Archive for March 8th, 2010

Arsenal 3 – 1 Burnley: Walcott spares Bendtner’s blushes

767 comments March 8th, 2010

Bendtner thanks Walcott for bailing him out

Arsenal 3 – 1 Burnley (Fabregas 34, Nugent 51, Walcott 61, Arshavin 90)
Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

As Nicklas Bendtner left the pitch, he afforded himself a wry smile.  It had not been his day.  Fortunately, by the time the full-time whistle went, his grin was matched by those of his team-mates.  It could have been very different.

Arsene was questioned about Bendtner’s bemusing reaction to his own performance after the game.  The striker had missed a succession of simple chances before being withdrawn for Eduardo da Silva – thankfully to applause, rather than the jeering that occasionally accompanied Bendtner last season.  The manager’s  response was emphatic:

“I believe at the surface he looks like ‘okay, I missed the chances’, but underneath he is really disappointed. Everybody has a different way to show his emotions, and he hides well, but he cares.”

Bendtner is right to care.  The time between now and the end of the season is a huge opportunity for him.  He needs to show the form that saw him score that outstanding header at Stoke rather than the careless finishing which allowed Burnley to creep back in to a game that should have been beyond them.  However cool his exterior, no-one will have been more relieved at the moment when Theo Walcott swerved in-field to bend home the crucial winner.

Walcott, who has come in for criticism from Arsenal fans and mindless pundits alike, was outstanding.  Arsene had reassured the press in midweek that the winger would have a point to make, and so it proved.  Burnley left-back Danny Fox was out-thought, out-manoeuvred, and most of the time, out of breath.

It was a more consistent source of inspiration who gave us the lead, however.  Cesc Fabregas knocked the ball to Samir Nasri, before darting in to the penalty area.  Nasri then flicked an impudent pass over the opposition backline which Fabregas met with a precise half-volley between Brian Jensen’s legs.  An outstanding goal, and the captain’s 17th of the season.

Unfortunately, it was to be his last significant contribution to the game.  A hamstring tweak saw him replaced by Abou Diaby, and we subsequently lost our way.  It was around this time that Bendtner embarked on his own private Miss of the Season competition.  Most of the set-ups were provided by Walcott, with Bendtner applying the rib-tickling punch-lines.  It’s funny in the light of victory, but had a defender made a similar succession of mistakes, they’d be castigated.  We had better hope, as seems likely, that this was simply a dreadful day at the office.

It’s perhaps fitting that Bendtner was involved in Burnley’s equaliser, failing to win a header against Leon Cort that bounced distressingly in to our penalty area.  With Vermaelen and Silvestre too far apart and Manuel Almunia a few yards of his line, David Nugent was left free to lob the ball in to the back of the net.  Arsenal should have been four or five goals to the good, and were suddenly pegged back to one all.

And then Walcott.  He had threatened all game, and finally delivered, slaloming inside his marker and opening his body to bend a ball round the wider-than-most Jensen with his weaker left-foot.  His celebration saw him indicating to his wrist – campaigning for a later bed-time?  More likely, asking his critics to let his season start before writing him off.

Substitute Andrey Arshavin set the seal on the victory in stoppage time, interrupting a keep-ball session to burst inside and arrow a left-footed shot in to the near post.  He celebrated like a man who’s pleased to be back.

Another game, another victory.  The countdown to the coronation of the Premier League champions continues.  We might have to win every game to end up at the top of the pile, but a glance at the fixture lists suggests we’re the most likely of the three title challengers to do so.  A lot will be dependent on the severity of Cesc’s injury and the potential distraction of the Champions League – though if the former is grave, the latter might well disappear.

On which note: Porto Preview tomorrow.

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