24th January 2017: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley

Arsenal 2-1 Burnley

James: I was at the Emirates and I have to say I’ve never seen an ending like this. Burnley were unfortunate at the end but in all honesty, they didn’t trouble Arsenal enough to deserve anything out the game, and Arsenal were very dominant over the 90 minutes, even when down to ten men. Arsenal keep showing great character to find these last minute goals and I can’t help but think they’re all going to be very important come the end of the season. Burnley did however look very organised and showed the kind of resilience and fight you need to stay up in the Premier League.

Sam: Being an Arsenal fan will end up killing me one day. Burnley’s game plan was simple. Try and frustrate Arsenal and slow the game down by getting as many free kicks as possible, hence Defour and Ashley Barnes going down like they had been shot for Xhaka’s red card and Burnley’s penalty, and playing on the counter by having Andre Gray on his own up top. It was a strange game as Arsenal have been quite clinical in front of goal this year, and weren’t on Sunday, which shows Burnley’s character to defend for their lives, which will keep them up this season. Meanwhile, three years ago Arsenal would have drawn or maybe lost this game, which shows a change in character this season. Both sides look capable of reaching their targets of Premier League glory and survival respectively on the basis of that performance.

Xhaka Red Card

James: The incident happened down at our end and immediately I thought it was going to be a red card. It was a scissor action with two feet off the ground, and you can’t do that in the modern game. However, I did think the challenge looked worse than it actually was. Should some common sense be used in these decisions? Xhaka was sent off against Swansea for a ‘yellow card offence’ which many said was a little over aggressive, making it worthy of a red card, whereas against Burnley his challenge included all the actions you associate with a red card challenge but actually wasn’t very aggressive at all. I can’t help but think he’s been a little hard-done by here. Either way, it’s a stupid challenge to make.

Sam: I’m not a fan of Jon Moss considering that he is one of many referees in the Premier League who are affected by the crowd in the stadium, but I think he got the call spot on with regards to Xhaka. You can’t make a challenge like that anymore and had there been more contact on Defour then it could have caused a serious injury. Xhaka clearly has an issue of being hot-headed, that’s his ninth red card in three seasons, but it’s too soon to start calling for his head. He’s still settling in to life in the Premier League and he’s certainly not going to change the player he is after only six months. He’ll learn to keep his temper, as Arsenal can’t afford him to miss many more games this season.

Arsenal Penalty Wrong?

James: Koscielny was certainly offside and the linesmen should have spotted that. It’s hard though, when watching it live no one would have called offside because of how far the ball travelled and the movement of Koscielny and the Burnley backline. They’ve been hard done by there. However, Ben Mee’s positioning was wrong and meant him having to stick a leg out in a dangerous position, and it was a foul on the Arsenal defender. If you ask me, it was very lucky from an Arsenal point of view, but Andre Gray got away with a foul on Mustafi in the box earlier, so everything evens out.

Sam: It’s a definite penalty. Yes, Koscielny was offside but Ben Mee then has to treat the situation as if he’s made the mistake and the Arsenal captain has gotten the wrong side of him. You can’t put your foot like like with your studs up towards someone’s head. In fact, it was dangerous play from the Burnley defender and I was surprised he wasn’t cautioned for it at least. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to the people in the Irish pub in Rome who had to listen to my screaming at Jon Moss and Arsenal Football Club while they were having their Sunday lunch. Apologies.

Man City 2-2 Spurs

James: City dominated, and I predicted they would in a separate article IF they played with Silva and De Bruyne in the middle. It was a brilliant display that deserved more. However, huge credit to Spurs who lifted their heads to grind out a 2-2 draw when they really didn’t deserve anything. Perhaps the old Spurs would have crumbled. Guardiola needs to stick to this now and not play around with the team too much, unless it absolutely has to be done. Pochetino showed this during the game when he switched from a back 3 to a back 4 to try and match Man City in midfield. Conte as well has only changed things when they’ve been going wrong, but it seems that Guardiola is closer to getting things right, now.

Sam: I was quite disappointed with Spurs’ performance at the Etihad and I expected a lot more from them. They were surprisingly shocking when it came to holding onto the ball as the defence and the midfield kept giving the ball away and Harry Kane was therefore isolated and anonymous up front for the whole ninety minutes, and City took advantage of this by running riot. People can berate Hugo Lloris for his mistakes for City’s two goals, but can you blame him considering he was used as a battering ram for the whole game because of his defence. However, Guardiola has been getting his tactics right in the big games, with the exception of the trips to Merseyside and Leicester. Man United needed a Claudio Bravo mistake to get them back into their game in September, Arsenal barely got a kick all game when they went to the Etihad, Chelsea didn’t see the ball for the first 45 minutes when they travelled there, and the same happened to Spurs for an hour on Saturday. Pep’s critics didn’t come out and say anything after the weekend’s result, and they were unlucky not to get all three points this time around.

What’s Happened To Leicester?

James: If Leicester hadn’t won the title last season, we’d be saying that they’re in a fairly solid position. The fact is, they pulled off a miracle last year and this seasons expectations may have been a bit too high, especially after losing Kante. I do feel sorry for them as well. They’ve lost some huge players to the African Cup of Nations, and Ranieri is trying to adapt and stop the rut. If they go back to their 4-4-2, they’ll be absolutely fine. A few wins can change everything in this league and Leicester just need a bit of luck, then it’ll all start falling into place.

Sam: I’ve said this before but Leicester’s downfall originated in pre-season. They should have taken advantage of being champions of England by signing world-class talent in the summer and not the try-to-be-clever signings that were so successful last season. On top of this, giving key players like Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy big pay rises has changed the attitude slightly at the club; their work ethic and incentive to win has dropped as a result. They need to start getting points quickly, as when the Champions League returns in February, they’ll have other priorities to deal with, which could make their league position even worse.

Wayne Rooney’s 250

James: Why oh why is Wayne Rooney not appreciated as much as he should be. We talk about young English players coming through and promising us great things that don’t happen – but Rooney has done it. I’ve said it before – everyone wants what they can’t have. Wayne Rooney has become a boring topic for football because he’s achieved great things for the last 14 years. New and exciting things have happened since but none can match Rooney and the success he’s had in club and international football (whether he’s ‘done it’ at tournaments or not). He’s a player who’s always had to do what’s best for the team: play centre midfield, play on left to allow Ronaldo freedom, play behind Tevez, Hernandez, van Persie, Berbatov and now Ibrahimovic, and do all this while still carrying the hopes of his club and country on his shoulders despite there being other stars to take the heat too. He’s always been great to the media, to fans and to young players. His two attempts to “leave Man Utd” may tarnish his reputation as a legend slightly, but like any long term relationship you’re going to have your ups and downs! Congratulations Wayne Rooney on a long and truly remarkable career.

Sam: Think of all the strikers who have played more Manchester United and England. Cantona, Ronaldo, Shearer, Lineker, Robson, Cole and not forgetting Bobby Charlton. And then think about the fact that Wayne Rooney has scored more goals than them for both club and country. I’ve been quite critical recently of Rooney on an international level, but for Manchester United he’s been excellent. He’s adapted over the years to players coming and going, changing positions from centre forward to number 10, to central midfield, he’s become the young, fresh faced kid from Merseyside to the leader on the field, and the reaction to him breaking the record from his fellow United and England teammates show how big an influence he is, on and off the pitch. He’s an England footballing legend, and he’s one to tell generations about.

Liverpool And Swansea To Resume Their Usual Roles?

James: Liverpool have been considered one of the favourites for the title since their promising start to the season, but they’re slowly tailing off after a poor start to 2017. Liverpool, in the last few years, have dithered between 8th place and 2nd, meaning you don’t know what Liverpool you’re going to get! Their ability to keep pace with the top has been something we haven’t seen for a while, or certainly not consistently enough, from this side. Could they be slowly slipping down the table and into a top 4 fight? I think they’ll get it together quickly and regain their strong form sooner rather than later. Swansea on the other hand got a result no one expected on Saturday, but could it mean a start of form that could see them finish around 14th place or higher? That’s what we’re most used to seeing from Swansea. I think they have a really long battle to stay up and whilst I think they’ve got the quality, Paul Clement needs to prove they’ve got the manager to do it.

Sam: Liverpool are great going forward, but its their defence which always tends to let them down. For me, you can’t win the league with Dejan Lovren as your first choice centre-half and both goalkeepers at the club are too much of a liability. If Jurgen Klopp can fix these issues, then they’ll have a real good chance of winning the title, but I can’t see it being done this year. I’m a big fan of Paul Clement; he’s got the big game experience from being Ancelotti’s assistant at Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, PSG and Chelsea and was harshly sacked when he was in charge of Derby a few seasons ago. He’s a big upgrade on Bob Bradley, and if they can keep getting results like this, and improve their home form, they’ll have a great chance of staying up.

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