September 18th – Burnley 0 Arsenal 1

Clean sheet and three points. And at Turf Moor. A minor miracle. Two world beating teams now that we’ve beaten. And VAR came to our rescue to overcome Anthony Taylor. All game long he was allowing them to bully us. There was one instance in the second half where Woods was shielding the ball outside the penalty area and he, Woods, basically was just gripping and pushing White. Yet no foul was given. All game long there were niggling tackles and the predictable over physical approach from Burnley and he barely called anything. Anyway, when he made his clearly worse decision, VAR was finally there to protect and serve us. I’m sure the referees union will now have to double down on ruling against us in the next game. Who’s that against. Hmm?

Ramsdale was brilliant. So clearly confident and dominant. There were a couple of corners in the second half where he out jumped and caught the ball with both hands while competing with the Burnley bullies. Leno could never have done that. In addition, aside from one mistake in the first half, his distribution was quicker and more accurate. There was one long ball – side-ways kick – to Pepe that was inch perfect. He provides confidence and certainty that is so important. Especially when you have White making simple mistakes. In the first half allowing the ball to drop to Woods after missing a header, and, in the second half, losing the ball outside of the penalty area and then, finally, setting up the penalty incident by under hitting the back pass. As good as White can be – he did dominate some of the arial duels – he is clearly prone to slips that can be costly. Fortunately, alongside him, Gabriel was excellent. With some timely interceptions and a dominating display. Though, he again, had decisions given him against him when Barnes and Woods were clearly man handling him.

On the right our new Nip was again outstanding. What a difference having a real, defensive right -back. The number of crosses from that side have been reduced. He is excellent in the air and is adjusting really quickly to this league. He made one mistake in the second half when he was caught on the ball but overall another excellent display.

Odegaard, who was playing noticeably deeper to receive the ball, was excellent. He linked up play and move us forward. And, of course, scored a gorgeous free-kick. Perfectly executed. I’d have thought Pepe would have taken that. Overall, Odergaard is showing what a perfect version of Ozil could be like.

I was pretty surprised that Sambo was on the bench and that we went with a single holding midfielder. I thought that was way to risky but it was the right decision. To be a little more aggressive and attacking. Even though it was often hard working the ball out of defense. Burnley put pressure on Gabriel and White and cut out the channels. Only as the game went on did that open up. But we controlled most of the game. While carrying a few players.

Unfortunately it was hard to know who was worse today Pepe or Saka. I fear Saka won that duel. It seem like every pass from him was under hit, misplaced and every tackle lost. This is not the Saka we saw last year. With Southgate watching he would not have been impressed. Saka needs to discover himself. Sure, he helped win the foul for the goal but too often – especially in the second half, there were opportunities to make the killer pass and he under hit it. And he gave the ball away, in defense, way to often. And positionally he was poor as well. This is not last years Saka. Something weird is going on. Maybe, he should be played on the right. Maybe he should be given a break. But we need him. And so far this season he’s not been a contributor.

And on the other side Pepe was poor again. His crosses were pathetic and his passing was often under hit as well. He had a few moments but in defense, especially towards the end, he failed to track his man back. But, he was better than Saka.

Aubemeyang was barely involved in this game – not his fault – we barely got him the ball. And, towards the end of the game when we have them on the break we did not feen him the right passes. Both Saka and Pepe blew opportunities to complete the counter-attacks.

I should be ecstatic that we went to the Burnley bruisers and came away with three points. But it was so frustrating watching Saka and Pepe today. And sitting on the edge of the seat as White looked like he would implode. Also, knowing that Partey would not last the entire game. But then AMN and Sambi did fine when they came on. Even if AMN was in danger of giving the ball away a few times.

Interestingly, I’ve not mentioned either ESR or Tierney. Our potency down our left hand side seems to have been curtailed. I also worry about Tierney cramping up. He and Partey are too critical to our chances of success. And yet they just don’t feel like they are fully fit. So, rather than relax with the three points I continue to worry. The pressure is off slightly now. But with the NLD coming up, the pressure will – and should – build again. This will be a far better test of how far we might or might not have progressed. It will also be interesting to see whether Xhaka strolls back into the team. I don’t know that we’ll be playing four at the back with one holding midfielder against that lot. Maybe we’ll play both Partey and Sambi. BTW, I wish Partey would learn to go to ground rather than signal to the bench that he wants to come off. It reminds me of Sp*rs last year when he walked to the sideline. He surely knows that if he can’t continue he should go to ground to force a substitution. Simple stuff really.

Anyway, we’ve “climbed” the table and taken some more pressure away from Arteta. But still plenty to be worked on here. We are still too vulnerable and exposed in midfield. But at least we finally have a true goalkeeper behind the defense. All hail Ramsdale. He will surely be in the England squad now. Southgate must have looked at Pope and Ramsdale and realized which one he would want in goal.  Let’s see if he can see what we can see.


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