Arsenal 3 (Fabregas 34, Walcott 60, Arshavin 90) Burnley 1 (Nugent 50)
The best way to answer criticism is to get your head down and perform. By that marker, Theo Walcott is progressing just fine, and the 20 year old (yes, he is still only 20) put in comfortably his best Arsenal display this season to shut a few pundits up, for now at least.
Having been quiet midweek, he tore Burnley apart consistently and could have had three or four assists had Bendtner had his shooting boots on. To say the Dane had a bad day at the office would be putting it mildly – had he tapped in his sitters he would have walked away with a hattrick, but ended with nothing. That said, he has struck in his past three games, so it would seem a little churlish to criticise too heavily – he is getting his first real run as our spearhead and will have days like this. As long as it doesn’t repeat itself, we can write this off as a blip.
That he was getting so many chances was down to Walcott and Eboue, who combined magnificently down the right hand side against a Burnley side who simply could not cope. Of course, it has to be taken into account that Burnley are the most accommodating visitors in any league, but you can only beat what is in front of you. We could easily have scored seven.
That said, we could have conceivably dropped two points – Burnley had a couple of presentable chances at 2-1, and we only felt safe when Arshavin lashed in at the near post in injury time.
In a way, it was a typical Arsenal display. Two lovely goals – Nasri’s delicate chip finding Cesc, who nutmegged Jensen on the half volley, and Walcott’s curler with his left foot (a notably composed finish for someone supposedly lacking a football brain) – surrounding a truly awful concession of a goal, Silvestre and Vermaelen completely static as a simple header bisected them for Nugent to equalise. And of course, we picked up an injury.
Cesc had been feeling his hamstring before he scored, and while it didn’t look a serious one, the Porto game may come too soon for him. If he does miss Tuesday’s game, he will be a big loss – it is a huge match and one he will be desperate to play in. But any risk might see him out for longer, and he certainly wouldn’t want to miss next weekend’s trip to Hull – he never seems to get on the pitch against them anymore. Mind you, he would at least have another chance to wind up Phil Brown with his state of attire in the stands.
We could have gone top, temporarily, had we battered Burnley but that matters little. If we win our remaining games, we will almost certainly be champions, so what matters is that we don’t drop stupid points. We ran the risk of that in this game, but came through it unscathed. Nine more of those please.
The headlines go to Walcott and Bendtner, for opposite reasons, but Nasri was excellent, Clichy back on song, and Denilson good in central midfield. The team looks united and hungry, but more than that – they actually look quite fresh. Perhaps the fact that so many have picked up injuries means that they aren’t jaded at this point. Who knows.
Final word to say congratulations to everyone who contributed to one of the banners unfurled around the stadium prior to kick off. I imagine it meant a lot to Ramsey – a teenager who now knows just how much support he has. Sixty thousand messages followed by sixty thousand fans singing your name – if that doesn’t lift your spirits, nothing will.