Shkodran Mustafi revelled in a bruising battle with Sam Vokes but the last-minute objective off an limb was an accurate reflection of Arsenal as an attacking menace against Burnley
All four sides of Turf Moor praised Arsne Wenger in recognition of reaching 20 years as Arsenal manager as he walked across the pitch before kick-off. Only one side praised Wengers exit and his response a sheepish wave from hip-height said everything about an anniversary where the most important point gifts arrived courtesy of the match officials.
The legitimacy and merits of Arsenals 93 rd-minute winner at Burnley naturally shaped the post-match analysis with Sean Dyche reflecting the home squads hopelessnes and Wenger the visitors great luck. Laurent Koscielnys goal, his raised limb applying the final touch from close range after Burnley had switched off at a corner, may have been entirely out of context with the style Wenger has maintained over two decades at Arsenal. But it was perfectly in keeping with a scrappy, error-strewn display in front of goal at Turf Moor. Wenger acknowledged the helping touch without which Arsenal would not have gained a fifth successive Premier League victory. When the dispute determines, and it may take a while, his team must recognise the importance of the reprieve and rediscover the precision, the purpose and the menace that was painfully lacking against Burnley.
It was a big win, told Wenger on his team had given rise to third. We were five points behind Manchester City, they are a quality side. When you have an opportunity to close the gap on them, you cannot miss it. That would have been the negative from video games had we not won. I am long enough in the job were told that you will be disappointed if you are in Burnleys shoes. They will be gutted to lose the game like that for all the effort they put in.
Had Wenger wanted to promote the positives and he resisted on Sunday he could have highlighted the late upsurge of pressure that had Burnley supporters dreading the worst moments before Alexis Snchez collected Mesut zils short corner unopposed and centred ahead of the winner. Arsenal persevered in the face of strong, composed Burnley defending and their own shortcomings in the final third. zil was on the margins throughout, Snchez searched constantly for a route through and was thwarted frequently, while Theo Walcott was unable to reproduce his recent incisive kind. But there was a resilience to Arsenal in both their mentality and in their approach that Wenger can also take reassurance from.
It told much about a slow-burning competition that Shkodran Mustafis confrontation with the Burnley striker Sam Vokes was often the most compelling aspect of a game that promised much until the ball reached the final third much like the Arsenal performance. The guests dominated possession but did not create a chance of note until Snchez tested Tom Heaton early in the second half. Too often a telegraphed last pass from Snchez or zil was easily intercepted by the Burnley defence, where Michael Keane and Matthew Lowton again impressed in a team that appears far better equipped for the rigour of a Premier League campaign than in 2014 -1 5.
For all the added guile that Jeff Hendrick and Steven Defour have brought to Burnleys midfield, however, the long get-out ball to Vokes remains the most trusted weapon for Dyches side against opponents of Arsenals calibre. And it will have reassured the travelling thousands in the David Fishwick Stand to witness an Arsenal centre-half revel in a physical fight against the Wales international instead of pleading for protection from the referee at every opportunity.
Mustafi should have been booked for one first-half outburst towards Craig Pawson when, having been penalised for a pollute on Vokes despite the striker holding his shirt and backing in, he recurred the action into the referees midriff. The centre-half was also less than impressed with Pawson after receiving an accidental elbow to the face from the towering centre-forward that required medical attention late on. Otherwise the 35m signing from Valencia flourished on a relentless duel with the Burnley centre-forward.
Both players had their individual successes and it was notable how many aerial challenges the defender won despite his drawback in height. The Germany international period his leapings impressively, always looking to find an Arsenal shirt with the header as he did so, marshalled the back-line and was strong when going to ground against Vokes. Mustafi earned an ovation from the visiting supporters for a thunderous tackle on the Burnley forward that took the ball and man and won a throw-in. He responded with a knowing nod in their direction.
Such precision was painfully lacking from the Arsenal attack. The swift, incisive cuts inflicted on Chelsea and Basel were replaced by a methodical and often careless showing. Burnleys defence dealt comfortably with Arsenals recurred attempts to pick a route through and could have the base for another eye-catching home win but for Petr Cechs vital save from Johann Berg Gudmundssons header and Keane reaching the crossbar with a towering header from the Iceland internationals corner.
Arsenal were restricted to half opportunities with Walcott deflecting a shot broad early on and Snchez volleying against the outside of a post before the most fortunate reprieve. Wenger will accept it.
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