The expectation that comes with a £50 million acquisition is that Ben White’s mere presence will enhance Arsenal’s defence, yet his centre-back partner Gabriel was primarily responsible for the 1-0 triumph at Burnley. Burnley put up a fight, being direct and awkward, as is typical of any visit to Turf Moor. Mikel Arteta chose a back four with Thomas Partey as the sole midfield pivot in a 4-3-3 formation as a sign of faith in White and Gabriel.
Thomas Partey and Gabriel provide Arsenal with a solid base on which to build momentum
Rafael Benitez had chosen a three-man defence to counter Burnley’s long-ball style just five days prior, and Arteta could easily have followed suit given his previous proclivity for protecting his club in this manner. But his faith in Gabriel was rewarded, as Martin Odegaard’s magnificent 30th-minute free kick concluded a hard-fought match, giving Arsenal back-to-back victories and genuine momentum ahead of the north London derby next weekend. Gabriel’s three tackles, eight clearances, two blocks, and ten successful aerial duels — more than anyone else for either team — on an afternoon of defiance as Arsenal passed a physical test they have so often failed in the past were the highlight of his three tackles, eight clearances, two blocks, and ten successful aerial duels — more than anyone else for either team — on an afternoon of defiance as Arsenal passed a physical test they have so often failed in the past. “We know he has a fantastic potential,” Arteta said of Gabriel, who is making only his 24th Premier League start after joining from Lille for £27 million a year ago.
“We signed him because he has acclimated well to the league.” He is aware of our desires. It doesn’t get any more difficult than playing in the Premier League. He was fantastic today, in my opinion. The Gunners’ successive victories over Norwich City and Burnley are modest beginnings — Norwich lost their 15th consecutive Premier League game, against Watford, in East Anglia, while Arsenal edged past a Burnley team with one point and three goals to show for their seasonal efforts — but the Gunners’ durability will instil confidence. White competed effectively in the air but appeared weak at times, most notably when underhitting a backpass midway through the second half, which nearly cost the visitors dearly. Aaron Ramsdale sprinted out to meet Burnley substitute Matej Vydra and only got a few touches on the ball before pulling him down. After being persuaded by VAR Lee Mason to reconsider his judgement, referee Anthony Taylor gave the penalty. Games can be won or lost on razor-thin margins, but Ramsdale earned his clean sheet with a controlled performance in which he commanded his box superbly and maintained a presence that his rival Bernd Leno hasn’t always matched. When Ramsdale was selected ahead of Leno against Norwich last weekend, there was some surprise, but he justified his decision here, and while there isn’t much to choose between the two on current evidence, the £32 million summer signing from Sheffield United will be difficult to unseat if he keeps up his good form. Arteta is under external criticism following a terrible start to the season, but this has yet to be reflected internally, as the Spaniard’s revamped roster has yet to settle in and show their best. They were more functional than fluid here, but Partey’s significance to Arteta’s future vision was highlighted in his decision. Granit Xhaka’s suspension may have had a role, but using Partey as the lone defensive midfielder allowed him to pitch Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Nicolas Pepe in the same team. Partey is “very crucial” since he is the anchor, according to Arteta. “He is the one who must read what is going on and improve the situation.”
That is his most important job: to find the proper balance in the team, to find the right rhythm in the assault, and to handle the transitions effectively. He has a charismatic demeanour, yet he battled at the end. He was cramping, and that will go away — he hasn’t worked out in a long time, and he has to regain his fitness.” They may not yet be giving the attacking synergy Arteta desires, but having so many attacking players on the field increases the possibility of individual brilliance, which ultimately won Arsenal the game. Saka was clipped by Ashley Westwood as he drove infield, earning Arsenal a free kick in a central position 25 yards out. Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope handed Odegaard the left half of the goal to aim for if he could carve a route over the wall, and the Norway international did just that, netting his first goal since signing on a permanent basis for about £34 million from Real Madrid. Other perilous situations arose. Saka and Aubameyang linked up to feed Smith Rowe, who sent a poor attempt at Pope before Pepe squandered a fantastic opportunity to put Aubameyang through on goal. In contrast to Norwich, though, this was an afternoon in which the result took precedence over the performance — and Arsenal did so in an unusual manner. “In this type of game, we have guys that are not at their best,” Arteta remarked. “But they gave it their all, and we came out on top.”
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