Arsenal squeezed home against Burnley with a last minute goal we possibly, maybe, didn’t quite deserve.
If the last three hours of Arsenal football had been the ultimate in puresex, then today’s match at Turf Moor was love as described by Ian Curtis in Joy Division’s immortal song, Love Will Tear Us Apart.
It was dull and tedious and I slightly resented being put through the experience.
But, hey! We won, so all is forgiven, mark of champions, 1-0 to the Arsenal and all that.
Now for the ratings.
Peter Cech – 7
Not really called upon. Wayward in his attempts to find Theo Walcott and, particularly, Alex Iwobi, on our wings in the first half. Made a great save low done from a Gudmundsson header just on the hour and when he was beaten 15 minutes later, the bar saved him.
Hector Bellerin – 6
Always willing down the right hand side. Continually saw attempts to play him in ruined by a ball into the space he had just vacated. Defensively, very sound.
Nacho Monreal – 5
If this game was played the way you used to play at school, then poor old Nacho would have been the last one picked. Nobody wanted to pass to him, literally nobody, and he spent most of the game standing in yards of space on our left, ignored and unloved.
Laurent Koscielny – 8
Rarely troubled in defence. Got fed up towards the end of the first half and started trying to make thing happen in his opponents penalty area. At the end of the second half, he did make something happen – flicking and then punching the ball home to win the match just as all seemed lost. Or drawn.
Shkodran Mustafi – 8
Really enjoyed his battle with Sam Vokes, a real – but fair – rough and tumble. In my opinion, the highlight of a tough first half. Some good interceptions and we can see already he’s good on the ball; the Premier League acclimatisation carries on apace.
Granit Xhaka – 6
Used the ball well, but all a bit sideways for me. Replaced by Mohamed Elneny with twenty minutes left.
Santi Cazorla – 6
See Xhaka – without the Elneny replacement, obviously. Combined well with Özil but unable to really shape the game as we would expect. Suffered, I think from Burnley’s excellent defending around the penalty area.
Alex Iwobi – 5
I like Alex Iwobi, of course I do, we all do; he tried, I know he did, you all know he did. However, his performance against Burnley can be best summed up by this soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth,
“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Theo Walcott – 6
A dragged shot across goal the sum total of his attacking contribution in the first half. In the second half, he woke up. Smashed a shot high and not too handsome early in the half. Was unlucky later on, sending the old Thierry Henry effort just wide of the far post but spent much of the game running into Burnley defenders. Not that he was alone in that regard. Won a crucial header to tee up our late, late winner.
Mesut Özil – 5
Usually, the conductor of the orchestra. However, nothing went right for him today. Poor set piece delivery and passes into space which might as well have been aimed at the moon. I guess the problem for Özil is that, as our fulcrum, there is no hiding place when it’s not happening for him. On Sunday, it didn’t happen, but at least he had the good sense to roll that last minute corner short to Alexis.
Alexis – 7
He must have felt very frustrated in the first half, finding it difficult to get on the ball and create. When he did get on the ball, too many wrong decisions and too much poor execution. The second half was much better and he registered our first proper shot on target early in the second half. Went close with a volley which just clipped the outside of the post as the ball dropped out of the sky. Even on a difficult day for him he was clearly our biggest threat and it was his cross which was bundled home for a crucial victory.
Mohamed Elneny – 6
Replaced Granit Xhaka with twenty minutes left and did some important defensive work.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
Symptomatic of his season that Laurent Koscielny took the winning goal off the toe of his boot.