ARSENAL 3 – (Fabregas 34′, Walcott 61′, Arshavin 90′)
BURNLEY 1 – (Nugent 51′)
The Gunners secure three points to close the gap on Manchester United and Chelsea, but they made heavy weather of Burnley due to their inability to convert crucial chances in front of the goal.
The Gunners were expected to win comfortably against a side, which has managed to secure only a single point in all away games. They started in emphatic fashion, with some Arsenal-style passing moves between Rosicky, Fabregas and Nasri unlocking the Burnley defense with consummate ease, while Bendtner and Walcott lurked upfront, waiting to take advantage of the through balls coming along their way.
The Gunners enjoyed more possession than their bottom-placed rivals, as they continued to pile up pressure up front. In the fourteenth minute, Eboue cleverly backheeled a pass into the opponent’s penalty area, onto the path of an onrushing Fabregas; however, the Spaniard could only slot the ball wide of the far post. Arsenal are yet to score within the first fifteen minutes at the Emirates, this season.
As the game progressed, Almunia was surprisingly the busier of the goalkeepers. Carlisle headed the ball from a corner, straight to the goalkeeper; each time the Burnley players gained possession of the ball, they merely tried their luck from long range, the ball heading harmlessly towards Almunia on all occasions. The Gunners, on the other hand, were guilty of scuppering the crosses and passes coming from Walcott and Eboue on the right, with Bendtner being the main culprit.
The deadlock was finally broken just after the half-hour mark. Fabregas passed the ball to Nasri on his left; the latter staved off a couple of defenders while holding the ball, before spotting the former sprinting towards the goal. The frenchman curled a delightful chip over four defenders, landing exactly at the onrushing Fabregas’ feet, for the Arsenal captain to coolly slot the ball between Jensen’s legs, into the back of the net.
However, Fabregas left the supporters and Wenger worried after limping with a hamstring injury, and was replaced by Diaby around the 40 minute mark.
Burnley were fortunate to trail by a single goal at half time, as Arsenal’s forwards were rather profligate in front of the Burnley goal. Theo Walcott terrorized Daniel Fox on the right wing with his pace, but was unable to choose whether to pass or shoot, in the final third of the pitch.
The second half saw a different Walcott, who seemed hell bent on proving that his first half salvo was just a blip. The first promising sign was a peach of a cross, which Bendtner shockingly headed wide to the left, with Jensen being just an onlooker. A far cross from Clichy on the left appeared to be heading for the right side of the goal line, but Walcott pounced on it and lobbed the ball to Bendtner, who missed from close range once again.
Just after the restart, Burnley stunned the Emirates crowed with the equalizer; a corner kick for Burnley was cleared out of the Arsenal box, but Leon Cort headed it back over a caught unawares Gunners defense, and David Nugent made no mistake in lobbing the ball over Almunia to the net.
This moment triggered anxious moments, and the Gunners had to build up a sizeable lead to remain assured of three points in the bag. Walcott continued his fine run, latching on to a pass from Bendtner, dribbling pass a couple of defenders just outside the ‘D’, and firing a low left-footed shot beyond Jensen’s outstretched hands into the far left corner of the goal. He celebrated by pointing at and tapping his wrist, indicating it was time for him to go to South Africa.
A few minutes later, Walcott sent a seamless pass within the box to set up a simple tap-in for Bendtner, but inexplicably the big Dane fluffed up the glorious chance, sending the ball well off the far post. He had a horror day, and was replaced by Eduardo after 74 minutes.
The lead was too slender for comfort, and Arsenal gave no chance to Burnley, as they sought to increase the goal tally. Eduardo was a bit too late to poke in the ball from a brilliant Nasri cross, and Arshavin messed up a right footed shot from the center of the box, with only Jensen to beat. However, parity was restored our minutes into stoppage time, when Arshavin waltzed into the box from the left and fired a top notch finish close to the left sidebar; his unusual celebration indicated the palpable relief experienced by him and his team-mates.
Though Arsenal acquired three vital points, the flurry of missed chances could have proved very costly, if not for the quality of the opponent.