The curse of Arsenal continues for Burnley; every one of the Clarets’ encounters with the Gunners during Sean Dyche’s tenure as manager, have ended in defeat.
Some of those defeats reflected a gulf in class, others were blatantly unjust; yesterday’s Premier League defeat at the Emirates Stadium fell into neither category; rather it was a closely-fought contest between two well-matched teams.
The decisive factor rested with that extra infusion of class which clubs with Arsenal’s resources can provide and which was personified by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Arsenal striker has found playing against Burnley very much to his liking since arriving in the Premier League and has established a goals return against the Clarets which is almost on a par with that of Sergio Aguero.
Like Aguero (and like a few of his Arsenal teammates) Aubameyang sports a hairstyle which would invite mockery in everyday life, but there is no denying that he is a finisher of rare quality, and the goal he scored – Arsenal’s second and the winner – was a prime example of a polished and clinical striker at the peak of his game.
Sadly, his goal was scored as a result of Johann Berg Gudmundsson dallying on the ball and having it pinched from him in a similar way to how Gudmundsson himself robbed the Southampton defender to set up his goal, and Burnley’s third, last week. Karma has a nasty habit of coming around.
Burnley however have their own in-form striker; Ashley Barnes, Clarets’ cult hero now celebrated in a specially composed “Grime” track in commemoration of his rich vein of scoring form and for the general rambunctiousness of his play, which delights home fans and infuriates the opposition in roughly equal measure.
But his raw-boned, blunt instrument demeanour disguises a striker of cunning and guile as displayed by his ability to find room in the Gunners’ penalty area and poke in Dwight McNeill’s cross-cum-shot.
The goal equalised an earlier strike by Alexandre Lacazette, twisting and turning to create enough of an angle to prod the ball between Nick Pope’s legs at the near post.
It was a frustrating goal to concede, not only because Lacazette defied the efforts of three Burnley defenders , plus goalkeeper Pope, to apply the finish, but also because of the award of a free kick against Ben Mee for a handball in the lead up to the goal.
Despite FIFA messing around with the rules governing handball, it remains a pre-requisite that the ball must at least make contact with the arm. Having seen the incident replayed a number of times, I have yet to be convinced that this happened.
Nevertheless, there was still much to admire about Burnley’s play even in defeat. Organisation and energy levels are a given with Burnley, but it was their willingness to break forward in numbers and create chances which was impressive and which on another day, against less demanding opponents, would have been rewarded with points.
In his post-match interview, Sean Dyche reverted to a familiar theme of his, namely players diving. Whilst agreeing with the sentiments, it was a little puzzling that Dyche chose this occasion to voice his concerns, as this was by no means a match punctuated by unseemly play-acting. A slightly odd conclusion to what was, notwithstanding the result, an entertaining game of football.
Post match Claret & Blues written by regular Clarets Mad contributor Dave Thornley (TEC).