Arsenal 3 Burnley 1: Walcott edges Gunners closer to a shot at the title

07 March 2010 12:09
The sun hinted at spring and Arsenal's fluent football had the feel of champions, but there was a chill in the air and a vulnerability to the Gunners.

If they are to profit from a beneficial run-in and win the Premier League, they will need to be more ruthless.

Anyone who felt that the two-goal, winning half-hour at Stoke last weekend, which followed the terrible injury to Aaron Ramsey, could be a turning point would have been disappointed.

That's my boy: Under-fire Theo Walcott kept Arsenal's title charge intact with the winner

Cesc Fabregas's 17th goal of the season in the 34th minute did notopen the floodgates as some might have expected manager Arsene Wengereven noted a hangover from the Ramsey incident and Arsenal proceededto concede an equaliser to David Nugent.

Ultimately, they were well worth the win given by Theo Walcott'sneat finish and Andrey Arshavin's added-time lashed shot, after thehapless Nicklas Bendtner had missed a hatful. Yet anybody, other thanthe English professional game's worst away team, might have exposedthem more.

There was also more collateral damage. Talisman Fabregas suffered arecurrence of a hamstring injury and could miss Tuesday's ChampionsLeague tie at home to Porto.

Applying the gloss: Andrey Arshavin stepped off the bench to fire his 10th of the season

Still, the points were Arsenal's after a fourth consecutive leaguewin and, despite crushing defeats by Manchester United and Chelsea,they could even be title favourites.

Over the next few weeks, they face Hull and Birmingham away and WestHam at home. After that, on the day Chelsea go to Old Trafford, Arsenalare at home to Wolves.

'We have experienced today that every game demands full focus andcommitment,' warned Wenger. 'Every team will fight until the lastminute not to go down.

'We were a bit minimalist in the first half, but we came out with more purpose in the second.'

There was, he conceded, a Ramsey effect.

'I felt it was still in our minds in the first half,' he added.

The Arsenal players took to the field wearing T-shirts saying 'GetWell Soon, Aaron' and banners in the stadium urged the team to 'Do itfor Aaron'.

The challenge was to avoid the same fate of two years ago afterEduardo's horrendous leg break at Birmingham ended their titlechallenge.

Flying high: Cesc Fabregas put Arsenal ahead after 34 minutes to cap Arsenal's fourth straight league win

It was fortuitous that Burnley were the visitors this time. Theiratrocious away run that has plunged them into the bottom three has seenthem win one point from 15 games. They have one win from 17 leaguegames.

Theirs, too, has been a poignant week, as their black armbandstestified following the death of Adam Blacklaw, the goalkeeper in thatastonishing season 50 years ago when, unfashionable even then, theybecame champions of England.

That season they did the double over Arsenal, but any likelihood ofeven matching the point they secured at Turf Moor last December lookedfanciful even though Arsenal's finishing was often poor.

Bendtner twice missed his kick in front of goal from Emmanuel Ebouecrosses and their self-doubt surfaced when Walcott jumped out of alunging, but fair, tackle by Daniel Fox.

Back on terms: David Nugent silenced the home crowd with this strike against the run of play

'Arsenal can't have it all their own way,' said the Burnley bossBrian Laws. 'It was a perfect tackle in every way. I saw a frustrationin them as if what happened at Stoke was fresh in their minds, but theyhave the potential to overcome something like that.'

Their class showed when lively Samir Nasri chipped a neat ball toFabregas and the Spaniard sidefooted home for the opener. It was hislast action, owing to injury.

Had Bendtner not headed Walcott's cross wide, Arsenal might have had more belief without their leader.

Their anxiety heightened when Clarke Carlisle headed Eboue'sclearance back into the Arsenal penalty area, where a static defenceallowed Nugent to chip over Manuel Almunia for an equaliser.

Enter Walcott, now, according to Wenger, 'showing he is mentallystrong'. Cutting inside his full back, he curled a fine left-footedshot into Brian Jensen's far corner.

It was Burnley who almost grabbed the next goal when Steven Thompsonvolleyed over, before Arshavin cut in from the right and drove home alow shot to seal points that edge Arsenal closer to the prize.

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Source: Daily_Mail