Why do it the easy way when you can do it the Arsenal way. This should have been a game in which Vik Akars’ responsibility was not only to organise the kit but to also supply the sun beds. That’s to say Almunia should have spent the afternoon lying back on a sun lounger, in the goal mouth, sipping a cocktail with a little umbrella sticking out. Vermaelen and Silvestre should have been doing no more than chatting around a barbeque on the eighteen yard line. All this going on while the forwards scored an amount of goals so high that it would have made the usual score-line of an Arsenal Ladies drubbing of the opposition seem like a low scoring affair. That’s what we deserved anyway, I reckon, after the high anxiety that we have had to suffer in recent games but oh no, some how we managed to give the absolutely useless Burnley a chance of getting something from the game. What has become clear from yesterday’s game is that if we are going to win something this season we are going to have to suffer for it.
This game should have been put to bed within the first fifteen minutes, chances falling to Fabrégas and, of course, Bendtner! Where do I start? One of those jokes springs to mind: how many Bendtners does it take to change a light bulb, although, with the obvious adjustment, making it: how many great crosses does Theo have to send in before Bendtner puts one away? We shall never know the answer, of course, because Wenger substituted him to spare further blushes.
As Bendtner made his way from the field my anger changed to sympathy, I am not sure if they showed it on telly but there was one very moving moment just after Bendtner had missed his eighth sitter to which in normal circumstances the fans would been at his throat but to my complete admiration they gave him a loud, heart felt rendition of “there is only one Nikki Bendtner.” The Dane was visible humbled by the support that was being shown and clasped his hands together and bowed his head as if to say thank you Japanese style. Irony of ironies was that as soon as he went off we didn’t seem to be half the threat.
Still we got there in the end, three points are three points are three points and with those little gems added to our tally we are nicely poised to spring to the top when the opportunity presents itself.
There is, of course, a new injury concern, there always is: Fabrégas limped off midway through the first half. Just a few moments earlier he had gone over to the bench to explain the problem and asked to be withdrawn; I can only imagine that they said to him: would you mind just popping back for a bit longer and putting us ahead — which he dutifully did. Nasri sent in an exquisite chip landing inch perfect in front of Fabrégas who calmly slotted it through the keeper’s legs and into the back of the net. That was the last kick of his game and he departed to his customary and always justified standing ovation.
Fabrégas’ departure was the cue for the Walcott and Nasri show to begin. Neither has played as well as they did in ages. Nasri was weaving his magic in the middle while Walcott ran rings around Burnley’s left back sending in perfectly weighted cross after cutback after cross and cutback for Bendtner to squander.
It is some distance from Burnley to London which should have given the visitors plenty of time to read the script which clearly stated that we would take three points easily from this game; unfortunately, they didn’t study it thoroughly as they should have because just after half time the cheeky monkeys went and scored and that definitely wasn’t in the script. This gave rise to more anxiety than we deserved, Walcott continued teeing them up for Nik who continued to miss them and then, as if fed up with his fine work being wasted, Theo picked the ball up on the right and rather than send in another cross to be wasted he danced past three Burnley defenders before curling a low left foot drive along the floor and into the corner leaving the goal keeper spread helpless on the floor.
Two one up and the whole ground including Burnley expected the flood gates to open but no matter how many chances were sent over to Nik he just couldn’t give us that all important two goal cushion which as we all know would have been the cue for the party to begin. Instead we had to suffer Burnley coming onto us fuelled by the outrageous notion that they might get something from the game.
Nails being chewed all over the ground I noticed Wenger go up to the Burnley manager and point to something in a book, I can only assume that he was pointing to the script, the one that said that we end up winning by a two goal margin, it had to be that because shortly after Arshavin put us all out of our misery by scoring the third; we finally got our cushion but with only seconds left there wasn’t enough time to stretch out and enjoy Vik Akers’ sun loungers.
Almunia: no complaints, a tidy game; had to deal with a few long range speculative efforts which he handled well, his distribution was noticeably better. 7
Eboue: not one single bit of play acting; he obviously read Friday’s post and decided to buck his ideas up, a very thoughtful performance today, impressive. 7
Silvestre: he’s not great, we know that but bearing in mind all the injuries we have I still say thank goodness we have him. 5.5
Vermaelen: he is so much part of the furniture that I am starting to struggle to remember what life was like without him. Had to work extra hard to cover for Silvestre’s lack of pace which he did in his usual brilliant way. 8
Clichy: was back to his best last week against Stoke and carried on where he left off. I feel secure having him around again. 7.5
Denilson: got better as the game went on, made himself available at the right time and in the right place. 6
Fabrégas: we can only hope that he is not out for any longer than it takes to buy a Mars bar from the shops and when I think about it even that is too long. The Master. 8
Rosicky: a tidy game, starting to give the impression that he really cares again, less flicks and tricks and more determined passing and shooting. 7
Walcott: by contrast to the dire Wes Brown, Eboue was a superb partner. Confidence led to a level of quality that we haven’t seen in his play, I was going to say ages but I should probably say ever, well done Theo. 8.5
Bendtner: he was so wasteful I just had to laugh in the end. 5
Nasri: man of the match today; this Frenchman is no winger. 9