Odegaard on target as Arsenal 'change the narrative' by battling their way to vital victory at Burnley
Who says Arsenal don’t like a scrap?
The football might not have been the best from Mikel Arteta’s side against Burnley on Saturday, but they still claimed a vital 1-0 success thanks to a battling performance at Turf Moor and a magnificent Martin Odegaard goal.
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We’ve seen Arsenal outmuscled and outfought on their travels to the north west over the years, but they showed here that they can come through a physical battle when their backs are against the wall.
“[We want to] try to change it,” Arteta said ahead of the game, when asked about Arsenal’s reputation of often being found wanting against the Premier League’s more aggressive sides.
“We know that you guys already use a few words that I hate to hear, but they’ve been used when we play this kind of opponent. Let’s change it. Let’s change the narrative and put a different one after Saturday.”
And that’s exactly what his side did, with the brilliant Gabriel Magalhaes the embodiment of their spirited showing at Turf Moor.
The Brazilian centre-back was a colossus as Burnley constantly thumped the ball in towards Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes.
He made more tackles (three), clearances (eight) and blocks (two) than anyone else as Arsenal made it back-to-back wins in the Premier League ahead of next weekend’s north London derby.
But it wasn’t just Gabriel who excelled under intense pressure.
Aaron Ramsdale was superb as he kept his second clean sheet in a row after being brought into the side to replace Bernd Leno.
New signing Takehiro Tomiyasu didn’t lose a single duel during the 90 minutes, winning four in the air and one in the ground, while Ben White won more interceptions (four) than anyone else.
This was a performance full of character from Arsenal, even if it again saw them fail to make the most of their attacking talent up front.
Still, this win has moved them up to 12th in the Premier League, although Aston Villa would move back above them with a win at Everton. More importantly, though, it builds on the momentum generated by last Saturday’s victory against Norwich.
There is clearly still plenty of room for improvement for Arteta's side, but the nature of this win will do them a lot of good and the way they celebrated it at full-time was proof of what it meant to them after such a difficult start to the season.
Lining up in the same 4-3-3 formation that they ended the game against Norwich, Arsenal looked lively in the early stages with one neat move ending with Kieran Tierney setting up a chance which Nicolas Pepe couldn’t take.
But the fluency in Arsenal’s play started to drop a bit as the half wore on and Burnley began to cause the visitors some problems with balls into the box – two of which resulted in half chances for Ashley Barnes.
White looked somewhat shaky at times when rushed, but Gabriel was excellent alongside him and ensured Ramsdale was relatively untested despite Burnley getting into some good crossing positions.
And then, just before the half hour mark, Arsenal struck at the other end through Odegaard.
Bukayo Saka had been tripped just outside the box by Ashley Westwood as he was about to play Pepe in on goal.
At the time, it looked like a good free kick to give away, but it proved to only be a reprieve for Burnley, as Odegaard stepped up and curled the resulting set-piece into the top corner to give Arsenal the lead at half-time.
The second half saw Burnley dominate for large parts, but it also saw Arsenal waste some golden chances to kill the game off.
Time and time again, their final ball let them down when well positioned, with Pepe failing to find Aubameyang with a simple pass that would have sent the Gunners skipper clear on goal.
Burnley, meanwhile, were building up a head of steam at the other end, with Ramsdale having to push an effort from Maxwell Cornet over the top after the ball had broken to the substitute in the box.
The hosts were then awarded a penalty only for the decision to be correctly overturned by VAR, with replays clearly showing Ramsdale had won the ball early in a challenge with Matej Vydra.
The final 20 minutes saw Burnley bombard the Arsenal box, but the visitors – marshalled so impressively by the monstrous Gabriel – held firm to claim a vital three points.