Burnley 0, Arsenal 1: Chris Boden’s thoughts as the Clarets’ search for their first Premier League win of the season continues
While the agenda before the game was, rather ridiculously, focused on Burnley’s physicality, another familiar theme proved the main talking point instead.
Beforehand, one London-based media source had suggested that: “Premier League referees must stiffen their stance on Burnley's tackles before an injury occurs to one of the Arsenal players.
"If we want to avoid similar situations to Eduardo, Aaron Ramsey or Abou Diaby who all received horrible injuries due to the disgraceful challenges inflicted upon them, then Burnley must be regulated."
And the national press was full of headlines such as “Turf mob warn soft Guns to get ready for war”.
But Arsenal need not have feared. The Burnley “bullies”, on a record run of games without a red card, stretched that sequence to 98, with only two bookings for the Clarets.
However, while Burnley’s disciplinary record is exemplary, their record of winning penalties is far from.
The Clarets have won only eight spot kicks in 152 Premier League games now, the worst sequence in Europe.
They thought they had been awarded one at Turf Moor when, trailing to Martin Odegaard’s first half free kick, Matej Vydra latched onto Ben White’s poor pass, got to the ball first, and nudged it onto the outstretched leg of keeper Aaron Ramsdale, before going over his challenge.
Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot, but the VAR officials, with old friend Lee Mason on duty, advised Taylor to look at the monitor and the decision was reversed.
In real time it looked a stick-on penalty, but from further viewing, you could see why it was overruled - although, in identical circumstances last season, Patrick Bamford was challenged by Nick Pope, who got the ball and then the man, and there wasn’t even a debate about the penalty, which decided the game.
And we thought VAR was going to make for a more even playing field…
UEFA referees' chief Roberto Rosetti briefed before the start of Euro 2020 that, if there is a touch on the ball by the defender in such incidents in the area, that is grounds for a VAR intervention.
But, on the flip side, as Gary Lineker pointed out, “outside the box fouls are given, regardless of you getting the ball first, but they’re not in the box.”
There was incredulity that James Tarkowski’s challenge on Richarlison went unpunished at Goodison on Monday night, despite him clearly winning the ball, so which way up is it?!
Either way, the decision was disappointing, given what Arsenal have got away with over the years against Burnley, and considering a point was the least the Clarets deserved against one of the Big Six, who look no further to restoring past glories despite another £150m spend in the summer.
The big issue for Sean Dyche’s side is turning dominance into goals and points at the moment.
They bossed the opening hour against Brighton and Everton, and lost, should have beaten Leeds, but drew, and the Clarets penned the Gunners back for long spells at Turf Moor, but didn’t overly stretch Ramsdale.
Dyche said it was a “head-scratcher” that Burnley didn’t score, and they had more and better chances than the visitors, but the xG was 0.78 to 1.10 in Arsenal’s favour.
Burnley had 18 shots to Arsenal’s 13, but both sides had only three on target each.
The issue is who partners the main man Chris Wood.
Wood enjoyed a profitable end to the season alongside Vydra, but Dyche has gone back to his tried and tested pairing of Wood and Ashley Barnes.
Barnes actually had one of his better performances against Arsenal, but, while he provided nuisance value in his pressing and cutting off passing lanes, he simply doesn’t look like scoring at present.
Vydra gives more mobility and stretches defences, and you’d argue Burnley are better on the eye when he plays, while Jay Rodriguez has suffered from a lack of a consistent run in the side and is struggling to fire in the brief opportunities he is given.
Vydra’s introduction, along that of summer signing Maxwel Cornet, came, for Dyche, unusually early, 10 minutes into the second half, and lifted the crowd, and enhanced Burnley’s start to the second period, in which they had enjoyed a good spell of pressure.
They maintained that head of steam, with Cornet showing some crisp passing, an ability to look after the ball and diligence to work back without it, which will be music to Dyche’s ears.
However, after the penalty was overturned, they couldn’t quite carve out that golden chance, although Cornet had a right-foot effort clawed out of the top corner by Ramsdale, which, you imagine, he would have taken had it fallen on his left.
Had that gone in, the roof would have come off, with the crowd instantly won over by the Ivorian wideman, and come the trip to Leicester next weekend - where Burnley will be hard pushed to add to their solitary point - the supporters will hope for changes to the starting line up.