Burnley Review: The Per-fect Ending

Arsenal 5 – 0 Burnley

It was only fitting that more people remained for the celebration than did so at Leicester’s post-season pitchside amble.

The sun shone and everything went to plan. A nice guard of honour, a well-deserved show of appreciation as Arsène strode around the pitch before heading to the touchline. By the time Per Mertesacker hugged everyone, the game was already won. And handsomely.

Cheers for the BFG with commentators squirming as the words to the song came through loud and clear. “Gee, honey, those Brits are normally so reserved…”

Touchingly, Vic Akers was getting hugs off the subs and I’m sure the fourth official got in on the act as well, off-camera.

For once in this otherwise miserable season, it all went to plan. 5 – 0, Arsenal relaxed and played arguably better football than in most games this season. I guess Arsène sees this all the time in training and thinks “we don’t need anyone”, which is where the disconnect comes.

Mavropanos continues to show promise, which is good not only for him but also hinting the new recruitment team might know what they are doing. There will be duds along the way and we’ll pass on someone good; that’s football and every club has a name or three in their history who went on to star elsewhere.

It was a day where the unheralded ventured into the spotlight briefly; Kolasinac enjoyed the freedom of the left and rifled in a cracking goal. Iwobi, with his mix of infuriating good and bad passing, netted another, leaving the £100m attackers to take the other three between them.

Jack Wilshere flicked, shimmied and dribbled; life was all good with nothing to dampen the mood beyond reports of t-shirts being nicked off seats. And one other thing, which I’ll come to later.

Searching for Something Good

With the normally energetic Burnley so supine, judging performances is tough. However, Mavropanos and Chambers both played well in terms of the basics. Yes, there were a couple of moments where mistakes were made. The Chuckle Brothers are a ‘World Cup winner’ and experienced international footballer and they’ve made horrendous errors, so a couple of youngsters can be forgiven for theirs.

Where Arsenal’s performance levels are picking up is in discipline. Or rather, Granit Xhaka’s discipline. He still looks a better player with a defensive midfielder alongside him, but this season his consistency has improved. The Swiss since Christmas is showing the best form at the club to date. Will the new boss be able to get anything more from him?

Arsène repeated his feeling that the squad is two or three players away from challenging for the title; it’s a generous interpretation when we need two new goalkeepers and two experienced centre-backs before we even look at other positions.

However, there are signs the younger players in the squad can solve problems. Maitland-Niles needs to nail down a position in the team and drop the curse of versatility. Others – Nelson, Willock and Mavropanos – need to continue their development and as long as they continue on their path, there is a promising future ahead.

Which is leave the question of where some senior players fit in. Mesut Özil, suffering a back problem yesterday, is currently ‘Sickly ickle’ Mesut Özil. For £300k per week, he needs to ‘man-up’; his ‘illness’ levels are on a par with Cesc, Flamini and Almunia when they left the club.

And if we really only have £50m to spend, he is one of the saleable assets to boost funds. We’re at a point where we can’t carry passengers and certainly not for that money.

Excuses Had Their Uses

And when the final whistle went, the tears flowed.

Had the club thought about it, a little specimen jar was the perfect gift for each ticket-holder. As the waterworks flowed, they could be caught and then, as ABC declared, tears really are souvenirs.

Arsène was the focal point of attention and his few words, simple and well-chosen, fitted the occasion. He, like Vic Akers, Per, and Alex Scott, received a warm round of applause. Sir Chips received a healthy round of boos; the board deserve it for not one of them comes out of this situation with any credit.

Despite knowing of the discontent and seeing the declining performances, they failed to put a plan in place for his succession until now. Enos and Junior must surely have requested it before last summer? Wenger was in his sixties when Kroenke became majority shareholder and its rank-bad governance to not have a structure or succession plan in place.

The one criticism of the day I would have is the gift chosen by the club for Arsène. I see why they did it and understand the sentiment. It is a fine memento of the achievement he oversaw, but is it right for the club to give it away? It was awarded, after all, on the back of the efforts of not just the manager, but the coaching staff and players as well.

It’s a bit like recycling Christmas gifts. To some it’s perfectly acceptable. To others it’s a complete no-no. The only damnation is that the board felt it entirely appropriate for the occasion. It just feels like something custodians of a club wouldn’t do. Each to his own.

’til Tomorrow.

31 thoughts on “Burnley Review: The Per-fect Ending

  1. Only got to watch bits and pieces of the game but the one thing that stood out to me is just how good of a partnership Lacazette and Aubameyang have presently and left me with loads of hope for next season. Its okay if one of them plays on the flanks just as long as they are given the freedom to swap and roam those front 3 positions as the match dictates.

    Xhaka has shown better recently, and I think a new DM to play alongside him would do wonders. Good to see Bellerin pick up a couple of assists as well, there is a quality RB in there that just needs somebody to push him for consistency especially since he just turned 23 years old.

  2. Yes, yes, Özil doesn’t want to play, Özil is lazy, Özil nicks a living, Özil is the guilty one… He’s got a back’s problem, he played with this injury in Madrid and wanted to be on the bench yesterday but the docs didn’t want.
    But well, yes, all is his failure. But how could such a great club like Arsenal accept this supposed unbearable behaviour that everybody sees except the club itself?

  3. Mkhitaryan is the winger that we have been missing because he is a dribbler and has shown the ability to work his socks off defensively.

  4. Great review Yogi

    Indeed it was the perfect last home game for Le Boss. It was a nice touch for him to pull Jack out of the game and bring on Mert so the crowd could salute them also in what may be the last home game for both. The team looked great and a 5-0 score line was deserved reward for an excellent performance.

    I have to admit that I have become a bit overly excited to see what PEA and Lacazette will bring next season. Lacazette is still a question mark after his mid season disappearance but he has looked really good since he returned from injury and hopefully he and both he PEA will score a lot of goals next season. The problem is they have to both be in top form because they are the only 2 players on the entire squad who are a legitimate threat to score and if either 1 gets injured or has another long dry spell we will be hosed. With our meager transfer budget we certainly can’t afford to buy another scorer and our depth of goal scorers in the squad is non existent.

    As far as the rest of the squad I am all for enjoying a wonderful performance but we have been here and done these false dawns about 10,000 times during the Emirate era and we have to be careful not to be seduced into thinking that it means more then just a 1 off. You have to look at the whole season when we make our squad building plans for next season. Its Ok to be hopeful but history tells us that Mavropanos is much more likely to be the next Rob Holding rather then the next John Terry or Tony Adams and if we make our squad building decisions based on what we see during the false dawn segment of our season and ignore history and the rest of the season then we are “doing an Arsene” and we will inevitably leave the squad a few players short.

  5. Iwobe was arguably one of our best players on the pitch yesterday and what does that mean for the future? We can’t over analyze one game or a couple of games when we make those decisions. Lots of difficult decisions to be made this summer and the new regime needs to get going quickly. Hopefully the first decision will be to let Jack walk away. I would rather sign him and sell him but that is not very likely.

  6. Like it or not we are going to have to sell some players to raise cash. Unfortunately the only way to raise cash is to sell players who actually have value on the transfer market. Based on his current wage and his age and dropping production over the last couple years I can’t imagine anyone would buy Ozil so we will have to look at selling other players and the team may have to make a few unpopular decisions.

  7. Nice write up YW.
    The biggest boos were when Kroenke ‘s face appeared on the screen. Thankfully it was fleeting. His face, not the boos.
    You make a great point regarding the trophy gift to Wenger. Agree with you. That was a collective win , of wins.

  8. Alex

    I didn’t say he nicked a living but his record of illness and injury is such that I doubt his commitment to Arsenal.

  9. A well-nuanced post.

    As you say, Burnley were not themselves and this makes yesterday not the best measure of future potential however…
    Certainly agree Xhaka is improving and can further in the right system.
    New (senior) CBs (plural) are desperately needed (we’ll probably only get one this time -pray for a leader).
    I think they’ll probably try to stretch the current GK situation another season unless a bargain presents itself or the new boss puts their foot down.
    Bellerin – would simple competition be the best thing for him?
    It is reasonable to be excited about Auba Laca and Mikhi.

  10. Waz

    It’s an interesting split in how the day was seen. Personally, I don’t invest in managers and players anymore. I’m too old for them to be heroes and to unimpressed with the way football measures contributions nowadays to become emotional.

    Yes, I wanted Arsene to have a nice day and for those who were emotionally invested in him to enjoy the moment. But, it’s over and done with; there’s one more game this season to play and then we need a swift announcement to allow everyone to move forward.

  11. YW:
    Waz

    It’s an interesting split in how the day was seen. Personally, I don’t invest in managers and players anymore. I’m too old for them to be heroes and to unimpressed with the way football measures contributions nowadays to become emotional.

    Yes, I wanted Arsene to have a nice day and for those who were emotionally invested in him to enjoy the moment. But, it’s over and done with; there’s one more game this season to play and then we need a swift announcement to allow everyone to move forward.

    Have to agree with YW on this one. Interesting article, and worth the read but it I am seriously tired of the crocodile tears that are suddenly forthcoming following the announcement of Wenger’s departure.
    When he arrived in 96, the internet and mobile phones were in their infancy still, and the corporate financiers with their TV deals were still a few years away. It was a different world, and it suited Wenger’s style.
    Impermanence and change are the name of the game however, and we can cry and scream about time moving on, but Wenger refused to accept change had occurred in the game.
    He was paid well to do the job he did well for some years, but it is a long time since he last gave the club a return on his vast salary.
    And btw, kids who have come into football in the last ten years, and never witnessed Wenger’s glory years, couldn’t wait to see the old fart move on. They couldn’t understand what he was doing at the club. Now we CAN finally move on.

  12. YW,

    I fancy we will have an announcement once the season is over and I imagine it will be the day after just out of respect for Arsene and not wanting to do it until the season is officially over.

  13. C

    I think I read somewhere there’s an agreement between the club and Wenger that no announcement will be made until the final game is over.

  14. YW,

    Wouldn’t surprise me at all. I would imagine though that the ink from the new’s man signature on his contract will have dried before the last match.

  15. I agree, the Invincibles trophy was given to the club, not a single individual. It should stay with the club as part of our history. Shoddy by the board. As for where the club is now compared to ’96 the answer is I’m afraid one place worse off in the league and with no legendary back five and with no-one within a million miles of the calibre of a certain Mr D. Bergkamp. In other words, the new manager will inherit resources far poorer than the ones that Arsene did back then.

  16. The other thing will be what happens wiTh Jack, Ramsey and Maitland Niles. The first two decisions will need to be made immediately: Ramsey either you sign or your sold and Jack, for me if we could get Max Meyer I would say thank you Jack but it just hasn’t worked out. Maitland-Niles, the new man needs to decide where he will play and personally I think in midfield would he could be brilliant especially next to say Xhaka because he will do all the leg and in between link work while Xhaka could play more in deeplying position.

  17. C

    If you really think Xhaka and Maitland-Niles is the future then we shouldn’t buy any new defense minded central midfielders because if we do buy someone then it moves AMM down the pecking order and he will be competing with Elneny for minutes as the utility midfielder. On the other hand if we don’t buy anyone and Maitland-Niles/xhaka does not work as well as you hoped then we are hosed for at least another year and may be 2. The other thing to consider is if they struggle at first how long do we go before we admit that it did it work. How patient do we have to be?

  18. .C,

    TBH depends on who’s coming in. If it’s Allegri, which many are now saying it will be, then can we coach years of tactically free flowing positional sense from Jack and Ramsey? Or will it be one or the other plays the role of Pjanic in the juve team, but in all honesty i think Ozil will be used for that.

    i’m interested to see what happens with Mavispanos, because he looks a talent at only 20.

    IMO Iwobi doesn’t produce regularly enough, Ramsey is get’s steam and then get;s injuries and then takes weeks to get back to his best and Jack is 50/50 on what kind of performance you’d get from him.

    I REALLY hope that whoever is coming in is decided ASAP and allowed time to get a list of players they want. I don’t anticipate loads of big signings this summer, Sven at Dortmund found some absolute gems for what in todays market is nothing and i think we’ll get maybe one big signing with some lesser names. i’ve always liked Dortmunds policy on players, they never pay over the odds but were always able to get good players in, i expect the same but with the resources available to add to it eventually. Whoever comes in, i think should be allowed 3/4 years before we start paying for banners asking them to leave

  19. I guess how we proceed in some cases depends on whether we are a team that focuses on developing players or giving ourselves the best chance to win trophies. We saw with iwobe and Sanogo from a couple years ago and the young English core and project youth era in a lot of cases giving players chances and developing players and winning are often competing goals. My self I certainly urge caution with regard to getting excited and over rating Xhaka and/or Maitland-Niles

  20. No matter who xhaka plays with in central midfield he is still going to be in a position on the pitch where he has to a solid defensive player. He is not good enough for us to try and compromise at other positions in order to compensate for his weaknesses just so we can get him in the line up.

  21. We don’t want to “do an Arsene” and leave the squad a couple of players short because we have unrealistically high expectations for certain players.

  22. Bill,

    First mate, I said COULD which leaves all the developmental things, etc that naturally have to happen. Again, you continue to forget that I have banged on for a new DM since the last world cup when I wanted Gustavo but he wanted to stay in Germany. I’m not saying we start them next season or anything like that, I was talking hypothetical and I was talking about also the type of midfield I want: deeplying midfield ticker and the CM who wants to boss the midfield and keeps thinga ticking but both doing the defensive work and don’t have to score goals to impact the match.

  23. MesutsLeftFoot,

    I think everything boils down to who comes next obviously. Completely agree about Ozil in that Pjanic role which would mean more of a 3 man midfield with 2 workers around him like Khederia and Matuidi.

    As far as Jack and Ramsey, I think its one or the other but NOT both. Ramsey I think could be a really good player but needs discipline because he lacks the quickness and positional sense to bomb forward and still do the other defenaive work he needs to do. Jack, I think injuries have robbed him of consistency and it doesn’t help that his contract is up.

    Iwobi is a mystery because there is a player in there but not necessarily one with end product but instead an athletic link/CM player if he can do the defensive work. That would take the end product portion and allow him to do what he does best which is pick up the ball, run with the ball at his feet and then make a 5 yard pass hopefully to a teammate.

  24. Bill,

    Why can’t we be both? Look at ALL the best clubs and teams in the world and you will find young players that are flourishing in them.

    Bayern: Kimmich, Koman, Tolisso
    Madrid: Vasquez, Asensio, Kovacic, Carvajal(yea he’s 26 but broke through over the past 4 years as first choice)
    Barca: Sergi Roberto, Umtiti
    Citeh: Sterling, Sane, Ederson(just turned 24 in august)
    PSG: Rabiot, Lo Celo, Aerola, Marquinhos
    Juve: Rugani, a midfield lad whose name escapes me

    Its about how you develop and use them. I think you are so jaded and ruined by Arsene but contrary to what you truly believe, most big clubs use their most talented youth to let them develop and then either keep them or sell them on BUT they are used in the first team.

    Honestly, I feel like you lump everything in futbol based on what has happened with Arsene not realizing that so many of these players either have or do play differently outside of Arsenal and with a new man in charge things could change quite quickly.

  25. C

    Almost all of those players you mentioned came from other clubs and had been playing full time for at least a year or 2. In the case of Asensio he spent 2 years on loan. In the case of Vasquez and Sergio Roberto they have been hanging around the first team for many years and they are now in their mid 20’s. they both eventually moved to RB when were not good enough to make the starting line up at their regular position. Maitland-Niles is only 20 years old and has very little experience in high leverage first team games. I think we should send him on loan for a couple. Alternatively he could be a squad player for 4-5 years and see how he does. You and I both know the one thing none of those other teams would do with Maitland-Niles is throw him into the starting line up and hope it works out.

  26. Bill,

    Sorry mate but not almost all of those players came from other clubs and if they did their move was while they were still very very young.

    Bayern: Kimmich joined at 18, Koman joined on loan from Juve at 17 or 18, Tolisso joined last summer but was one of the first names on the team sheet for Lyon for the past couple of seasons

    Madrid: Asensio is ONLY 22 years old, Vasquez has been up and down but he is Madri through and through and has featured for them, Kovacic was bought in when he was 20

    Barca: Sergie Roberto is a La Masia product who has featured quite regularly and actually became Alves’ replacement at RB, Umtiti was bought when he was 21 years old and has been first choice since

    Citeh: Sterling burst through and was part of that devastating front line with Suarez at Liverpool and then moved to City at age 20 and has been damn near a bang on starter since; Sane moved to City when he was 19 and hasn’t looked back

    PSG: Rabiot came through their youth ranks, spent half a season on loan when he was 18 but has been part of their 4 man midfield rotation since he was 17, Aerola came through their ranks and was behind long time GK Sirigu, went out on loan, came back after 2.5 seasons and is undisputed first choice now at age 24, Lo Celso was bought then went on loan at age 19 but has broken through and is now a part of their midfield and Marquinhos was bought when he was 18 years old and has been first choice beside either Silva or Luiz ever since and is widely considered to be the anchor for them moving forward already at only age 23.

    The point I’m making that your clearly not getting despite facts is that talented young players with proper development can, have and will always make an impact and be first choice for the biggest clubs in Europe starting at age 18-19. The best clubs in the world aren’t just buyers, they do both: buy quality but also develop youth within their system and allow them to play key roles. You hate youth so much that you probably don’t even realize that City just walked the league with Sterling, Sane, Jesus all under the age of 23, Ederson just turned 24 and De bruyne is only 26 and only Otamendi, Fernandinho, Silva and Kompany are older than De bruyne.

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