After topping their Europa League group with maximum points, Arsenal fans have long since learned to be excited for the Thursday nights and dread the weekend.
Such is the run of form these days, that Arsenal fans have noticed the patterns forming. Arsenal have been stunning in the Europa League, blasting teams apart without a second’s hesitation and have slumped to unconvincing performances in the league, performances that are often punctuated with the sombre realisation that the inevitable will reoccur.
After their 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday, Mikel Arteta named the same eleven, with the only notable exception being Mohamed Elneny in place of the injured Thomas Partey.
The first-half passed without incident, though both teams shared one opportunity each to take the lead. Burnley had the chance to take the lead in the opening fifteen minutes or so after Chris Wood glanced a free header at the back post wide and Alexandre Lacazette missed a good opportunity at the other end.
It perhaps speaks to just how poor the game was and how without incident it was in the first-half to show that the second-half was more exciting. Things started to go downhill within a eleven minutes of the second-half beginning. Granit Xhaka was booked for an innocuous foul, which led to a mid-pitch scuffle and the notoriously hot-headed Xhaha grabbed Ashley Westwood by the neck, a move that was unfortunately spotted by VAR and the former captain had his subsequent yellow-card rescinded, only for it to be replaced with a straight red and a three-match ban looming.
Things went from bad to worse from there after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s near-post header was unfortunately glanced into his own net.
When the final whistle blew, the look of thunder on Arteta’s face said more than any dressing room bollocking ever could.
Sunday was yet another cameo of what Arsenal have become in recent weeks, clueless, tactically spent and not a jot of creativity in the team, punctuated by the continued belief in below-par players.
Once again, Arsenal failed to create many chances. Though Arsenal finished with 18 attempts on goal (of which only 33% were on target), it would be a very generous person that would think Arsenal created little more than minor annoyances to the Burnley backline.
Elsewhere, Mikel Arteta’s faith in his players does not seem to be repaid. Following Granit Xhaka’s outburst at the end of Unai Emery’s tenure with the club, it was thought that the former Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder would be long gone, however, Arteta vouched for the Swiss international and gave him a route back into the team, a move that has been shoddily paidback and last night seemed to be outright disrespected as Xhaka now leaves Arteta another midfielder down heading into a busy Christmas period, with only Dani Ceballos, Mohamed Elneny and Joe Willock to realistically choose from.
As per usual, it was another lacklustre performance from Willian too. Though the Brazilian’s run in the team currently is likely down to Nicolas Pépé’s suspension (which ended after the Burnley game), questions are still raised as to why on earth Arsenal invested the money in the player. While no transfer fee was paid for the erstwhile Chelsea winger, Arsenal paid out a significant selling-on fee and wage inclusion to sign him and the winger looks to be one of the club’s worst signings in recent memory, with the winger still yet to score for the club.
It was another torrid game for Héctor Bellerín as well. While Bellerín’s foul-throws have been the subject of much derision on social media, his performance last night will do very little to deter his doubters. Bellerín was often caught out of position and struggled to properly support Willian on the wing and his yellow card (his fifth of the season) rules him out of Wednesday’s match against Southampton.
For Arsenal this now looks like a crisis, though the season is only eleven games young and there is still plenty of time to turn the form around, one would have to question how Arsenal are going to do so. The team has no creativity, the manager seems unwilling to drop underperforming players and the team doesn’t look interested, so quite how Arsenal plan on beating Southampton on Wednesday is anyone’s guess.
Arsenal fans may have been looking forward to Thursday nights so far this season, but now it looks like Arsenal won’t even have that to contend them next season unless their form picks up soon.
1.) Bernd Leno
2.) Héctor Bellerín (Maitland-Niles 74’)
16.) Rob Holding
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
34.) Granit Xhaka
25.) Mohamed Elneny
12.) Willian (Nketiah 82’)
7.) Bukayo Saka
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (Ceballos 60’)
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
20.) Shkodran Mustafi
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
28.) Joe Willock
8.) Dani Ceballos
32.) Emile Smith-Rowe
30.) Eddie Nketiah
1.) Nick Pope
2.) Matthew Lowton
5.) James Tarkowski
6.) Ben Mee
3.) Charlie Taylor
12.) Robbie Brady
18.) Ashley Westwood
8.) Josh Brownhill
11.) Dwight McNeil
19.) James Rodriguez (Barnes 58’)
9.) Chris Wood (Vydra 70’)
15.) Bailey Peacock-Farrell
23.) Erk Pieters
34.) Jimmy Dunne
28.) Kevin Long
41.) Josh Benson
10.) Ashley Barnes
27.) Matěj Vydra