Arsenal turfed out by Burnley following Fabregas injury

Burnley’s pressure game and movement down the channels helped earn the home side a draw against the Gunners.

It’s like the saying in tennis goes; “you’ve never actually broken serve unless you win the next game” and for Arsenal, proclaiming they were back in the title race was never fully going to be realised unless they were to follow up the defeat to Liverpool by winning at Burnley. As it was, the home side took the game to Arsenal from the first minute and in the end, thoroughly deserved their 1-1 draw, if not more despite Arsène Wenger downplaying their achievement. “The second half was us dominating without really being decisive,” he said. “They only played with counter-attacks but they did it very well.”

Taking advantage on the counter and transitions is a viable tactic in the modern game and the manager should not underestimate its danger. Indeed Arsenal had some of their best chances from such attacks while it would be unfair on Burnley to attribute all their play from the counter attack. Depending on whose statistics you used, the Clarets had more possession (BBC have 51% to Burnley while OPTA have 54% to Arsenal) and while that may not be as accurate, they had Arsenal on the back foot at varying periods of the game. Especially in the first half and early second period, they pressured the midfield fantastically and never denied them any time to make their decisions.

The opener came in comical fashion as twice the Burnley defence had the ball muddled at their feet, allowing Cesc Fabregas to tip-toe through and stroke the ball past Jensen in goal. After that, Arsenal had a couple of chances to put the game beyond doubt, Andrey Arshavin hitting the post and Fabregas nearly capping a brilliant individual effort with a volley that hit the side netting. Both sides’ expansive styles made it a game with plenty of gaps to be exploited. While Burnley are organised with a flat midfield and back four, the ability to get “between the lines” as Benayoun did in a meeting earlier this season was frequent but as Fabregas’s fitness started to wane and he eventually taken off, so did the Gunners goal threat.

Burnley found spaces of their own and with men constantly taking up positions down the channels, caused problems for Arsenal. One-on-ones must be avoided but if the Gunners’ 4-3-3 is all about stretching play when attacking, then that is to be difficult to deny as when the ball is lost, it means squeezing down space quickly. The wide players quickly realised that and when left-back Jordan comfortably shifted away from Fabregas at the edge of the box and fed Bikey, the Arsenal defence were desperate resulting in a rash challenge by Vermaelen. Graham Alexander smashed in the subsequent penalty making it a career total of 70 goals from 75 spot kicks.

The second half continued in a high octane fashion but with Arsenal seemingly becoming more apprehensive as time wore on and any touch of the ball was rapidly followed up by a Burnley man in quick pursuit. Wenger stated after the game that the team lacked sharpness and indeed the ability to get beyond Burnley was concerning. Arshavin lacked the support around him when he dropped short while Song and Nasri kept probing but in doing so, the latter conceded the right flank thereby making it easier to defend. Eduardo and Gallas had great opportunities to win the game but that would have been unfair to Burnley who had a ‘goal’ wrongly disallowed for offside.

Burnley 1-1 Arsenal: Fabregas 7, Alexander 28 (pen).

Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Caldwell, Carlisle, Jordan, Eagles (Blake), Elliott, Alexander, Bikey (Gudjonsson), McDonald, Steven Fletcher (Nugent).
Subs not used: Penny, Kalvenes, Thompson, Guerrero.

Arsenal: Almunia (5), Sagna (6), Vermaelen (5), Gallas (5), Silvestre (5), Walcott (5) (Eduardo 5), Fabregas (7) (Ramsey 6), Song (7), Diaby (6), Nasri (6), Arshavin (7).
Subs not used: Fabianski, Vela, Wilshere, Eboue, Thomas.
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral)

Burnley Team Statistics Arsenal
1 Goals 1
1 1st Half Goals 1
2 Shots on Target 7
5 Shots off Target 9
2 Blocked Shots 4
3 Corners 6
11 Fouls 12
8 Offsides 4
2 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
66.9 Passing Success 74.3
17 Tackles 32
76.5 Tackles Success 81.2
45.9 Possession 54.1
48.6 Territorial Advantage 51.4

15 thoughts on “Arsenal turfed out by Burnley following Fabregas injury

  1. Regardless of the result, as your website focuses on tactics, why again don’t we have a true viable alternative formation and outlook? Burnley knew what we had for them, just as Chelsea did, just as Sunderland did. I think it is more of a problem that we cannot change formation when things aren’t going our way. Fabregas was injured, and Ramsey never had the impact of Fabregas, wouldn’t it make more sense to give players the best chance of doing something, put Nasri centrally being the most logical.

    This 4-3-3/4-5-1 is not able to beat every single team, so we must have at least 2 more formations to surprise the opposition. Of course, a different formation will also imply a change in mentality in how to execute it, so the mentality of the players also needs to be worked on big time.

    1. I agree with you. Wenger has been stubborn with the formation and the system. Even after getting whipped 3-0 by chelsea, losing to Man City twice, getting criminal draws against teams like Sunderland and Burnley, Wenger just refuses to shake things up. We know how teams are going to play against us. But we still do the same thing and play into their hands. I for once have to admit that we dont deserve to win the title.

    2. I noticed at some point during the second half that Wenger had switched to a 4-2-3-1 with Song and Diaby sitting deeper together and Ramsey pushing up ahead instead of Diaby playing higher than Song.

      The current starting line up when everyone is fit should be:
      Bendtner-Van Persie-Arshavin

      With that personal the formation can change between a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1, 4-1-4-1 and a 4-5-1 with ease and these are all formations that Wenger has played over the years and the team do know how to play them (and against them).

      I’ve lost complete faith in Almunia now, he’s never been the best shot stopper (Though decent) or the most commanding or communicative (The defence seem genuinely unsettled with his presence) but even the things I believed he was excellent at, distribution and being the sweeper keeper, have disappeared.

      Fabianski on the other hand has excellent distribution (quick, accurate with good choices), good shot stopping but most of all he’s quick minded and decisive with commanding his area.

      Wenger needs to play Eboue in the right wing/forward position instead of Walcott (Impact sub for when it’s a tie/loss later in the game, all of his best performances have come in such circumstances).

      Eboue has excellent technique, is strong and capable of contributing to the defensive side of things but most importantly, like Arshavin, is able to drive at the defenders forcing them to drop deep, leave space and make errors (His final product is lacking but that is true for Walcott too).

      He’s been good to excellent in every game so far this season and we may as well make use of him before he leaves for the ACN (You never know maybe he’ll pick up a knock and won’t make it back in time to be chosen!).
      Lastly he needs to buy a striker desperately so that we have effective cover for Bendtner, Van Persie and Arshavin (In case of more injuries) since it seems Walcott & Vela aren’t ready to step up and Eduardo is having a difficult time still (Physically and mentally it seems).

    3. Well formations take you only so far. We are clearly suffering from a fragile squad and no formation will solve that.

      We need a decent striker to pose a threat to opponents and keep them on the back foot. Only after that talking about formations is meaningful.

      1. I have to agree completely with the points made in this thread. There does seem to be a lack of tactical flexibility when things stop clicking. I am surprised Nasri was not moved centrally to take over when Cesc went off. I was also surprised to see Diaby playing so far back and hardly ever driving forward. Song has become so good with the ball and his passing so incisive.

        On the player side, Cesc looked like man possessed the first thirty minutes. On the other hand, Theo looks very poor (bring Eboue back in the side) and Eduardo just looks lost :-(. I really love our players and it pains me when they don’t perform, but those two are simply not doing it.

    4. Some really good points that I don’t need to expand on. But answering the main question; I’m skeptical how much of a difference a change in formation will make. But the players have improved very much mentally in their defensive side that it is worth a shot. (There is an article which I hope to put up next week on the mental side and the reason for the change in formation).

      At Olympiakos, the side switched to 4-2-4 and that made the difference. Maybe it’s personnel which was the reason why Wenger didn’t think about changing but in that case Eduardo is best suited in a two man attack.

      The 4-3-3 is meant to give more directness and tempo. It’s up to the players to apply it. But it was obvious last night with the amount of ball Nasri had in the centre that he should have been given a more prominent role. Was there a need for two holders? Song got up the pitch more in the second half while Diaby stayed very much back. It was calling for Vela to come on as his movement would have been troublesome to Burnley.

    5. What tactical variation would you propose though?

      The 433 is a very effective and adaptable system. I don’t agree that there is an inherent flaw in the formation that has been the cause of our shortcomings.

      The reason for our poor form as of late is the lack of a suitable attacking focal point. Arshavin has good link-up play, but he’s not tall enough to take down the high ball, whilst his tendency to drift to the left-flank left us lacking in the centre. This meant Walcott was feeding off of scraps.

      The only system that could work to an extent without a hold-up player is a counter-attacking one, but how many teams are really going to come at Arsenal in such a manner? Even the great counter-attackers have needed a Plan B.

      Defensively, we were pretty poor too. The Burnley game must have been the first game this season when not only were Song and Vermaelen not amongst the best players on the pitch, but in fact, they were amongst the worst on the pitch. Vermaelen was poor in covering Gallas and the space vacated, whilst Song didn’t look comfortably covering the channels or dropping back into defence.

      I think this result was partly a blip, but also slightly indicative of the hindrance we will have to find a way to overcome without Bendtner or Van Persie.

      1. While I understand why some people are championing for a return of 4-4-2, would such a massive change halfway through the season be wise?

        What seemingly lacked as you allude to was the attack having some way to get behind, either from the wings or an attacker (Fabregas did this) or crosses and the direct ball. Walcott hardly got a chance to dribble at the defence also.

        The team didn’t keep the ball well enough to deny pressure on the backline while the wide men left the full backs on the one-on-one too much, leaving Song and also Diaby and back four with much to do.

  2. Guess who pulled out of a 50-50 that led to the counter-attack for the equaliser, Bloody Cesc. World Cup is not here yet thus he must put-it-in for cause and the club paying his wages.

    1. Supergunner, you can’t blame our poor play on Fabregas. Yes he could have made a better challenge, but he was the one offensive player who besides Arshavin who seemed up for this game. Pitiful performance from the rest (random: did anyone else think Diaby played rather well alongside Song?)

      1. May be your brain is dead & dont understand my previous comment, i made comment about a particular phase of play which led to us conceding from a counter-attack bcuz Fabregas pulled out of a challenge.

        Instead of us possibly creating an overload over their defence from a counter-attack, they counter-attacked us & we were caught-out with less numbers thus Vermalaen had to mark one player and cover Bikey at the same time.

  3. People keep talking about a lack of tactical flexibility.

    Not wanting to sound ridiculous here but I think wenger should step down at the end of this season if we come nowhere in the other comps.

    The wenger project is quickly becoming inconsistent. While we have had patience the fruit of the project doesn’t seem to be coming through.

    Walcott seems a player with pace and pace only

    Denilson ineffective

    Bendtner should play in the championship

    Diaby is abysmal

    Eboue does not know his position

    VP, clichy and more are due a 3 month lay off each season.

    Our club is falling to bits

  4. Are you planning to write about the Hull game, Brain? At least a little something to get a thread started? It was good to finally see Diaby driving forward to take advantage of the spaces created by our front three. In the Burnley game he seemed to be playing as a holding midfielder, stuck around the middle circle. It was also fantastic to see Denilson score from the free-kick. I can barely remember the last time we did that. The placement was brilliant, but I also think he benefited by the keeper’s uncertainty on weather he would pass towards the penalty spot. Anyhow, I hope to see him take more of those. And finally, Almunia was great. Finally.

  5. Fabregas has been on fire these days. I was really impressed by his performance at the Liverpool match. I heard that he got really mad at the team during half time break.

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