I’d like you all to take a moment and think about what these three things have in common. Leonardo Da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh, and Arsenal Football Club. Yep, you guessed it; their passion for drawing.
The irony of Arsenal sitting 10th in the Premier League is that only the two sides at the top have lost fewer games than them, but Mikel Arteta’s side have only won more games than the bottom two teams. And that’s exactly where the Gunners lie, smack bang in mid-table obscurity despite having a brilliant chance to close the gap on many of their rivals who dropped points on Saturday.
Having served his three-game suspension, top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang found himself straight back in the starting line-up as Nicolas Pepe dropped to the bench. Gabriel Martinelli kept his place, albeit on the right-hand-side this time, with Lucas Torreira on the bench as Matteo Guendouzi partnered Granit Xhaka in midfield. Sean Dyche’s side remained unchanged from their hugely impressive victory at Old Trafford.
A big talking point for Arsenal fans over the last few weeks has been whether Alexandre Lacazette has done enough to justify being in the first XI every week, with the Frenchman having not found the net since the defeat to Brighton. The 28-year-old is clearly a man totally devoid of confidence, but Arteta trusted him enough to start him as the main striker today. So it just had to be him to spurn the first big chance of the day; his header under no pressure at all flying harmlessly wide.
The Arsenal we’ve become accustomed to under Arteta (dominating the early exchanges but not finding the back of the net) was well and truly out in force at Turf Moor this afternoon. Bukayo Saka was once again proving his worth as an attacking full-back, but no-one was there to get on the end of his pinpoint crosses. Aubameyang’s first game since his red card at Selhurst Park also saw him waste a couple of excellent chances to put the Gunners ahead.
As the first half went on, Burnley began to press more aggressively and higher up the pitch, refusing to allow the Arsenal back four any significant time or space on the ball. Fresh from his wonder goal against Manchester United, Jay Rodriguez’s effort stung the palms of Bernd Leno, but neither side would find the breakthrough before the half-time whistle blew.
With both recognised left-backs out injured for an undetermined period of time, the last thing Arsenal and Arteta needed was for Saka to be forced off at half-time, unable to shake off a knee problem sustained in the first 45. The highly promising 18-year-old was replaced by Torreira, with Xhaka filling in as a makeshift left-back, certainly not for the first time.
If you’re a Burnley side blessed with a 6’3 Chris Wood darting into the box to try and score goals, you’re always going to expect him to win those aerial duels. And Dyche’s side utilised that advantage in the second period, with Charlie Taylor crossing the ball into the middle at will as the Gunners descended into mediocrity. But neither team was able to find that clinical edge as they went forward, and Aubameyang missed yet another chance to break the deadlock as his header flashed inches wide from Lacazette’s cross.
While the Gabonese international didn’t find the net on that occasion, a chance of that caliber shows exactly why he has to play through the middle. It seems totally ludicrous to shift our best striker out wide to accommodate a striker who hasn’t scored in eight PL games. All while our record signing, our highest-rated player this season according to WhoScored, is just warming the bench.
A front three of Martinelli-Aubameyang-Pepe seems like the most viable option based on form and ability right now. Perhaps Lacazette could be shifted to a no.10 role? It’s clear that the Frenchman has more to offer in attack other than goals, but while he’s not doing the job upfront, he shouldn’t be getting consistent game time there.
But it wasn’t just Arsenal’s strikers failing to do their jobs today. Everyone in the ground and watching at home was shocked when Rodriguez’s effort cannoned off the crossbar from only a few yards out, with Chris Kavanagh’s watch confirming the ball did not cross the line. A chance of that magnitude not taken all but confirmed a goalless draw was bound to happen, and that’s exactly how it ended.
Dyche’s side will definitely feel they should’ve won the game, and most people wouldn’t disagree on that one. Arsenal were slow, sluggish, and had to rely on a huge stroke of luck to hang on for a point. That’s four draws in a row now for Arteta, who has a lot of work to do before the visit of Newcastle in two weeks’ time.