5 Thoughts: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley

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Let's get this out of the way - this team isn't going to win the league. Letting Burnley of all sides have the most shots on goal in a first half since Liverpool a few years ago isn't exactly a portent of a side equipped to take on Manchester City's dirty oil blood money mercenaries.

On the other hand, who cares? At this stage of my life, all I ask of my football club is that they fight for the shirt, they attack and they play some good football. You know what? Our Arsenal has that in absolute spades now.

1. You can set your watch by Burnley, can't you? They played a modicum more of football than they usually do, but despite that they still are a festival of long balls and snide tactical fouls. I even think that Mike Dean had a halfway decent game by his graded-on-the-world's-biggest-curve standards, but some of what he let them get away with was absolutely shocking. Ashley Barnes went up for one header and kneed Matteo Guendozi directly in the back. I mean, he didn't even try to hide it, and somehow this went unspotted. Look, I'm a referee myself...I know what a red card is when I see it and if that's not excessive use of force then the term has absolutely no meaning.

But, I think there's an argument that this is a good thing. Nicolas Pepe, Dani Ceballos, some of our kids, some of our incumbents...they got through a game like this not only with no injury but they also saw out a result with professional aplomb. We haven't always had that, so I think it's worth mentioning and celebrating.

2. Ceballos is really, really, really good. WHAT a footballer.

I mean, I don't know what Real Madrid's situation is. I don't know what sequence of factors has led to this guy not being able to get in their team, but I hope it continues just long enough for them to agree to sell him to us on a permanent basis.

He's not only super-talented in his technique and his footballing brain, but he's got some fight in him too. Our second goal only happened because he won the ball back in Burnley's third of the field, and played in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang before the Clarets could get all ten of their center-halves back in position. Auba's finish was excellent, of course, but he never gets the chance if Ceballos doesn't put that on a plate for him.

And that, right there, is something different than we've seen in years past...even last season, which despite everything else was categorically a step forward for the club. This team now has verve and fight and a little bit of steel to them, and Ceballos embodied all of that just in his one performance today.

3. Even after watching all 90 minutes of this, I don't know if Alexandre Lacazette was specifically the striker with Auba on the wing, or vice versa. You know what? That's a damn good thing.

People, in my estimation, get too caught up in formations and what they think tactics are sometimes. It's almost like they envision this whole thing as a foosball table in real life. Football is, and always will be, a far more fluid proposition than that. Time and space are the currencies of this sport, and movement is how you acquire it. If we've managed to forge a style of playing where we have a more amorphous attacking line that could mean either or both are furthest forward at any given time, or our wingers are and the forwards arrive late at the top of the penalty area for a cut-back? Fantastic! That's exactly what we should be doing!

The knock on us in years past - and a legit one at that - is that we've been ponderous and slow and sideways and eminently predictable. It's hard to say that we're like that now based on today's evidence (though of course we're only two games in and there's a lot of proving still to do). Now? My read is that we have options and a range of different looks that we can give an opposing defense to try and pull them out of position.

I get that it's one thing to do that against Burnley and quite another to do that against Liverpool or the Nearest and Dearest, but my god at least we're bringing a gun to a gunfight now.

4. A casual observer may see the number of shots the Clarets had and the scoreline and somehow assume that they may have been hard done by today. Nah, fam. First off, their goal relied on a huge amount of luck with the deflection that took the ball past our back line and directly into Barnes' path for his finish. Other than that? Most of their chances (other than one mad 5-minute stretch in the first half) were long-range no-hopers that they skied into the Van Allen Belt. I genuinely cannot think of one top-class save that Bernd Leno had to make today.

Nick Pope, on the other hand, deserves some props for keeping this from turning into a cricket score. His angles, anticipation and positioning were all on point. You can see why he's in the England team these days, and on this evidence there's an argument for him taking Jordan Pickford's shirt. Replace him with his deputy Joe Hart, and we're probably having a much different conversation right now.

Even with Alexandre Lacazette's goal to open the scoring, I'm not sure there's much he could have done about that. Generally, keepers should never be nutmegged but there's always exceptions. In this case, as a keeper I wouldn't have expected the Frenchman to get a shot away while parked on his bum to begin with, and in this specific case he didn't have the cover on his far post that he should have had either. Laca was able to get that shot away so quickly. no human would have been able to react in time. Not David De Gea, not Manuel Neuer, not Ederson, not Allison. No one.

5. Another notable aspect of this game that strikes me as a sign of progress is how we saw out the game from 2-1 with a minimum of fuss. We got the winner in the 64th minute, and if you think back, Burnley never had that moment to make us have our hearts in our mouth. Even with their set piece prowess, the corner kicks and free kicks they had later on ended up presenting no danger whatsoever.

David Luiz, whatever we may have thought of him in the past, came in and seamlessly integrated himself into our defense. He was vocal, he got stuck in, and if you ask me he's a massively underrated reason why we won today.

Beyond that, it has to be said that Matteo Guendouzi had a performance that belied his youth and inexperience. He was asked to take on a massive responsibility in the center of the park, and he delivered over and over again. It's never easy for a literal child to go toe-to-toe with Stoke City's spiritual heirs, but he did so without complaint. More of this, please.

Also, a frustration that I always had with late-stage Arsene Wenger sides was how nice and clean and Boy Scoutish we were. Here, we did what we had to in order to win. We fouled when we had to. We cleared it row Z when we had to. Leno wasted time and even faked an injury once. I'm fantastically not interested in people who tut-tut about that sort of thing. Fuck all the way fucking off, your favorite team does it too.

Win the game. Do your job. Arsenal did that today, and I sure as shit won't apologize for it.

Things get much more difficult now with a trip to Liverpool next and a home North London Derby right after it. You know what, though? I think this team is up for the fight and even if we don't get 6 points out of that (spoiler alert: we're not getting 6 points out of that), we'll at least give a good account of ourselves. That's all we can ask for, if you ask me.

Man of the Match: There's an argument for their keeper, but for my money it's Dani Ceballos going away.