The Gunners were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw in the Arsenal v Burnley game. The visitors had just 4 points from 10 away games leading to the match. The draw favoured neither team, as Burnley remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table, while Arsenal’s top 4 aspirations have taken a massive blow.
Here’s how the Arsenal v Burnley game unfolded:
The North London side made a single change from their EFL Cup defeat against Liverpool. Takehiro Tomiyasu missed out due to injury, and Rob Holding replaced him in the XI. Ben White was moved to right-back. Burnley countered in a 4-4-2 set-up.
The Clarets looked to restrict the hosts in their own half. Their centre-forwards cut passing lanes to Lokonga but were content to allow Gabriel and Holding to maintain possession. Burnley only looked to press high upon a loose touch or a pass received by a player facing his own goal.
Sean Dyche’s men began well and created 2 chances early on in the Arsenal v Burnley game. Ramsdale made an awkward save off a Jay Rodriguez attempt, and Ben Mee flashed over from the resulting corner.
Arsenal’s structure had a few noticeable adjustments. The full-backs remained deeper, and Odegaard or Smith Rowe would drop wide to pick the ball up. Lacazette continuously dropped deeper to offer himself as a passing option. Saka and Martinelli remained high and wide.
Lokonga was marked out of the game. The Belgian was often at fault for poorly positioning himself, making a pass inaccessible. Ben White did not offer great progressions down the right flank either. With Odegaard coming deeper to receive the ball, Saka found himself isolated when a long ball did find the Englishman.
Arsenal’s centre-backs, Gabriel in particular, often drove the ball forward to attract pressure. This often forced one of Burnley’s players to abandon their rigid shape, opening up passing options. Gabriel registered 80 carries amounting to a distance of 435 yards throughout the Arsenal v Burnley game.
Arsenal found the left wing an outlet for progressions. Tierney, Smith Rowe and Martinelli often tried to combine and create chances down the left flank.
Another innovative tactical implement was noticeable when Arsenal arrived in the middle third. Burnley maintained their compact 4-4-2 shape. Arsenal, as they do often, too moved up with a 3-4-3 shape. However, this had one noticeable difference from their normal execution.
Generally, Tierney holds the wider position, allowing Martinelli to drift inwards and access better shooting locations. Against Sean Dyche’s men, the Scot played almost like an inverted full-back, while Martinelli maintained width on the left.
On the right, Saka remained wide, while Odegaard or Lacazette moved into the half-space. This triggered an interesting reaction in Burnley’s set-up. Tierney and White’s deeper and more central positioning forced Burnley’s wingers to follow suit. If Burnley’s wingers had remained wide, it would have presented the Gunners an opportunity to control the midfield.
Burnley’s wingers tracking Tierney and White provided an even greater opportunity to make inroads. Rather than looking to stretch the opponent’s midfield and generate numerical superiority in the middle, it allowed Arsenal to stretch the opposition defence. This could give the Gunners two possibilities:
- If the defence remains compact, Martinelli and Saka were offered space to make runs and attack the goal.
- If the full-backs did stretch out, Odegaard and Saka could make runs in between the lines to attack space.
Theoretically, such a set-up is the best way to dismantle a low block team like Burnley. Teams like Manchester City under Guardiola use similar set-ups, and consistently put 5 goals past Sean Dyche. Arsenal’s failure was at the execution.
The Gunners failed to progress the ball quickly through the lines. This gave the Clarets enough time to re-organise and adjust their shape to close down the wings. Mikel Arteta’s men were caught close to one another, which gave the visitors less ground to cover.
The hosts did not switch play between wings enough to exploit spaces. A noticeable trend was Lacazette’s positioning. Often, the near-side CM and Lacazette would drop deeper to offer passing options. The far-side CM would occupy the 9-role to ensure Burnley’s defence remained pinned back.
The hosts began to settle after the first 20 minutes into the Arsenal v Burnley game. The fluidity in positioning between Smith Rowe, Lacazette and Odegaard allowed the Gunners to find space between the lines and create promising attacks. Either one of Odegaard, Tierney or Smith Rowe often dropped deeper to assist Lokonga in the deeper areas too.
It was in the final third that Arsenal struggled to make breakthroughs. Burnley often defended with up to 8 men in their box. Lacazette and the other forwards found very little space inside the penalty area. Arteta would have liked his players to attempt more shots from outside the box, which would provide the Gunners with an additional dimension in attack and force Burnley to step up and cover spaces.
However, Martinelli, Saka, Odegaard, Lacazette and Smith Rowe were often caught too deep or too wide. Even when they found space around the box, the players were hesitant to attempt shots.
Arsenal defended in a 4-5-1 shape. The visitors wasted little time in their half and looked to take the aerial route. So Arteta restrained his midfield and wingers to have them more optimally placed in winning second balls and aerial duels.
Burnley made only 153 successful passes throughout 90 minutes (less than 2 successful passes a minute). Sean Dyche’s men appeared most threatening from set-piece situations. They rarely threatened Ramsdale from open play.
Arsenal maintained 75% possession in the first half and had 12 shots to show for it. Barring odd spells, however, Burnley looked comfortable and if the game were to be decided, it seemed pretty obvious that it would require just one goal.
The second half carried the same tune as the first. Arsenal held a lot of possession, and Burnley were content to let them have it. The Gunners took up a 2-3-5 shape in attack, with a flat front 5. This made it relatively easier for the Clarets to defend as compared to the staggered positioning in the first half.
The Arsenal v Burnley game was tightly contested in the midfield. When either team managed to get the ball into an extreme third, they looked dangerous. Then came Arsenal’s best stretch of the game. From the 60th minute, the Gunners dominated proceedings.
For 10 minutes, they even had 90% possession. They registered 7 shots between the 61st and 71st minute. Nick Pope affected 5 saves throughout the game, the most important one to keep Smith Rowe’s fierce effort out from a corner. But Arsenal’s best chance of the game fell to Lacazette. Following a terrific run, Smith Rowe picked out the Frenchman, who somehow failed to slot the ball into a gaping net.
As the game wore on, it looked destined to end in a 0-0 draw. Arteta encouraged his side to play switches more often. While this did help the Gunners locate Saka and Martinelli in space, the supporting movements failed to compliment the wingers. Arsenal developed a monotonous formula:
- Short passes between the centre-backs
- A long ball is played to a winger
- The winger has no supporting runners. He tries to create space for himself
- If unsuccessful, Burnley regain possession. The defence clears the ball, leading to a repeat of the cycle.
- If the winger finds space, he attempts a cross in. Burnley often had 7-8 bodies in the box, compared to Arsenal’s 2-3. They were rarely threatened, and more than content to give away corners. The Gunners had 12 corner-kicks in the game.
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Arteta sent Nketiah on in search of a late equalizer. The Englishman replaced Smith Rowe and seemed to take up a position in the left half-space.
Arsenal had only 1 shot in the last 10 minutes, a Gabriel header that Pope saved. In comparison, Burnley managed 4, including 2 dangerous counter-attacks from McNeil in stoppage time. The scoreboard remained unchanged as the clock ticked on, and the final whistle capped off a frustrating result from a mediocre performance by both teams.
Arsenal’s abysmal start to 2022 has put their Premier League position under jeopardy. The Gunners are yet to win a game since the turn of New Year. With West Ham, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur improving, the Gunners are staring at another disappointing season, unless Arteta quickly stems the rot and returns the team to its winning ways.
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