Ho Ho Ho Dyche
Arsenal 3-1 Burnley
The last game before the festive period, as those knuckle draggers from up north tumbled into the Emirates, yes folks, Arsenal welcomed Burnley!
With Arsenal players dropping like flies in previous matches and a poor week which had seen two losses, this was a match which had the chance to ever 'lick the wound' or make the scab worse!
The team news saw Unai Emery opt for a back four and bring Elneny in from the cold. The Egyptian international who had failed to get a start all season suddenly thrust into the Arsenal midfield to make the numbers up! Ozil becoming Captain Ozil for the day!
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Monreal, Kolasinac, Elneny, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette
A very open start saw chances created at both ends. Arsenal had a great opportunity after good work from Maitland-Niles but Aubameyang couldn't quite turn in the rebound and Burnley with one straight punt down the middle found themselves one on one, Leno producing a good save. The defending was woeful again!
A new defensive tactic started to surface as well, it would appear Arsenal now like to play a high line from every free kick, it was so obvious from the stands but not really picked up on the TV coverage. The aim of this systems is to A) try and catch opposition attackers offside and B) try and break quickly from possession of the ball.
Well yes if everyone is on the same page, sadly against Burnley the Arsenal 'High line' was more like a 'zig zag', leading to all the main Burnley threat!
The first goal for Arsenal in the 14th minute was a thing of beauty, Maitland Niles, and Ozil combining well on the right hand side before our German superstar played a sublime pass through the Burnley defence to find Kolasinac, his first time pass back into play found Aubameyang with a neat side foot into the opposite corner. Beautiful Arsenal goal, the pass from Ozil showed what he was capable of and the finish was clinical from Aubameyang.
That goal seemed to settle the nerves and forced Burnley into tactic 'B' kick s**t out of soft southern opposition! Quite how Barnes stayed on the pitch in this match is beyond me, he spent most of the half raging around the pitch kicking lumps out of Guendouzi and Monreal before coming up against Sokratis. The outcome was a yellow for probably his fifth yellow card offence after a bust up on the touchline, the panto villain had arrived!
There was still time for a formation change as Monreal hobbled off forcing Arsenal into a back three with Lichtsteiner and the Sokratis/Barnes Royal Rumble continued with the Greek International receiving a yellow, much to the delight of Burnley faithful. Lacazette also fluffed his lines just before the break, not getting the ball out of his feet quick enough when the goal beckoned.
HT: 1-0 to The Arsenal.
No changes from Emery at the break and no time for dwelling either as the action soon got everyone off their feet, first Leno was forced into a headed clearance after another long ball caught out the back four, Wood getting booked for leaving the Arsenal keeper in a heap. Then another long ball was cleared by Sokratis, Arsenal worked it from back to front, Kolsainac bombing own the left, the ball coming to Lacazette, he played it to Aubameyang in the box who absolutely smashed it beyond a defender and the keeper. 2-0 Arsenal! Another beautifully created goal and all thanks to the ever running Kolasinac!
That should have been game over, but with Barnes prowling and Arsenals passion for giving away stupid free kicks, a Burnley goal was in the air! The high line (zig zag) at no point worked, and if it's used against better teams than Burnley then it's a tactic that will need serious work, you could see the look of anger on Sokratis's face after he was forced to give away a corner on one occasion. As the Arsenal fans applauded his covering nouse, Sokratis tore a strip off Xhaka for not 'holding the line', great to see him take responsibility, but everyone has to be signed up otherwise it doesn't work.
More thuggery from Burnley followed and then not long after Torriera had replaced Elneny, Barnes got his big part in the play! Standing unmarked and watching on as the Arsenal defenders trying and failing three times to clear a ball out of defence.
"He's behind you" should have been the shout, sadly the ball rebounded into his path and the *£@** lashed the ball passed Leno. 2-1, Burnley back in it?
What followed was a bit of panic, Sean Dyche realising his thugs were about to get reds and replacing them and Iwobi coming on for Lacazette. The frenchman not impressed as there were goals in the game which he hadn't taken and the sight of Iwobi who couldn't hit a barn door with a donkey left him clearly perplexed.
Iwobi went all Iwobi in the 88th minute when presented with a chance to show everyone those party tricks. With a Burnley thug to beat on the edge of the box, Iwobi 'dilled and dallied' and produced nothing, Kolasinac had seen enough and took the ball off his toes to produce a meaningful across the goal. Embarrassing for the Nigerian International but just as the Arsenal fans were beginning to turn life got considerably better. Ozil driving into the box and skipping past two challenges before his shot deflected to Iwobi. I'm not sure many in the stadium thought he was onside or that he would be able to finish. Luckily he was just onside and thrashed the ball in without thinking, which is probably the reason he misses so many, too much thinking!
3-1 Arsenal, game over!
A welcome Christmas present and one in the eye for the horrible Sean Dyche and his team of thugs!
Positives: Kolasinac attacks on the left.
Negatives: Another defensive injury and that scary zig zag 'high line'.
Leno: A good performance, looked assured. 7/10
Maitland-Niles: A bit slack at times but love his pace. 7/10
Sokratis: A beast. 8/10
Monreal: Did well until getting, injured, looking a bit old. 6/10
Kolasinac: An absolute beast, going forward and defending in this match. MOM: 8/10
Elneny: Never really looked the part and got hooked. 6/10
Xhaka: Needs to learn how to defend if he's going to play in a back three. 5/10
Guendouzi: Needs a bit of focus and help around him. Worked hard. 6/10
Ozil: A better performance, but need it consistently for £300K a week. 7/10
Aubameyang: Took his goals well. 8/10
Lacazette: Not everything came off, but I prefer him in the team not on the bench. 7/10
Torriera: Didn't do too much wrong but now on a 5th yellow so one more and he's out. 6/10
Lichtsteiner: Did a job 6/10
Iwobi: Will be happy with his goal, but a sub for me, not a starter. 7/10
Next up, Brighton Away on Boxing day, another win please Santa.