Burnley – Arsenal was a game full of wild moments at Turf Moor as the Clarets battled back to frustrate the Gunners.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal a perfect start early on but after missing several glorious chances, Mikel Arteta’s boys then gifted Burnley a goal after Granit Xhaka’s horrendous error led to a goal for Chris Wood.
In the second half there was VAR drama galore, but Burnley held on for a big point in their battle against relegation. As for Arsenal, they lost more ground in their top six battle and it seems like they are now all in on the Europa League as this game summed up their season: a missed opportunity.
Three things we learned
1. VAR gets one right, one wrong: The system worked well to overturn a red card against Erik Pieters and a penalty kick, as VAR was used and you could see the ball hit his shoulder instead of his hand. So, that was one right. But there was a big decision that went against Arsenal. Nicolas Pepe dribbled at Pieters and there was a clear handball that VAR looked at but said was a penalty kick due to the proximity of Pieters to Pepe. VAR got that wrong. Fans, players, managers and everyone in-between continues to grapple with VAR.
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2. Europa League is now Arsenal’s priority: They are losing ground in the top four race and finishing in the top six is probably out of the question too, and they were their own worst enemies. Xhaka’s error which led to Burnley’s goal came from Arteta wanting them to play out of the back through Leno, and this will happen from time to time, but this was peak Arsenal. This season in games they have often created lots of chances, not taken them and then shot themselves in the foot. Arteta and Arsenal now have one priority: winning the Europa League. They play against Olympiakos in the last 16 and it seems like the only way Arsenal will be playing in Europe next season is if they win the Europa League this season. Arteta will now save his best players for that competition between now and May. That is their reality.
3. Battling Burnley hanging in there: This was a typical Burnley display and they should have probably won this game. Bernd Leno made a great save to deny Chris Wood and the Clarets were the better team for most of the second half. Sean Dyche’s boys are battling away and are seven points above the bottom three. They should have just enough to stay out of trouble this season.
Man of the Match: Ben Mee – Some brilliant blocks, especially late on, and his display summed up Burnley.
The first attack of the game lead to the opener as Aubameyang cut inside and hit a low shot towards the corner which squirmed past Nick Pope and in.
Aubameyang caused all kinds of problems and Lowton and Pope did just enough to put off the Arsenal captain as he looked certain to score a second. Bukayo Saka then surged towards goal and a deflection set him clean through on goal, but he somehow clipped the post and sent his effort off target.
Saka had another chance on the break, while Thomas Partey fired just over as Arsenal threatened to run away with things. Then the Gunners shot themselves in the foot. Bernd Leno and Granit Xhaka got themselves in a right mess and the latter hit a pass against Wood and it deflected into the net to gift Burnley an equalizer.
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Martin Odegaard forced Pope into a solid save down low, while at the other end Burnley whipped in some dangerous balls to test Leno.
Burnley dug deep to hold Arsenal back as Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe made an impact off the bench, and the latter should have won a penalty kick for a handball against Erik Pieters but VAR decided it wasn’t.
Pieters then looped a volley towards goal which Leno pushed over, and moments later he denied Wood he was played in brilliantly by Matej Vydra. Pepe then spurned a glorious chance to win it for Arsenal as he totally missed the ball when unmarked, just 10 yards out.
And late on a huge moment arrived as Pepe’s volley was deflected by Pieters onto the bar, and the referee awarded a penalty kick and sent off the Burnley substitute. However, VAR showed that Pieters had clearly used his shoulder to make the block and the decision was overturned.
Ben Mee and Burnley made several fine blocks late on to deny Arsenal a winner, while Dani Ceballos hit the post in stoppage time in a wild finish.