Arsenal is a really special club. Truly special. If you didn’t know that before, I am here to tell you. And it’s not just the way they take so much pride in how they carry themselves with so much class. It is mainly how with the club, the more things change (or don’t even sometimes), the more they remain the same. Sometimes to frustrating effect.
If you follow the club long enough, you begin to notice some trends; injury crises that seem to affect only players of a particular position, surprise home losses to a mid-table side, a shocking capitulation at the home of a title rival, crashing out heroically from European competitions. You get the drift.
The match against Burnley was always going to follow a trend. The trend being that Arsneal has somehow managed to secure late and controversial goals in their last two matches. Even though this seemed like a very different Burnley team. Somehow, Sean Dyche has crafted the semblance of an adequate team from a mix of no-hopers and farmers, astounding everyone in the league in the process.
Playing away at a team sitting seventh is always a difficult proposition, especially a Burnley team that has become renowned for their defensive shape and doggedness. But Arsenal had cause to be optimistic; after all, only in their last match they dispatched so thoroughly of their noisy neighours, the darling of many pundits and commentators.
The Arsenal manager made only one change to the team that started that match; Alexander Iwobi replacing Mesut Ozil, who was ill, in the eleven. You know a club is really special when some fans are actually hoping that the German is genuinely indisposed and it is not actually a case of him being dropped because he is leaving in January.
The trio of Alexes; Lacazette, Sanchez and Iwobi found it tough going in the first half, the Burnley team pressed high and harried the Arsenal attackers, allowing them little space. And when the home team attacked, they were quick to swing crosses in and threaten the Arsenal back-line. They created some good chances too, hitting the post after Petr Cech pushed a ferocious shot. It become more difficult for the Arsenal as the first half wore on; their solitary chance coming when Aaron Ramsey was put through on goal from a Lacazette pass but the Welshman blazed over.
Something had to change in the second period and the away team duly obliged. No longer were they losing the 50/50 challenges or arriving late to loose balls. The pushed the Burnley team back, who were content to defend deep with their two banks of four. It seemed only a matter of time before Arsenal created a clear goal-scoring opportunity and put one in the back of the net. But alas, this is not a club that does things the easy way.
No matter how much they tried, they just couldn’t find a way past the obdurate Burnley defence. Not even the introduction of the duo of Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck had any effect on the scoreline. Perhaps it was the prospect of the prize on offer for the winner of the match at Turf Moor – entrance into the hallowed top four – that made Arsenal nervous in front of goal.
When the only goal came, the referee Lee Mason had a big hand to play. The ball was swung into the Burnley box from the left in towards the general direction of Aaron Ramsey and a defender unwisely leaned heavily on him. The referee pointed to the spot and Alexis dispatched it past the keeper.
We are all Arsenal fans here, we can tell each other the truth. No way was that a penalty. Not in a million years. Ramsey played for it and got it. Just goes to how shockingly bad Premier League referees are. But please don’t say it outside. At the pain of death, we must continue to insist that it was a stonewall penalty, especially to rival fans.
Maybe we got lucky, maybe we deserved to win; it is not clear. What is however indisputable is that we are back in the top four. Right where we belong.