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Mikel Arteta has solved Arsenal’s defensive problem but now has another challenge on his mind

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Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have come a long way in their year under the Spaniard, with considerable improvements across the board.

Kieran Tierney, Granit Xhaka and Bukayo Saka have all become integral members of the first-team, with Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey also growing in their importance.

The January transfer window showed what Arteta and Edu have planned, trimming a bloated squad of a number of high earners – as the club waved goodbye to Mesut Ozil, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.

A rebuild behind the scenes has long been necessary, with Arteta inheriting an Arsenal squad that had high-earning, under-performing players, scattered with contract uncertainty.

That project is still ongoing and will continue to be crucial to the evolution of the side and, while the transfer incoming and outgoings will always attract the biggest headlines, it’s ultimately a results business and it counts for nothing if performances on the field are not up to scratch.

Thankfully, there’s considerable improvements in this area too – with none more evident than Arsenal’s defensive strength. A once frail, vulnerable and messy back-line has, for the most part, become organised, strong and efficient.

The stats show this, with just 22 goals conceded in 22 matches, a tally only bettered by Manchester City and Tottenham, the latter of which have played two games less at the time of writing.

That has seen Arteta solve one of Arsenal’s biggest problems over the years but, at the other end of the field, there is plenty of room for improvement as just 27 goals have been scored and only the bottom-seven in the division have a worse return in front of goal.

In comparison, Arsenal were only outscored by the top-six last season. Clearly, there are issues to be resolved and a fluidity in the final third that needs to be rekindled.

Another concern for Arteta is the heavy responsibility that has fallen upon Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Saka. Between them, the trio have scored over 66% of the Gunners’ Premier League goals this season.

That is why Nicolas Pepe’s signs of life will be welcomed. In his past three Premier League appearances, he’s found the net twice. In his last four starts, he’s scored three goals. The more you delve into the Ivorian’s numbers, the more promising the signs are to suggest that the Gunners are starting to get their worth from their £72m man.

His fine showings continued in the midweek defeat to Wolves which, frustratingly, was probably the best that Arteta’s side have played in an attacking sense since he took over – right up until the David Luiz red card and the penalty that turned the tide of the game.

If Pepe can continue on his current trajectory, Arsenal will reap the benefits and the Europa League is where he may shine brightest, having contributed three goals and three assists in the comfortable progression from the group stages.

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Latest Arsenal News

English FA explains why Arsenal were denied penalty against Burnley

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The Premier League has claimed that Arsenal were denied a penalty against Burnley because Erik Pieters was in ‘close proximity’ to Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners were forced to settle for a point at Turf Moor after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early opener was cancelled out by Chris Wood, who benefitted from a huge mistake by Granit Xhaka.

However, Arsenal felt aggrieved in the 75th minute when Pepe’s touch inside Burnley’s box led the ball to hit Pieters’ outstretched arm, but Mikel Arteta’s side were not awarded a penalty following a VAR review.

Earlier this week, Fulham were involved in a similar incident as Mario Lemina was penalised for handball in the build-up to their disallowed goal against Tottenham.

But in a statement after the game, the Premier League clarified why Arsenal were not given the decision.

‘The ball has hit him from close proximity and he’s had no time to react,’ said the statement. ‘It wasn’t given on-field and the VAR didn’t think it was a clear error.’

 

Arteta, meanwhile, was left in no doubt that his side should have been awarded a penalty. ‘Absolutely,’ the Arsenal manager said after the game.

 ‘I think it is obvious and clear. I think there is no debate about that. ‘If that’s not a penalty, then someone will explain what a penalty is in this league.’

 

 

 

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Just In: Xhaka apologizes to Arsenal Fans for his costly mistake against Burnley

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Granit Xhaka is full of remorse for his horrendous display that led to Burnley goal, that cost Arsenal 2 points today.

He has come to apologize to Arsenal fans via his Official Facebook  Page:

It’s class from him.

 

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Match Facts: Burnley 1 vs 1 Arsenal

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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.

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

 

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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