Arsene Wenger’s official 20th anniversary as the manager of Arsenal Football Club saw his North London side travel to Burnley in a pivotal match that was contested between the two. With Manchester City losing their fixture to Tottenham whilst Burnley continue to earn their spot in the league next season, both teams were more than hungry to bring the victory home to assist their goal. After what a majority would argue as a tedious fixture between the two, the Gunners were lucky enough to steal the three points in the dying seconds of the game as a controversial goal by Laurent Koscielny was scored.
Here are four things we learned from the fixture…
1) Burnley could have an impact on this years race for the title.
Before I properly get into talking about Arsenal, it’s hard not to respect the fantastic performance of the Burnley team on Sunday. The organised defence combined with counter attacking football applied a significant amount of pressure on the Gunners and made life that much more difficult for them to try and clinch the three points. Considering this is the second time this season that The Clarets have caused problems for the title contenders, it’s hard to deny that Burnley could have an impact on this seasons title race.
Notwithstanding the fact that Arsenal were lucky enough to capitalise and steal the victory on an exposed Burnley defence in the final seconds of the game, Laurent Koscielny’s controversial winner could have easily been blown for either offside or handball. Considering they have now outplayed Liverpool and nearly disrupted Arsenal’s title charge, Burnley could cause problems for other title contenders later into the season. Should they line up and play similarly to how they played against either the Reds or Arsenal, the Clarets could very well disfigure another team’s title hopes.
2) Arsenal needed a target man like Olivier Giroud
Considering the emergence of Alexis Sanchez in the no.9 role in recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine where Olivier Giroud fits into the current squad once his injury woes come to an end. Whilst a majority of Arsenal fans would much rather Alexis continue to play in this role, it’s hard to deny the fact that Giroud was missed throughout the fixture. Taking into account all of the Arsenal players who have a great heading ability combined with posing a threat in the air, the only names who fit both of these targets are Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny; the former’s presence in the air was missed throughout the fixture.
Throughout the fixture, the backline of Burnley forced Arsenal to field the ball out to either flank and attempt to cross the ball in to score. However, whenever someone was ready to cross the ball in, it was rare to find a target man in the box as not a single person in the Gunner’s line up filled up that role. Players such as Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil are all great attacking players, but not a single one of them was ever seen to drift into the box and try and try and score a header. A player like Olivier Giroud would have made much more use of any incoming cross and could have more than likely scored a goal for the Gunners. Regardless of your opinion of him, Arsenal missed having a player like Olivier Giroud in the squad.
3) Shkodran Mustafi is worth every single penny
When you set a new club record and spend approximately £35 million (incl. addons) on a new central defender a day before the transfer window ends, you would expect that player to need time to become comfortable in his position and adjust to the new league. Nevertheless, Shkodran Mustafi’s emergence since his arrival at North London just over a month ago has been a fantastic joy to see. After years of requesting for the purchase of a new defender, Mustafi perfectly fits the bill of a player that Arsenal have needed for years.
Whilst many players put up lacklustre performances against the Clarets, Mustafi continued his great form with another fantastic display for the Gunners. Whilst Burnley’s attacks were rare, whenever they were given a chance to break into the Arsenal half, the German defender continued to prevent Sam Vokes for a majority of the game and helped his side earn a clean sheet. From open play, the defensive partnership between Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny are yet to concede a goal, and it doesn’t look like they will anytime soon.
4) Mesut Ozil needs a break to improve his form
Following what many have called a fantastic season from Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, the pressure has been on the attacking midfielder since the start of the season to see whether or not he can replicate, or surpass, his form from last season. Whilst the attacking midfielder played some incredible football against Chelsea and Basel in the past week, Ozil’s overall start to the season has failed to meet expectations.
Just like in Sunday’s fixture and fixtures earlier in the season, the attacking midfielder has continued to look slow and has also failed to produce any assist thus far for the Gunners. With the international break now in full flow, Ozil has more than enough time to take a much needed quick break from club football for just under two weeks and improve on his overall game and consistency whilst playing for the German National Team.