Lucky Arsenal struggle in absence of Ozil

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The Germany international was declared 'ill' before kick off meaning that the Gunners were lacking the locksmith they needed against Burnley

Alexis Sanchez dug Arsenal out of a hole at Turf Moor. His hotly-disputed last-minute penalty gave the Gunners all the points and condemned the hosts to their second injury-time defeat in a row here against the same opposition. It was the third time in a row they were beaten by Arsenal by goals beyond the 90th minute. 

The home fans didn't like it one bit with boos ringing out at the final whistle after referee Lee Mason awarded a spot kick for James Tarkowski's shove on Aaron Ramsey. Lucky or not, it was enough to get Arsenal out of jail. 

Arsenal -2 13/10 v Huddersfield

Up to then the game was drifting towards a draw. Burnley gave as good as they got with as little to separate the sides on the field as there was separating them in the Premier League table beforehand. One push the difference between three points and none.

Arsenal celebrate

Last weekend much of the talk was focussed on Mesut Ozil as he ran the show in the North London derby. That game gave the playmaker’s critics plenty to chew over and emphasised his status as Arsenal’s creative hub. And so did this one in the opposite way.

Against Burnley he was nowhere to be found in a game that was crying out for his influence for large spells. Sean Dyche has got his Burnley side so well organised that most teams in the league would struggle to carve out many clear cut opportunities against them. Arsenal were reduced to pot-shots from distance time and again here, one first-half Ramsey chance aside.

Ozil has made 30 goalscoring chances from open play this season – more than any other player – and Arsene Wenger could have done with that sort of ammunition to put the Clarets away.

Instead Ozil was declared ‘ill’ in Arsenal’s team notes despite having originally travelled with the team to Lancashire on Saturday, with no further diagnosis offered by the club’s officials at the ground. The team’s preparations were thrown further into disarray as they failed to reach the ground until around 55 minutes before kick off.

James Tarkowski Burnley Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal

Premier League teams are usually at away grounds far earlier than that, but an accident on one of the roads inbound to Burnley caused the Gunners delays. It’s not the first time that a coach has been blamed for Arsenal’s misfortune and Wenger might well have considered that he erred in starting Alex Iwobi in place of Ozil in the Arsenal attack.

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The Nigerian endured a difficult afternoon and took one stinging blow in the first half from Tarkowski. Jack Wilshere – on the bench again but uppermost in Arsenal fans’ thoughts these days – might have been a more natural replacement for the German in the line-up.

Burnley need to be played through and the forwards involved from the beginning for the Gunners couldn’t do that. Sanchez is more runner than creator and was not able to have much of an influence on the outcome until given the chance from 12 yards at the death.

Ozil – like Alexis – is out of contract at the end of the season with reports in Turkey indicating that he is ready to turn down Fenerbahce in favour of reuniting with Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Arsenal are going to miss the schemer as much as Alexis when the time comes to say goodbye. 

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