Clarets reach thirty points with latest draw
It was yet another home draw for the Clarets with yesterday’s 1-1 result against Arsenal which has taken our points total to thirty as we continue to work hard to move slowly, and hopefully surely, to safety in the Premier League.
Unlike Wednesday’s draw against Leicester, this time we had to come from behind after conceding an early goal but we were level by half time with a goal that will probably not feature in too many goal of the season competitions and then gave Arsenal a good old fright in the second half until we ourselves had some work to do in the closing minutes.
Just 52 weeks since almost twenty and a half thousand people were inside the Turf to see us play Spurs, yesterday’s visit of their north London rivals Arsenal saw us reach the anniversary of games behind closed doors. Since that Spurs game, we’ve now played 43 league and cup games with only the Arsenal away game earlier in the season with any sort of crowd when 2,000 home fans were allowed in.
Let us all hope that changes sometime soon, that we can get back to some sort of normality and start going to watch the games again. Until then, it’s the poor substitute of television coverage with yesterday’s on BT Sport who managed to keep all things neutral with Martin Keown representing the Gunners and no one representing us.
Having suffered a run of poor results against Arsenal, we went into this game with a draw and a win in the last two. Had the tide turned? Could we get another win and complete the double over them for the first time in 58 years? That soon looked unlikely unfortunately when we fell behind in only the sixth minute.
If there were two players, more than any other, who concerned me in the Arsenal team they were Willian, who always seemed to play well against us for Chelsea, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his scoring record against us, although, in fairness, his most recent had been an own goal in our 1-0 win at the Emirates.
There didn’t seem to be too much danger when Willian came forward with the ball and fed Aubameyang, but before we knew what was happening he’d gone past Matt Lowton and fired a shot in by the foot of the near post that Nick Pope couldn’t keep out. It crept into the net just by the post and Arsenal were a goal to the good.
I’d reached the point where I thought, “Let’s get to half time at 1-0 and try and sort things out,” and then, and I think it is fair to say it was out of the blue, we equalised with a stunning goal from Chris Wood and how brilliant it was that Granit Xhaka, who has twice been sent off against us, got the assist.
Arsenal think it is clever to try and play out from the back but they didn’t count on the brilliant pressing from Guðmundsson, Wood and Matěj Vydra, and more on the latter later in the report. As much as Arsenal got it so badly wrong, they wouldn’t, and couldn’t, have done but for the work of the Burnley trio.
Ultimately, there is no obvious reason why goalkeeper Bernd Leno played that final ball forward to Xhaka who was being pressed by Vydra but it was funny to see Xhaka try to find David Luiz, who was on the right hand side playing anti-football, only for him to hit it straight at Wood and then see the ball deflect off our striker’s hip into the unguarded net.
Apparently Sean Dyche spoke about stepping it up a percent at half time. Whatever he said, it worked, and we looked a totally different proposition. Now it was us putting Arsenal under pressure and at times they were struggling to deal with it. Three times we were close, twice very close, to going in front.
Vydra turned just inside the Arsenal box as he tried to get a shot away. He went down and Dyche said afterwards that he thought it was a penalty. I didn’t, I’ve watched it since and still don’t. But Vydra was causing them problems. I said there’d be more on him and I think rightly so. I don’t believe I’ve seen him play better for us than he did in this game. His work rate was phenomenal, he pressed them, and if he can continue to perform like that then the goals will surely come for him.
Almost twenty minutes into the half, Charlie Taylor was forced off with an injury and that saw the introduction of Erik Pieters who was, for one reason or another, set to become the start of the show. Goodness knows what order these came in but he potentially got away with a penalty for handball although if that’s handball then someone needs to go back and look at the penalty we should have got against West Brom.
He then took a break when Leno was again in action, this time after a brilliant linkup between our two strikers that led to Vydra setting up Wood. His effort was too close to the keeper but Leno did well to save it.
By now, we were so unfortunate not to be in front but it changed in the last ten minutes or so when Arsenal decided to throw the kitchen sink in to try to win it. Nicolas Pépé failed to make contact with one shot but then his next, on the volley, was sensationally kept out by Pieters. Penalty said referee Andre Marriner, red card said referee Andre Marriner after Pieters had been adjudged to have handled it. The replays showed it was clearly the shoulder, the red card was rescinded, as was the penalty, it was still 1-1 and then there was just a little bit of blocking to do before the final whistle blew.
We got to ninety minutes but this is Arsenal. We remember the home game in 2016/17 when they scored with a handballed offside goal in stoppage time to win 1-0, we remember the away game in the same season when a stoppage time penalty was awarded to see them through to a 2-1 win when it was clearly offside and then in 2017/18 we were stunned when Lee Mason awarded them the softest of stoppage time to beat us 1-0.
Even then, they came forward again and won a corner but Marriner blew before they could take it and we’d got ourselves a fifth successive home draw.
Six minutes before half time I didn’t think a point was likely. Then we really could have gone on and won it after dominating Arsenal for a long period in the second half. Pieters joked it had been the best half hour of his career, Mikey Arteta whinged about the pitch, the referee and anything else he could think of to detract from the fact that, in the end, his team couldn’t beat us and didn’t deserve to beat us.
Despite winning neither of the two home games, it’s been a better week without a doubt and two performances that give us real belief that this Burnley team of ours is back to playing some damn good football.
It has been a very difficult year for football fans. When the Premier League suspended in March last year I could not have envisaged that a year on I would not have been to a football match. One day soon we will all be able to again, and it is a day we can look forward to. For now, we’ve got to thirty points and with ten games still to play. Given the start we made when just about everyone was injured, we are in a decent position.
It’s Everton next and then three weeks off, unprecedented in this strangest of seasons.
The teams were;
Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Charlie Taylor (Erik Pieters 63), Jόhann Berg Guðmundsson (Robbie Brady 68), Ashley Westwood, Josh Brownhill, Dwight McNeil, Chris Wood, Matěj Vydra (Jay Rodriguez 86). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Jimmy Dunne, Dale Stephens, Josh Benson.
Yellow Card: Erik Pieters.
Arsenal: Bernd Leno, Calum Chambers, David Luiz, Pablo Marí, Kieran Tierney, Thomas Partey (Dani Ceballos 80), Granit Xhaka, Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard (Alexandre Lacazette 63), Willian (Nicolas Pépé 69), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Subs not used: Mat Ryan, Héctor Bellerín, Gabriel, Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny, Gabriel Martinelli.
Yellow Card: Bukayo Saka.
Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).