Xhaka howler as Arsenal draw with Burnley

Granit Xhaka gifted Burnley an equaliser in a 1-1 draw with Arsenal, in a match which also saw Erik Pieters’ red card and an Arsenal penalty overturned by VAR.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang put Arsenal in control with an early finish that snuck through the grasp of Nick Pope (6). However, with Arsenal cruising and Burnley struggling, Xhaka inexplicably decided to play a pass across his own six-yard box which deflected off Chris Wood’s hip and into the unguarded net (39).

The game seemed to be meandering towards an uneventful conclusion but then sparked into life in the final 10 minutes.

Arsenal felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Pieters looked to have handled in the area but VAR did not deem it a clear and obvious error. Pieters – in the thick of the action – was then dismissed by referee Andre Marriner and a penalty was awarded when the defender deflected a Nicolas Pepe effort onto the crossbar. However, VAR showed that the block had come off his shoulder and Burnley had a reprieve.

Arsenal still managed to create one last chance in injury-time but Dani Ceballos curled an effort off the foot of the post as Burnley managed to hold on.

Arsenal have taken only eight points from their last seven games, leaving them firmly in mid-table as the fight for Europe rages above them.

Player Ratings

Burnley: Pope (6), Lowton (6), Tarkowski (7), Mee (7), Taylor (6), Brownhill (6), Westwood (6), Gudmundsson (6), McNeil (5), Vydra (7), Wood (6)

Subs: Pieters (7), Brady (6), Rodriguez (6)

Arsenal: Leno (7), Chambers (6), Tierney (7), Luiz (7), Mari (7), Xhaka (4), Partey (6), Saka (7), Odegaard (6), Willian (6), Aubameyang (7)

Subs: Pepe (7), Lacazette (6), Ceballos (6)

Man of the match: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

How Xhaka’s moment of madness cost Arsenal…

Aubameyang’s clever positioning off the left spearheaded attack after attack in the first half for Arsenal.

The Gabon forward needed only six minutes to make it six goals from his last five starts, cutting in from the left to hit a low shot which Pope could not keep out at his near post. Gareth Southgate was watching on from the stands.

Aubameyang – who has scored more goals, eight, against Burnley than any other Premier League side – looked in the mood as he twice went close himself while also setting up Bukayo Saka, guilty of a bad miss as he poked wide.

Burnley could barely string two passes together as Thomas Partey then fired over from Martin Odegaard’s cut back.

But then Xhaka came bearing Premier League gifts. Xhaka took a short pass from Bernd Leno while facing his own goal and a pass to David Luiz looked on but the Swiss midfielder took a touch, looked up, then inexplicably kicked the ball against Wood and watched in horror as it flew into the net.

It was the eighth time the Swiss midfielder has been guilty of an error leading directly to a goal since the 2016-17 season – more than any other outfield player in the Premier League.

Burnley enjoyed more and more of the ball after the break as the game turned into a scrappy affair that suited Sean Dyche’s men.

Saka wanted a penalty when the ball struck substitute Pieters on 74 minutes, but neither Marriner nor VAR Kevin Friend were interested as it came at the Dutchman from close range.

Pieters remained at the forefront of the game as his volley had to be touched over the crossbar by Leno at full stretch.

Moments later Wood should have had his second but shot straight at Leno when played in by Matej Vydra.

At the other end substitute Pepe missed a sitter as he swung tamely at Kieran Tierney’s pass.

Further drama came as Marriner pointed to the spot when Pepe’s volley hit Pieters and flew on to the crossbar. Pieters was initially shown a red card, but it was overturned by Friend with replays showing the ball struck the Burnley man on the shoulder.

Ceballos then saw his shot come back off the post in a frantic finish that Burnley were fortunate to escape from with a point.

Man of the match: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Star man: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Image:
Star man: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Burnley must be sick of the sight of Aubameyang.

He has now scored more Premier League goals against Burnley (8) than against any other club, while only against Hamburg (9) has he netted more often in the top five European leagues.

Overall, the Gabon striker looks a far more confident player than the one who has struggled for large parts this season. That is now six goals in his last five starts across all competitions. His movement looks sharper, as does his finishing. There was never anything else in his mind as he dribbled towards the box. We are now seeing the real Aubameyang.

What the managers said

Burnley boss Sean Dyche said: “Overall, another good point against a good Arsenal side. We attempted to affect the game by pressing all match. We relied on the same group [as in previous games] and they were outstanding, the way they went after Arsenal for the whole 90 minutes.

“I’m a fan of VAR, we know it has to be streamlined but that is where it’s worth its weight in gold. The referee couldn’t wait to get his red card out today, although he is a very fine referee. That is what VAR is for. There wasn’t a lot in it in the first half, but our defending was exceptional and we probably made the chance of the game, but their ‘keeper made a good save.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta said: “I’m disappointed with the result, but the reality is when you come here, which is a tough place to play, and you generate the chances that we created, don’t score enough, give a goal to the opponent and then don’t get the decisions that you should get, it becomes difficult to win a game in the league.”

On the no handball penalty decision that was not overturned by VAR, was it a penalty? “Absolutely I think it’s obvious and clear I think there is no debate about that. If that’s not a penalty I think somebody has to explain what is a penalty in this league.”

Opta stats

  • Burnley have enjoyed just one win in their last 10 games in all competitions (D5 L4), after winning three in a row directly before that.
  • Arsenal have kept only one clean sheet in their last 11 games in all competitions (0-0 v Man Utd in January), after keeping five in a row directly before that.
  • Willian has provided an assist in each of his last three games for Arsenal in all competitions (3 in total), as many as he registered in his previous 25 for the club, while he is the Gunners’ top assister in the Premier League this season (5).
  • Only Cesc Fabregas (18y & 236d) reached 50 Premier League appearances for Arsenal at a younger age than Bukayo Saka (19y & 182d), who played his 50th game today.
  • Pope played his 100th Premier League game for Burnley, the 11th player to hit that milestone for the club.

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