We knew what to expect from Burnley. It was always going to be tough, it was always going to be a bit scrappy. Here’s the thing though, this team can win tough, scrappy games. We have robust players like Coquelin, (how good was he yesterday), Alexis and Giroud. Even Özil has more bulk to him. We have the quality that counts in scrappy games. I think the difference in the last year or so from previously is that we used to draw this type of game away from home too often. We’ve been more ruthless, and it bodes well for next season.
Burnley were set up to harass us all over the pitch, just like they did to spurs last week and City two week before that.
For me there were just a couple of differences between the games, (aside from the scoreline).
Belief – Against City they believed that could get a win, and more importantly City thought Burnley could too.
Against spurs they believed they could get a result. Spurs clearly didn’t think they could come away from Turf Moor with a win.
Against us they obviously wanted to get a draw, but I didn’t get the feeling that they truly believed they would. Our boys on the other hand were there for all three points.
The other difference was the quality going forward. Our front five are all capable of scoring. Giroud, Alexis, Özil, Rambo or Santi will all get you a goal. If you look at spurs, only Kane looks like he’ll get a goal at the moment. City can only bank on Aguero or Toure to score at the moment, (barely).
This is important because when the chance comes, whichever player is on the end of it needs to take it.
Burnley make it hard to visiting teams at Turf Moor and as they showed against us, City and spurs, you don’t get many chances. We took ours because we had the quality, City and spurs didn’t.
All of the above is relevant to the future, not just the result against Burnley. We have a very effective front five, and a very effective back five. In other words, we have a good balance.
I know people will say that we attack with the full backs and defend with the wingers, and that it’s not just about five attackers and five defenders. This is true of course, but my point is that for the first time in years we have a 50-50 split between genuine attackers and genuine defenders. One of our biggest problems in recent years was an imbalance where we had too many forward minded players.
Gibbs would be in the opposition half too much. Wilshere or Arteta would be too concerned with what was going on in front of them rather than behind. It all lead to weak defensive displays that cost us points. Now we have the right balance, and our recent form shows just how important that balance has been.
(It’s worth noting that we did a lot of attacking in fives yesterday. Below are a couple of examples, including the build-up to the goal).
I found Wengers tactics very interesting yesterday. He’s become so unpredictable recently it’s hard to figure out what he’s up to. Against Liverpool we played a high line (despite the obvious dangers of Sterling/Sturridge exposing Mertesacker in a one on one situation). I really thought he’d do the same to Burnley, and press them high to force errors, but he opted to allow a more open game, knowing that they would simply end up defending deep and in numbers if we forced the issue. Giving them a bit of space allowed them to come out a bit, which ultimately cost them. In the build-up to the goal, when Coquelin won the ball and strode out of the centre circle he only had four Burnley outfield players in front of him. There were five Arsenal players in front of him.
A lot of people have been saying that Eden Hazard will get player of the year instead of Alexis. I may be biased in my opinion, but I think Alexis has been better than Hazard all season. They play in a similar position so people tend to compare them, but for me there is no comparison. If I had to choose one I’d take Alexis every time.
Giroud has been reminding me of Drogba at his best recently. His power, his finishing. His ability to hold the ball up. I think he’s our most improved player this year and if he keeps his form up and carries it on next season people, (including myself) will have to re-evaluate whether he is world class or not.
This team to the Invincibles
At the moment this particular comparison is interesting but wide of the mark. If we win the FA Cup we’ll certainly be able to say that it’s our best team since the Invincibles, but for me only a league win or champions league win will allow us to truly compare the two.
We take on Reading in the FA Cup next at Wembley. They will be up for the occasion and this is their biggest game for a very long time. Their standard will not reflect their league position in the Championship. We’re in for a tough game and we’ll have to work very hard to progress to the final.
Reading don’t score too many goals. In the league they’ve scored something like 44 goals from 41 games, but if they nick one next week they’ll sit back on it and defend for their lives.
In an ideal world we’ll demonstrate why we’re second in the Premier League and they’re eighteenth in the Championship and destroy them. Then smashing Aston Villa in the final. That would be nice.