Arsenal 0 Burnley 0
Age cancels out beauty. No goals, and a sense of an opportunity missed for Arsenal. No goals, and a precious away point for Burnley. The top flight’s oldest and youngest squads by average age cancelling each other out.
On a weekend where relegation rivals Newcastle and Norwich picked up wins, Sean Dyche’s side return north happy. Arsenal fans they will wander toward Finsbury Park wondering how they failed to secure the three points that would have lifted them, temporarily at least, into the top four. However their damp squib of a January ends winless.
Owing to Covid outbreaks (of varying degrees) this was the first Premier League fixture since 2022’s opening weekend for either team. Both have surrendered their cup hopes in the meantime. Arsenal sought the type of routine home win this youthful iteration wants to be known for, while Burnley were after anything they could get.
What Arsenal lacked from the start was a little urgency. Forgivable given that, bar Rob Holding who replaced the injured Takehiro Tomiyasu, Mikel Arteta named the same starters who had huffed, puffed but lacked a little bite in Thursday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat against Liverpool.
But whereas the Emirates of old might have grown frustrated, there is a newfound buzz in the stands, an energy and togetherness absent in season’s past. Lazy Europa-enforced Sunday afternoons replaced by North Bank and Clock End supporters making standing starts.
And the patience of home supporters was both required and tested. In the first half in particular, clearcut chances were at a premium. Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal’s elder statesman as the only man in the match-day squad to have passed 30 – miscued a strike harmlessly wide having skipped past Ben Mee, before Nick Pope denied Martin Ødegaard with his feet following a neat exchange with Emile Smith Rowe. Mee threw himself at Lacazette’s follow-up.
Bukayo Saka was enjoying himself down the right, giving Erik Pieters, a tough time. On one occasion, Saka ghosted in and found Lacazette who took a neat touch and laid the ball to Kieran Tierney. Caught between placement and power, the left-back lifted over. Saka then went close on the stroke of half-time, but was unable to find the corner of the goal having been put in by Ødegaard.
A slightly deeper role for Ødegaard has been one unexpected plus from the hosts’ midfield crisis. He looks like a player enjoying his football and is having the most fruitful spell of his career. As was the case 72 hours previously, most of Arsenal’s ventures forward came through him and his left foot.
In the second half, Saka continued to discombobulate down the right. Connor Roberts did superbly to prevent Gabriel Martinelli from reaching a stood-up back-post cross, before Ødegaard put a free-kick on to the roof of the net after Saka had cut inside and drawn the foul.
Momentum was building. Ødegaard found Smith Rowe on the penalty spot with a cleverly worked corner, but the strike was not clean. Still, Pope did well to parry having seen the ball late.
Arteta’s side continued to push forward. Tierney set Smith Rowe racing away down the left and a square ball to Lacazette only required a goalbound effort for what would have been the winner. It was poked wide, and there was a sense the afternoon would not go Arsenal’s way.
To their credit, Burnley drew the sting out of the remainder of the contest, albeit drawing some criticism from the stands for their casual approach to restarting play.
Otherwise, they were solid if a little toothless. And with eight men aged 29 or more in the starting XI, plus seven on the bench, they looked a split second behind their hosts.
Their lack of goals is worrying. While Dyche handed a first Premier League start to amateur carpentry enthusiast Roberts at right-back, what he pines for is a striker following Chris Wood’s departure. He named a starting lineup with five league goals this season between them.
Burnley’s high line was brave, Josh Brownhill frequently stepping up from central midfield to join the attempts of Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez to press the Arsenal defence. At times they were a tad overenthusiastic though; Kieran Westwood’s first-half challenge on Tierney was arguably amber.
Tellingly, the two times Aaron Ramsdale was called into action were, at best, cross-cum-shots. The first would have given Burnley an early lead had Ramsdale not been alert enough to spring backward and get a steely hand to Dwight McNeil’s viciously swerving attempted centre. Eight minutes into the second half, Ramsdale got down low to his right to prevent the same player sneaking one in at his near post.
That aside, Ramsdale rarely looked under threat as he lodged a 10th clean sheet in 18 top-flight starts since many mocked him as an overpriced acquisition. McNeil did though drive over following a break in injury time. Arteta’s message? Do it the same, but do it better. – Guardian