Burnley 0-1 Arsenal: Good Teams Find a Way

Dear media: It was a good goal, you idiots.

That out of the way, let's start by saying that a win is a win is a win. Good teams sometimes have to win ugly, have to win on days where nothing is clicking and key individuals are a half-beat off of their normal rhythm. Yesterday, Arsenal found a way to do exactly that.

One thing you couldn't accuse Arsene of doing was taking these guys lightly - the usual starting 11 that has (for the moment) determined itself as our strongest XI were out there on the pitch. To be honest, I don't even think we played all that badly. Some of the passing and movement was excellent, but specifically Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez were just that little bit off all day. It's hard to finish moves when your best players aren't playing to their full capacity.

Also, you have to give Burnley a ton of credit. It's not easy to play the way that they did for the entirety of a match - one mistake, one lapse of concentration (as we saw in the 92nd minute) and all of your hard work can be undone in an instant. But, for 91 minutes, they defended magnificently.

We probably should have expected a tough one at their place, anyway. Let's not forget that early-season darlings Liverpool went there and lost 2-0 early in the season. It's also just a miserable place, too. The various Secret Footballer books have my highest recommendation, but I quote this from his latest effort, Access All Areas:

I don't dislike Burnley. The club just means nothing to me. I get a deep sense of depression when I go there (Blackburn too). We go through the moors looking at these little stone houses, and I gaze out the window wondering who exactly would live there. I know that when I have played at Turf Moor it has always been cold. Burnley is the town that global warming forgot. If it's always a rainy night in Georgia, well, it's generally a cold Tuesday night in Burnley. And, one of our players always picks up an injury.............The pitch slopes alarmingly and the changing rooms are shocking, with a couple of bloody awful, pathetic dripping showers next to one of the old fashioned-style deep baths that now serves as a physio area to massage players before the match. If you wanted to fill that bath it would take you a thousand years. I didn't like going there and when I come to think of it, for them that's a good thing.
Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

The thing is, though, in seasons past we'd have lost this. There were a couple of times where Laurent Koscielny and/or Shkrodan Mustafi saved us from danger...again. More importantly though, there were two instances that I remember where the ball was pinballing like crazy around our penalty area (including once where it had gone off the bar first, though I think Petr Cech tipped it onto there). Over the years, we have conceded so many goals in situations like that, especially at grounds like this. Both times, someone was there to clear it away. Both times, that person was, incredibly, Theo Walcott.

Speaking of, let me sidebar for a moment. I have been as critical as anyone about Theo, especially in the last season or two. I don't retract any of that - he was an outright liability for much of last season - but when someone raises their game, it should be noted. Walcott has been a completely new man this season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Given how far and how often Hector Bellerin likes to bomb forward, our right-side forward has to track back on occasion, or else we get opened up on the counter. He probably still doesn't finish as many chances as he should, but overall he has been a revelation so far this season, and long may that continue.

Back to the match, there isn't much to really tell. We never worked Tom Heaton all that hard in the Burnley goal - I can't remember a single moment where they were in danger up until we finally got the match-winner. The best chance before that was probably the one Cech tipped onto the bar. I'll tell you though, people in the pub were screaming "SHOOT" every time someone had the ball anywhere in the Burnley half of the field, and I don't mind telling you that it was doing my head in. More often than not, there was a forest of claret shirts directly in our guy's shooting lane. Do you know how many counter-attacks start because an attacking player witlessly batters a shot against a defending player's leg or body?

Oh, and since we're talking about guys improving, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked better than he has in ages once he came on. Given that we had no Olivier Giroud or Lucas Perez on the bench, that was huge.

Anyway, as we all know, Laurent scored his Hand of Kos goal right at the end. But, as the picture I've so helpfully put at the top of this post shows, it was a properly good goal. No WAY he knew anything about that. Frankly, Burnley only have themselves to blame for leaving the back post so glaringly open in the 92nd minute of a game that they had 99.999999% seen out. Like I said though, if you've ever had to defend a lead (or draw) at any level where the other lot are throwing the kitchen sink at you, you know how hard it is to get over the line sometimes. It's emotionally draining, too...especially when the other team are clearly better.

But, sod them and their idiot fans (booing Mustafi for getting elbowed in the face - how very Stoke of you). We got three massive points on a day where Manchester City lost to our nearest and dearest, making the table much better reading than it was when the day started. We go into an international break now, one as poorly-timed as I can remember. We had a damn good momentum going, now we have to wait two weeks and hope and pray that no one gets injured.

I'm excited, though. We're playing well, we've got depth everywhere and no one out there looks invincible (let's discuss Man City's fullback situation sometime). It's early doors but right now we look like we have as much of a shot as anyone. If we can really tonk PSG at home too, then, well, even Europe will look rosier than it has in ages.

Pretty damn good time to be a Gooner.

Man of the Match: Theo Walcott