Arsenal battled out a 3-1 Premier League victory at home to Burnley on Saturday afternoon despite Fabio Vieira’s late dismissal.
In a reversal of the played-out stereotypes between the recent Premier League iterations of these clubs, Arsenal bullied Burnley with a torrent of high balls into the box, scoring all three goals via this airborne route. Josh Brownhill briefly had the visitors level but the Gunners were worth three hard-fought points.
With Mikel Arteta and Vincent Kompany in either dugout, there was a distinct Manchester City flavour to the personnel – rather than the scrappy proceedings. Arsenal’s victory took them level on points with Pep Guardiola’s league leaders.
How the game unfolded
Kompany described Burnley’s visit to the Emirates as “a chance to measure themselves” against a “complete” team. For 45 minutes, they stacked up pretty favourably.
Only Sheffield United had conceded more goals than the Clarets heading into this weekend but Kompany set his side up in a narrow, compact 4-4-2 off the ball, clogging up the central slice of the pitch. Without the artistry of an injured Martin Odegaard or Thomas Partey’s penetration from deep, Arsenal were forced into a flurry of crosses.
The reigning Championship holders had dealt with Arsenal’s first 20 deliveries of the half but Bukayo Saka flung himself on to Oleksandr Zinchenko’s arcing ball in first-half stoppage time. While the visitors looked on frozen, Leandro Trossard snuck in at the back post to nod Arsenal ahead, colliding so painfully with the upright he couldn’t even celebrate.
Despite their lead, the Gunners had been groggy three days on from a Champions League win over Sevilla. Burnley’s electric Luca Koleosho is anything but. Even though Takehiro Tomiyasu matched his burst into the box, the explosive teenager muscled his way back into possession. The chaos created by Koleosho put the ball at the feet of Brownhill, whose low strike beat David Raya thanks to a hefty deflection.
Yet, three minutes had barely elapsed before Arsenal were ahead again. William Saliba rose to meet another cross, wandering in front of James Trafford to thump in Trossard’s corner before the hour mark.
Sensing a weakness, Arsenal ploughed on with their aerial onslaught. Saliba could only force the ball on to the bar from another Trossard corner but it sat up invitingly for Zinchenko. In sharp contrast to the brutish approach Arsenal adopted, Zinchenko’s airborne volley was brilliantly balletic.
Vieira added an extra edge of nervy energy to the closing stages by scraping his studs across Brownhill’s kneecap. There was no whisper of VAR controversy as Vieira accepted the straight red card that came his way in the 83rd minute.
Arsenal withstood a late squall of Burnley pressure – at the expense of Jorginho’s scalp which was cut during one particularly frenetic melee – to climb above Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool. At the other end of the Premier League table, Burnley are second from bottom.
Arsenal player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: David Raya – 6/10 – Quick to drop low to make a save if required.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 5/10 – Started so well against Koleosho but couldn’t contain the young talent for all 90 minutes.
CB: William Saliba – 8/10 – Unflappable in the extreme. Opened his scoring account of the season to cap another superb display.
CB: Gabriel – 7/10 – Dominant in both boxes.
LB: Oleksandr Zinchenko – 8/10 – Wreaking havoc in all three thirds, a sweet strike was worthy of a return to his best.
CM: Kai Havertz – 4/10 – Desperately lacking in conviction in every action, whether it was taking a shot, picking out a teammate or even tying his laces.
CM: Jorginho – 6/10 – On the limited occasions when he committed to a challenge in transition, Jorginho came out on top more often than not.
CM: Declan Rice – 4/10 – Struggled to exert his usual influence over proceedings, seems wasted high up against opponents that spend most of their time sitting back.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 7/10 – An eel on Arsenal’s right flank, repeatedly twisting away from Charlie Taylor.
ST: Leandro Trossard – 8/10 – As late as the halfway point of the opening 45 minutes, Trossard had completed fewer passes than his manager. Fair to say he grew into a game which included a goal and an assist.
LW: Gabriel Martinelli – 5/10 – Flitted in and out of the contest.
SUB: Fabio Vieira (59′ for Havertz) – 1/10 – The only action of note that Vieira committed was accidental but cowardly, putting out his studs to protect himself.
SUB: Eddie Nketiah (81′ Trossard) – N/A
SUB: Reiss Nelson (81′ for Saka) – N/A
SUB: Jakub Kiwior (89′ for Martinelli) – N/A
Subs not used: Aaron Ramsdale (GK), Reuell Walters, Mohamed Elneny, Bradley Ibrahim, Charles Sagoe Jr
Mikel Arteta – 7/10 – It’s impossible to know if the focus on crosses was a deliberate instruction from Arteta – they delivered more on Saturday than they have in any other game this season – but it worked.