Arsenal 2, Burnley 1 - Chris Boden’s match verdict

Ashley Barnes equalises at Arsenal
Ashley Barnes equalises at Arsenal

Burnley debuted their new ‘Evergreen’ third kit at the Emirates on Saturday, unveiled as part of a pledge to plant a tree for every shirt bought by the fans.

The colour harked back to that worn by the club between 1900-09, which was ultimately deemed unlucky, leading to the switch to Claret and Blue, associated with Aston Villa.

Green was used again in an away strip in 1993/94, which again proved a bad omen, as, despite the club winning promotion via the Second Division play-off final at Wembley, they only won once in it, in an FA Cup replay at York City.

Even Southend United fell foul, forced to wear Burnley’s away kit at Turf Moor the following season, as they were soundly beaten 5-1.

But while the new strip brought a familiar outcome, Burnley will rest easy, knowing if they perform as they did at the Emirates, it won’t matter what colours they run out in, they will pick up results.

It was a 10th-successive Premier League defeat to the Gunners, and 11th in all competitions, though the prevailing mood was one of frustration, at something of a missed opportunity.

The Clarets, expected to bank up and look to play counter attacking football, making use of any set play opportunities they got, showed a real bravery and positive mindset, as, even after going behind to a scruffy Alexandre Lacazette goal, they got on the front foot and dictated for large periods of the game, particularly in the first half.

If the opening day 3-0 win over Southampton was a show of Burnley’s identity under Sean Dyche, this was an encouraging step forward at one of the Big Six.

The Clarets pressed with energy and intelligence, blocking off passing lanes and winning back possession time and again, with much of the first half played in Arsenal territory.

They also protected Nick Pope well, the England international largely limited to routine stuff.

Arsenal’s outstanding midfield pivot Dani Ceballos may have been spotted on the bench after being taken off late on, apparently saying to Henrikh Mkhitaryan: “This Burnley team don’t like to play football, they just boom boom boom over the top.” - ignoring David Luiz’s propensity to look long for the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at every opportunity.

But Burnley were more nuanced than that, and when they clawed their way level just before half-time, it was no more than they deserved, Ashley Barnes again showing that clinical nature to finish with confidence after Dwight McNeil’s effort spun into his path.

The move exemplified everything good about Burnley, as Johann Berg Gudmundsson stole possession and set Jack Cork away, the effervescent midfielder finding Chris Wood on the left, before linking with McNeil.

McNeil was prominent in that first half, constantly forcing Ainsley Maitland-Niles towards his own goal, and the right back could have been booked for a shirt pull, never mind a quite ridiculous fall to the floor, which led to another Dyche debate on diving afterwards.

Unai Emery responded by bringing on £73m record signing Nicolas Pepe at the break, as much to help Maitland-Niles with McNeil, as it was to showcase his attacking abilities.

Arsenal quickened the tempo in the second half, and Burnley didn’t quite hit the heights of their first half showing - although their pressing of the Gunners, as they made use of the new rule which means goal kicks don’t have to leave the box, brought much anxiety from the home crowd.

But another soft goal was their undoing, as Gudmundsson was caught in possession by Ceballos, and Aubameyang did the rest, driving towards goal before beating Pope’s right hand from the edge of the area.

Aubameyang is that type of player. No matter whether Arsenal are good, bad or indifferent, you always have to be on high alert, as the Gabon striker will punish the slightest error.

Last season’s joint Premier League top scorer has already scored the winner in both games this season, having netted the only goal at Newcastle last weekend.

In Barnes, however, Burnley also possess an in-form forward, who now has 12 for the calendar year, one more than Aubameyang, with only Sadio Mane and Sergio Aguero scoring more.

Burnley couldn’t provide another opening for their talisman though, with McNeil and Ashley Westwood unable to make headed opportunities count, as the Gunners held on.

There was a sense of relief at the final whistle, while Burnley were left feeling they might have come away with a point, or maybe more, on another day.

It was encouraging afterwards to hear Dyche speaking about: “Sometimes you can get that mentality 'this is a tough place to go' and it can grow, and it gets too powerful.

"So I said 'take that away, we want to go down there and actually take the game on to get something'.”

Having been accused of “anti-football” the last time they came up against David Luiz at Chelsea on Easter Monday, it was interesting to see the Brazilian booked for throwing the ball away to waste time as the Clarets looked for a second equaliser late on.

That spoke volumes about Burnley’s threat, and how they went about the game, and that sort of approach was welcomed by the travelling support, who again backed their team with numbers and volume despite the lunchtime kick-off.