Arsenal: 2 Burnley: 1 – Cup dreams still alive and Burnleying

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Excitement amongst Arsenal fans was high prior to this afternoon’s game against Burnley. Coquelin’s surprise early return gave Gooners a big boost and Elneny was in line to make his Arsenal debut. Alexis was penciled in for his first start since November and young prodigy Alex Iwobi was in line to start after an impressive performance in the previous round. Despite Arsenal being favourites Burnley were in good form winning 5 of their last 6 games.

Arsenal began the game quickly, with their high intensity passing and pressure. Although Burnley set their team up to defend deep Alexis and Iwobi in particular continuously found pockets in behind the Burnley midfield. It was the linkup of these two in particular that caused Burnley problems throughout the game. Iwobi set Chamberlain up early on in the game but the English international fired over with his weaker foot. Minutes later Alexis picked up a failed clearance on the left hand side but shot just wide after cutting in.


Arsenal’s territorial dominance didn’t prevent Burnley from making an attempt on the Arsenal goal. A mistake by Koscielny gifted tireless striker Andre Gray an opportunity to put Burnley in front. The pacey striker retrieved the ball after applying pressure on Koscielny but was unable to beat Ospina as he bore down on the Arsenal goal.

Arsenal’s early superiority finally paid dividends 18 minutes into the first half when Calum Chambers put the Gunners ahead with an exquisite outside of the foot finish. A tidy exchange between Iwobi and Sanchez resulted in the talismanic Chilean receiving the ball on the edge of the Claret’s penalty area. Panic ensued as Burnley defenders looked to block Sanchez’ options. The Arsenal forward was one step ahead and played a deft through ball through the legs of Scott Arfield. Chambers caressed a shot first time with the outside of his right foo,t bending the past Heaton. The goal was reminiscent of Thierry Henry’s wonderful record-breaking strike against Sparta Prague and that should give Chambers a real confidence boost.


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Ten minutes later Burnley equalised against the run of play. Arsenal’s failure to clear Stephen Ward’s cross allowed Burnley to maintain their offensive pressure. They worked the ball out to Tendayi Darikwa. The Burnley fullback bent a ball into the far post and Sam Vokes was on cue to head home powerful effort.

We looked to respond immediately, Iwobi brought the ball down the right and crossed to Chamberlain who was unable to capitalise. Other than that, the equaliser knocked the stuffing out of the Gunners and it wasn’t until the second half before we were able to impose ourselves on the game again.
The halftime interval allowed Arsenal to regroup and regain the swagger that they’d shown earlier on. Alexis and Iwobi were involved in some neat passing triangles in the center of the field and Burnley struggled to cope. Arsenal’s second goal came from another well-orchestrated moved and it’s no surprise that both Alexis and Iwobi were yet again involved. Gibbs played a first time pass to Iwobi after picking up a loose ball. The Nigerian international took one touch then played an incisive ball forward to Alexis who was in acres of space. The Arsenal winger carried the ball into the opposition half and played an inch perfect ball into Giroud who, on his first touch, back heeled it to the on rushing Iwobi. The young gun then played the ball out wide to Ox who provided a wonderful ball into the box for the arriving Alexis to blast into the top corner. 13 seconds after losing the ball Burnley conceded such was the speed of the Arsenal counterattack.


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Arsenal maintained their pressure in the aim of finding a third goal and putting the tie to rest. Just a few moments after taking the lead Arsenal were at it again this time Koscielny being denied by a clearance off the line. New boy Elneny was also looking to make an instant impact. On the 63rd minute he had a powerful drive saved by Heaton and then 3 minutes later he received the ball inside the Burnley penalty area but curled over.
At this point it was one-way traffic and if not only for Heaton’s heroics, we surely would have added to our goal tally. Alexis had a curling free kick saved by the England goalkeeper and late into the game, Theo was put through with only Heaton to beat but was unable to round the on rushing keeper.


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Match stats [via ESPN FC]

It was a good performance by us in a game where we largely dominated. Key players such as Coquelin, Alexis, Elneny and Rosicky all banked minutes and our defence of the FA Cup is still on course. Unlike previous weeks our football was fast and incisive and despite being without Ozil we never struggled to create chances. Now it’s time for us focus on our next game against the Saints as we look to avenge the 4-0 thrashing we received at their hands.






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