And so we continue to climb slowly out from the trough of despond into which we had descended after the first three games of the season.
A splendid Martin Odegaard free kick was enough to secure the points away at Burnley yesterday in an unspectacular game during which our forward line failed to fire on all cylinders.
Afterwards Mikel Arteta commented on the fact that Burnley had not mown the pitch prior to the game, meaning that the grass was longer than it should be for a typical EPL fixture.
Longer-than-usual grass will play havoc with a team that likes to play the ball on the ground (a team like, er, Arsenal), but will have less of a negative impact on a team that likes to pump long balls into the box (such as, er, Burnley).
If this really was an issue it may go some way to explaining the very obvious failings in our attack.
Numerous times in the game we created lovely moves and opened up Burnley only for the final pass to be overhit or underhit.
We can only assume that our players were trying to navigate the unreliable pace of the ball across the surface, but had a few of those passes found their mark I am confident we would have had at least one extra goal, maybe more.
But while our attackers struggled, our defence turned in an excellent performance as a unit against a tough, physical Burnley side.
Both Gabriel and White stood up really well to the attempted physical intimidation of Burnley’s lumpen strikers Wood (so named because he resembles a wardrobe) and Barnes (so named because he’s built like a barn).
Gabriel in particular looks the sort of powerful defender who is capable of meeting any physical challenge and, at only 23, his career ceiling is very high.
Elsewhere Tomayisu had another good game, winning all his aerial duels and covering his position well and Tierney, although not as emphatic getting forward as he can be, was a solid anchor at left bank.
In midfield Partey did a good job of keeping us secure and helping to start attacks, while Odegaard roamed with menace, although he faded somewhat in the second half.
There were one or two moments when we got ourselves into trouble with mis-hit passes in our own defensive third (again, possibly, connected with the rolling swathes of prairie that billowed the length and breadth of the Turf Moor pitch). The worst moment was an underhit back pass from White to Ramsdale, resulting in referee Anthony Taylor awarding a penalty to Burnley.
For once, the gods of VAR chose to smile on us, as the replay showed Ramsdale had clearly got the ball before the Burnley attacker went over.
I should also mention that Taylor did well to hand out a couple of bookings to Burnley players early in the game, thereby curtailing their obvious tactic of trying get “get stuck into” us. Good refereeing, which is a rarity.
Ramsdale’s overall performance was also noteworthy: for this fan it is always a pleasure to see a goalie who commands his area and comes for crosses. We had it briefly with Emi Martinez when Leno was injured the season before last: we suddenly saw what a difference it makes when a ‘keeper catches rather than punches; when he comes off his line to dominate the box rather than standing glued to the goal line.
And now we have it again with Ramsdale. Leno is a terrific shot stopper but, based on what I have seen so far, I’ll take Ramsdale any day of the week and especially on a Saturday.
Job done. Six points from the last two games. Two clean sheets. Can we keep the run going? Let’s see… who are we playing next weekend? Aha, what a mouthwatering prospect.
A couple of weeks ago the Spuds were celebrating a league table that had them at the top and us at the bottom as if it were an actual trophy.
You can’t blame them – they’re not very familiar with what trophies look like. But even so, it’s possible that at full time next weekend we and they will be on level points. Of course, this depends on the Chavs beating them later today and on us beating them in the derby, but you never know…
Ramsdale – 8
Tomayisu – 7
White – 7.5
Gabriel – 8.5 (MoTM)
Tierney – 6.5
Partey – 7
Odegaard – 7.5
Saka – 6.5
Smith Rowe – 6.5
Pepe – 6
Aubameyang – 6
Sambi – 7
Maitland-Niles – 6.5
Tavares – N/A