x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wenger is short up top

Dropped points highlight need for striker, while Burnley show Wolves the alternative way to approach games against the big four.

BURNLEY // Optimism can disappear as quickly as it was engendered. Buoyed by their victory at Liverpool three days before, there was a despondency about Arsenal as they departed Burnley. Dropping two points in the 1-1 draw contributed, as did the hamstring injury sustained by Cesc Fabregas. Factor in the midweek wins for first Manchester United and then Chelsea and it amounted to a disappointing couple of days for Arsene Wenger.

His subsequent attack on the Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, who had fielded a weakened side at Old Trafford 24 hours before, should be viewed in that context. "It is a problem for the international credibility of the Premier League," he said. By the same criteria, Burnley's spirited display can only enhance its standing. Their manager, Owen Coyle, is an unashamed fan of Wenger. "Arsenal pass and move the ball and I believe that is the way the game should be played. It is something to which we all aspire," he said. If Burnley attempted to mimic Arsenal, it was not a form of imitation that Wenger found flattering. The defender Clarke Carlisle said: "They have world-class players, but no matter how world-class they are, they don't want to play with someone right up behind them, kicking their ankles."

Not that foul means play a significant part in the Burnley gameplan. With a shared commitment to attack, the match became, as Carlisle said, "like a five-a-side game", stretched while the teams took it in turn to advance. But while Wenger lamented squandered chances - "what is frustrating is that we were 1-0 up and then had a few opportunities to score the second goal" - they illustrated deficiencies in his squad.

Fabregas was superlative in his 42 minutes on the field, his presence galvanising his colleagues. But once he departed and with another forceful personality, Robin van Persie, absent for several months, there was a reliance on Andrey Arshavin. The Russian has proved perhaps the league's least conventional striker in Arsenal's last three league games. At Turf Moor, however, he returned to pastures old, drifting deeper and towards the flanks in a bid to create. Fluid, interchangeable movement is part of Arsenal's approach, but deprived of Fabregas's piercing runs and minus Van Persie and the injured Nicklas Bendtner, they lacked a finisher.

Eduardo's cameo suggested that sharpness is continuing to elude the Croatian; had he reacted a fraction quicker, he could have scored a second-half brace. Theo Walcott's third league start of the season proved an unimpressive outing with Stephen Jordan enjoying much the better of their duel. In a tactic beloved of various British managers but utterly untypical for Wenger, a centre-back - William Gallas - was thrust into the attack in an injury-time search for a winner.

It highlighted the need, already admitted by Wenger, for another striker to arrive in January. The more immediate concern is Hull's visit tomorrow. The Frenchman is unhappy that Arsenal, having played on Sunday, will then complete two games in 72 hours against a side who had a week to prepare. Fabregas, the scorer at Turf Moor, is certain to miss out. The worst-case scenario for Arsenal is that it provides a dress rehearsal for a future without their captain. The Barcelona president Joan Laporta has again talked about taking the Catalan to the Nou Camp, saying: "We have decided to fight for the kid for next season."

Burnley, meanwhile, go to Wolves on Sunday. While one relegation-threatened side surrendered the points by fielding their reserves in midweek, another acquitted themselves superbly by holding Arsenal. As opprobrium continues to be directed at McCarthy, Burnley's contrasting approach may bring them a few well-wishers. rjolly@thenational.ae