Under the North London sunshine, Arsenal beat Burnley 2-1 in an exciting game at the Emirates.
The Gunners sealed their 11th straight win over The Clarets and moved temporarily to the top of the Premier League. What did we learn?
1. Aubazette does it again
Arsenal are far from a perfect side. In fact they are a team with plenty of flaws that everyone can see. But they have something that few other sides do, something that is going to make them a deadly presence and a factor in every game they play this season: world-class strikers.
Alexandre Lacazette is one of the most perfectly balanced strikers in the league with a skill-set that has no weaknesses and a penchant for rescuing Arsenal when they need it most. Also he has a great beard. Today he scored a decidedly un-Arsenal goal against Burnley, holding the ball up in the box and out-muscling a defender, spinning around and thumping the ball home despite being on the floor.
Alexandre Lacazette's last 13 competitive games at the Emirates:
🅰️ vs Burnley
⚽️ vs Fulham
⚽️ vs Chelsea
🅰️ vs Man Utd
⚽️ vs Cardiff
⚽️ vs Southampton
⚽️ vs Bournemouth
🅰️ vs Man Utd
⚽️ vs Newcastle
🅰️ vs Crystal Palace
✖️ vs Brighton
⚽️⚽️ vs Valencia
⚽️ vs Burnley
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a lightning bolt, a human blur. He scored the only goal of the game last week and with Burnley holding Arsenal today, his match-winning skills were needed yet again. And yet again he stepped up to deliver. Picking the ball up in the final third he drove into the middle and whipped a devastating finish into the near-post, completely wrong-footing the otherwise excellent Nick Pope.
With these two around, Arsenal will always have a chance.
2. Ashley Barnes is Unstoppable
Two games, three goals. Ashley Barnes is the 29-year-old football fairytale. A Football Manager fever dream come to life. A lower league player who has helped Burnley rise to the top division in English football and become a stable and relevant force there. And he’s starting this season with the kind of dominant presence that could see him smash records.
Only Sadio Mané and Sergio Aguero have scored more Premier League goals in 2019, and when you consider that their teams finished last season with 97 and 98 points respectively, Barnes keeping pace with them is downright absurd. He scored in both games against Arsenal last season and kept his streak up this year. He may not have been the intended target for Dwight McNeil’s cross-shot, but he was in space and when the chance fell to him he buried it with no hesitation. He is a relentless competitor and went at Arsenal all game long, to the point where his foul in stoppage time may have cost Burnley one last chance at an equaliser.
3. Dani Ceballos is The Man
Arsenal’s best signing this window in terms of player quality is arguably the one signing that has received the least hype: Dani Ceballos. The Spaniard has joined on loan from Real Madrid and in his first start he put on the kind of show that will have Gunners salivating over the prospect of this guy playing an entire season in their beautiful kits.
Dani Ceballos' game by numbers vs. Burnley:
100% take-ons completed
90% pass accuracy
4 take-ons completed
4 chances created
3 fouls won
2 tackles made
No one could get near him. 💃 pic.twitter.com/3DwPY1oCkG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
Ceballos picked up two assists against Burnley, one for a nice pass but the other, the second, was perhaps more impressive because he made the assist was actually a tackle. A bit of aggressive pressing that won the ball back high up the field and led to Aubameyang getting a free run at their defence and an easy shot on goal. It was the kind of simplistic brilliance that Ceballos is so good at and will make Arsenal so good.
Burnley couldn’t get near Ceballos at the Emirates, the Spaniard had 97 touches and over a 90% pass accuracy – completing 4/4 dribbles and created 4 chances, including his two assists. He won two tackles, recovered the ball 7 times. He basically did everything, and he did it absolutely supreme style as well. He is fast becoming Arsenal’s Mr. Everything, a truly special talent.
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4. Burnley are going to be alright
The Clarets may have tasted defeat at the Emirates, making it their 11th straight loss against Arsenal, but there was enough shown against the Gunners to confirm that they may actually be pretty damn good this season. Sure they may not break the top six, but they will pose much more of a threat than many may have tipped them for prior to the season.
Burnley’s struggles last season were down to not having a big enough squad to juggle their Premier League campaign alongside their forays into the Europa League. But once that was out of the way they returned to an impressive run of form. They have won 30 points since the start of 2019, that’s the same as much-heralded Everton, only one less than Chelsea and Wolves and one point more than Spurs.
They battled from start to finish on Saturday lunchtime against Arsenal. They threatened, they defended well and pushed forward into attack as well. They went down but never lost their focus, fighting back to equalise. In short, Burnley really gave Arsenal a good game. Couple that with their excellent season opener and you can see things working out well for them.
5. Top Four or More?
For the first time in 10 years, Arsenal have won their first two Premier League games. That is absolutely surprising, but it also bodes extremely well for the Gunners this season because not only have they won them both but they won them both with the kind of assurance that Arsenal don’t usually have. These weren’t the cliché “it’s good to win ugly” type of wins, but just the kind of difficult but also routine wins that good sides seem to make that Arsenal have often struggled to pick up.
With the magical Lacazette and Aubameyang up-front, Dani Ceballos in midfield and with David Luiz and Kieran Tierney to strengthen defence it’s highly likely that Arsenal make top four but could they progress even further up the Premier League table? Could third place be under threat? Or perhaps even second?? Do Gunners dare to dream?