Given the doom and gloom which engulfed Arsenal’s opening month of the season, you suspect Mikel Arteta will be happy to take wins of any kind at the moment. Do results against Burnley and Norwich – two teams without a victory to their name this season – completely shift that macabre feeling among Arsenal supporters? Perhaps not. The nature of the performances will be far from convincing, either.
But there was a moment here midway through the second half, as a vociferous Turf Moor crowd began to back Burnley and the hosts threw everything but the metaphorical kitchen sink at Arteta’s side, when you began to wonder when, not if, the visitors would collapse and throw away back-to-back league victories. Yet, thanks in no small part to a magnificent performance from Gabriel at the back, they held firm and held out.
This would not be the current incarnation of Arteta’s Arsenal without at least one moment of great trepidation, though. As Burnley intensified the pressure heading into the final quarter, a poorly-weighted pass from Ben White allowed Matej Vydra to slip through on goal. Aaron Ramsdale made contact, and Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot. However, further inspection by VAR showed that Ramsdale had got the ball just before making contact with Vydra, and that seemed to stifle Burnley’s momentum thereafter and allow Arsenal to at least regain a sliver of control and cling on.
“It’s a really hard-fought victory,” Arteta said. “It’s a place that is really tough to come and win. They put you under a lot of pressure and the attitude they showed to find a way to win is the most pleasing thing.” He and Sean Dyche were both frustrated spectators during a laborious opening half-hour. Burnley had stuck with the side that lost at Everton last time out, resisting the temptation to hand Maxwel Cornet a full debut from the start.
He would show plenty of promise when he did arrive from the bench later, though. “He’ll continue to adapt to the challenge of the Premier League,” Dyche said after Cornet’s promising cameo. But when the goal finally came, it was certainly worth the wait from Arteta and Arsenal’s perspective. There had been a distinct lack of creativity from either side in the opening 30 minutes, but Bukayo Saka’s driving run through the heart of the Burnley midfield left Ashley Westwood with no choice but to hack the England international down and receive a booking.
And from the free-kick, Ødegaard made no mistake with a pinpoint strike to Nick Pope’s right post. It was Ødegaard’s first goal since returning to Arsenal permanently, but almost immediately after half-time, the visitors’ focus had to turn to the other end of the field. Burnley certainly came out much the stronger of the two sides, hurling crosses aplenty towards their familiar duo of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.
But Arsenal stood firm, in particular Gabriel, who continues to blossom into the rock Arteta’s defence has been crying out for. “He’s a player with an incredible future and he’s already given us a lot,” Arteta said of the Brazilian. However, he was a spectator as White’s shaky pass sold Ramsdale short, and when Vydra went down after a collision with Ramsdale, it looked as though Arsenal’s hard work to that point would be undone.
However, replays showed Ramsdale made contact with the ball, and Arsenal escaped. “The keeper does get a touch on it, so in theory that doesn’t get given,” Dyche conceded. He will have certainly been encouraged by the vigour and effort his side showed as they went in hunt of an equaliser, but that Vydra incident was the closest they came to troubling a Gunners defence that was in no mood to be breached.
“We’ve got to turn those performances into wins,” Dyche admitted. There is certainly cause for optimism in this display for Dyche and Burnley, not least Cornet’s lively arrival from the bench. But as Arteta will attest to, there is only really one thing that leaves you truly satisfied as a Premier League manager, and that is winning games. After a month the Spaniard will be keen to forget, he will now hope the tide is slowly turning in he and his side’s favour.