For 25 minutes, it seemed Arsenal would prove the doubters wrong

For 25 minutes, it seemed Arsenal would prove the doubters wrong and win up North in the face of adversity.  Having weathered an early Burnley storm, when Fabregas made it 1-0, it seemed the team had found a new confidence that has so often been lacking on cold and wintery nights.  However, Arsenal only served to waste a host of chances before succumbing to a bit of pressure.  It really was typical Arsenal
For so many years now Arsenal has found it tough to adapt to the fiery performances of the likes of Burnley, but this time around we were able to hold Burnley off and take the lead through the skipper.  He showed the persistence needed in these games and was rewarded with a golden opportunity, one he was not going to pass up.  Having bustled his way through the Burnley defence Cesc coolly picked his spot in the bottom corner and Jensen had no chance.
That goal should have set the wheels in motion for a victory, after all this team is supposedly still in the title race.  Going 1-0 up away at a promoted side, even if they have done well at home, has to lead to a victory if a team harbours serious ambitions of success in this League.  It did seem for 15 minutes after the goal that we did now know how to conjure up this type of victory; chances started to come, but were duly spurned.
Arshavin was unlucky to hit a post, but Nasri and Cesc were sloppy when presented with very good openings.  There did seem to be a lacklustre feeling about the finishing, as if the players thought the opening goal would ensure victory.  However, right on cue, defensive lapses put to bed all the hard work that had gone before it.  Although Vermaelen had a decent game after his error, and tried to make amends throughout, his tackle was rash and totally unnecessary.  Bikey was allowed to jog into our box unmarked with plenty of time and space.  Suddenly one simple pass had caused panic in our box and Vermaelen scythed down Bikey with an idiotic and high tackle.  One lapse in judgement cost us as Alexander slammed home the spot kick.  The crowd suddenly grew in their support, and the players found rejuvenated confidence.
What Arsenal did not want was for the game to turn into a battle, a game that could go either way.  After the equalising penalty, that is exactly what followed.  Although Diaby was brilliant in the middle, suddenly Burnley were playing like a side that had true belief in their form.  Forcing Arsenal to give the ball away on many occasions, and defending stoutly, they gave as good as they got and possibly deserved the goal that marginally eluded them.  As is often the case, the urgency that is needed throughout only came in the final few minutes.  Before that everything seemed to be in front of Burnley and the loss of Fabregas was crucial to this.
Before his injury, Cesc had begun to dominate the game.  His passing was assured, creative and penetrative.  Once he went off, a bit of the pace and purpose went out of the forward play.  Only when Gallas and Vermaelen made ventures forward did we look like scoring.  This simply proved that we need a striker in this side.  Despite his goal on Sunday, Arshavin did not prove to me that he can play the front role.  He is so dangerous coming from deep and his best moments tonight were when Nasri was making runs through the middle.  Unless Bendtner can come back quickly, Wenger needs to find someone to lead the line with the same vigour and strength as Van Persie did.
One thing that should worry all Arsenal fans is the form of Theo Walcott.  He was lucky not to be hauled off before Wenger eventually put him out of his misery.  He looks short of sharpness, confidence and at times, the supposed quality he is meant to have.  He failed to produce any sort of skill or speed of thought to beat an average full back and failed to produce any quality when given the ball.  His final act summed up his night as he blasted a cross, under very little pressure, high into the stand.  If Theo holds ambitions to go to South Africa in the summer, he needs to buck up his ideas or he will not be in the Arsenal side.
Despite the disappointing result, there were some positives from tonight.  Abou Diaby showed why he has been sorely missed.  I did a piece recently on his contribution and the balance and power he adds to the team.  Tonight, he was strong in the tackle, positive with his runs and his passing.  We have lacked that imposing figure both in a defensive and an offensive sense.  Alongside Cesc and Song, it truly looked like out best midfield trio.
The Liverpool result has certainly been wasted tonight and sums up where this squad is.  Some fans will point to injuries and those missing, but the players out there should be able to beat Burnley, especially with the chances we did have early on.  If we cannot kill off teams in must win games, we cannot win the title.  Wenger said the team that gains consistency will win the League and tonight was a chance to continue on a winning streak.  It all started very well but then the Arsenal we have grown used resurfaced.
Wenger will not be happy but sadly away games at the likes of Sunderland and Burnley seem to be tougher for this squad than Tottenham at hone.  Not being able to beat teams in the bottom half when they make it a little uncomfortable is the one thing Wenger has claimed his squad has put behind them; I am still waiting…

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