test Heaton in the first half as they struggled to create chances.

Sunday’s game also showed the current lack of striking options. Welbeck won’t return before next year, Giroud is still nursing a foot injury and Perez was not even on the bench because of a knee problem. In fact, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Reine-Adelaide were the only offensive players available on the bench.

The victories over Chelsea and Basel showed the advantage of playing Sanchez in the false nine role. By dropping back, the Chile striker creates space for the other attacking players to run into. However, the win over Burnley exposed the drawback of playing a diminutive striker up front. The Gunners were unable to win headers when Cech kicked long balls to evade Burnley’s high press. Manchester City faced a similar problem against Tottenham with Aguero and Sterling unable to compete in the air with Alderweireld and Vertonghen.

Sanchez’s 8 key passes

Obviously, Giroud would have been a better option than Sanchez to head the ball. When the Clarets were under siege, Arsenal could have tested Mee and Keane with high crosses if Giroud had been fit. The Frenchman is also a more physical forward than Sanchez and can hold off a defender while hitting the target. The typical Giroud goal that Sanchez wouldn’t be able to score: the near-post flick. Basically, we still miss the complete centerforward that Wenger had in the past with Henry and Van Persie.

Although Sanchez made a couple of poor passes in the final third, I still thought he was Arsenal’s most potent threat on Sunday. He finished the match with 8 key passes and 6 successful dribbles according to whoscored.com. Sanchez took a pass from Bellerin in the 49th for a close-range effort that Heaton saved. And when the Burnley defense poorly cleared a Cazorla cross in the 73rd, Sanchez pounced on the second ball but missed the target with a 12-yard volley.

Sanchez and Walcott displayed their good understanding against Basel and tried to repeat the trick against Burnley with Sanchez setting up Walcott four times. However, Walcott had a bad day as none of his five goal attempts was on target. His best effort was a curling shot wide of the far post in the 85th.

When a handball is legal

Pushing for the winner, Wenger sent on Elneny and the Ox for Xhaka and Iwobi in the 71st. There was no tactical change, just fresh legs. In the last minute of stoppage time, the Ox had a shot deflected out for a corner. Sanchez and Walcott couldn’t find the net but they still played a role in the goal. With a few seconds left, Ozil played a short corner by slipping the ball to Sanchez, who made a cross for Walcott. The England international redirected it toward the far post where the Ox volleyed the ball into Koscielny’s arm. The shot took a big deflection to beat Heaton.

Dyche claimed after the match that the goal should have been disallowed because of Koscielny’s handball. I can completely understand why the referee let the goal stand. Koscielny’s handball was unintentional. He was trying to protect his face and even looked away when the Ox volleyed the ball. For the same reason, referees no longer award penalties when a shot hits a defender’s arm from a very short distance if the arm is not outstretched. But I can understand Dyche’s anger too because the Ox’s volley seemed off target. In the end, the Gunners took advantage of a gray zone in the laws of the game.

Ozil and Iwobi were among the players who underperformed. Ozil won only 20% of his duels and made just 1 key pass. The Germany playmaker also had 7 turnovers, the most for any player according to whoscored.com. While he led the league in assists last season, Ozil still hasn’t made any assist this term.

Keeping an eye on injuries

Iwobi wasted chances in the 21st and 53rd by making poor decisions in the final third. Defensively, he’s still a bit naive. Iwobi failed to close down Lowton, whose cross was headed wide by Vokes in the 38th. Three minutes later, Iwobi dallied on the ball and lost possession. The Nigeria international also failed to track Lowton in the 48th, but Vokes poorly connected with the cross and miskicked his volley.

Most of Burnley’s chances came from crosses. Gudmundsson outjumped Monreal in the 60th to meet a cross from Ward, but Cech turned the Iceland international’s header around the post. The hosts nearly opened the scoring in the 75th when Keane outjumped Mustafi to head a corner onto the bar. Mustafi had a rough start, giving away free kicks for fouls on Vokes. But the Germany international grew into the game and won 6 tackles, the most for any player according to whoscored.com.

The Gunners tend to struggle with injuries by October. The situation is not that bad this season. Mertesacker and Welbeck have long-term injuries but Paulista and Holding can deputize at centerback while Giroud and Perez can lead the line. Among the short-term injuries, Ramsey, Coquelin, Giroud and Perez should be fit again after the international break. Injuries to Ramsey and Coquelin have prevented the manager from rotating in midfield. Their return should help rest Ozil and Cazorla and make up for inconsistent performances from Iwobi.

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