Premier Analysis: Sanchez decisive as Arsenal break down Burnley barricade
Don’t let the full-time score fool you. Arsenal did not coast to victory. For 70 minutes Burnley’s gameplan had worked perfectly, but as Sean Dyche has found out time and again this season – world-class players decide games, no matter how hard you try and stop them.
Alexis Sanchez fired plenty of warning shots in the first half and Dyche would have told his players to keep chipping away at the Chilean after the interval.
But just when you think you’ve got an elite player sussed they find a solution and break your will.
Sanchez – one of the smallest men on the pitch – rose above the visiting defence and headed the Gunners into the lead. Calum Chambers added a second, before Sanchez netted his 10th goal of the season and Arsenal's third of the afternoon.
The Gunners finished the game in full flow, but it took them a while to churn through the gears. Slow starts are par for the course at the Emirates and today’s game offered little in the way of surprises. Arsenal took control, dominated possession and Burnley retreated, challenging the hosts to find a way through their barricade.
Dyche’s men were disciplined from front to back. Rather than give into temptation and press the Gunners at the back, they kept their shape and let them pass the ball in low-risk areas.
The top five passers in the first half were Kieran Gibbs, Mikel Arteta, Nacho Monreal, Mathieu Flamini and Chambers. Ball recyclers, rather than penetrative passers.
With no way through, Arsenal tried to go around, feeding the ball out wide to Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The latter was responsible for 10 of the Gunners’ 19 crosses in the first half.
Unsurprisingly, there was one man in red and white who had the vision and energy to break through Burnley’s defensive lines. Once again Sanchez took it upon himself to shift the Gunners up a gear.
If the former Barcelona man was in a lively mood, Clarets goalkeeper Tom Heaton was in a defiant one. On 3 occasions the Burnley stopper swatted away Sanchez’s goalbound efforts. The men in front of Heaton defended with equal spirit – tackling, blocking, intercepting – doing whatever they could to keep the home side at bay.
If slow starts proceed kick-offs in N7, anxiety and tension usually follow in the second half. A collective sense of frustration started to grip the Emirates. This was only exacerbated when the goal gaped open wide for Santi Cazorla the Spaniard’s side-footed shot was heroically blocked by Michael Duff.
Just went it seemed it was going to be one of those days, Chambers hung a across up to the back post and 5ft 7in Sanchez soared above Duff (6ft 1in) and Kieran Tripper (5ft 10in) to head Arsenal into the lead.
The Emirates breathed again. With the energy sucked from their legs, Burnley conceded again moments later. Provider turned scorer, as Chambers pounced on a loose ball in the box to give Arsenal a 2-0 lead.
Confident victory had been sealed, Arsene Wenger introduced Theo Walcott for his first appearance in 10 months. The Arsenal faithful rose to their feet to greet the England international.
Walcott was the first to congratulate Sanchez after the Chilean netted his second of the game. If he carries on like this, he might just find a statue of himself outside the Emirates in years to come.
- Arsenal have won their last 4 home matches in all competitions against the Clarets.
- Arsene Wenger’s side are unbeaten in their last 23 home Premier League matches, winning 15 and drawing 8.
- Calum Chambers scored his first Premier League goal and provided his first PL assist today against Burnley.
- 5 of Arsenal's last 7 Premier League goals have been scored by Alexis Sanchez.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored 10 goals in all competitions for Arsenal in 2014/15, 5 more than any other player.
- Burnley are the 10th side to fail to win any of their opening 10 Premier League matches of a single season - 6 of the previous 9 sides were relegated.
- Burnley have conceded 15 goals in their last 5 games in the Premier League – this after previously keeping 3clean sheets in a row.