A lucky gift for Wenger

Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny deflecting the ball into the net from Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain's shot in their 1-0 Premier League win over Burnley on Sunday.
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny deflecting the ball into the net from Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain's shot in their 1-0 Premier League win over Burnley on Sunday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Controversial handball winner moves Arsenal to two points behind City

LONDON • All four sides of Turf Moor applauded Arsene Wenger in recognition of reaching 20 years as Arsenal manager as he walked across the pitch before kick-off on Sunday.

Only one side applauded the Frenchman's exit and his response - a sheepish wave from hip height - said everything about an anniversary where the most important gift arrived courtesy of the match officials.

The legitimacy and merits of Arsenal's 93rd-minute winner at Burnley naturally shaped the post-match analysis with Sean Dyche reflecting the home team's despair and Wenger the visitors' great fortune.

Laurent Koscielny's goal, his raised arm applying the final touch from close range after Burnley had switched off at a corner, may have been entirely out of context with the style Wenger has maintained over two decades at Arsenal.

But it was perfectly in keeping with a scrappy, error-strewn display in front of goal at Turf Moor.

DOUBLE WHAMMY

Our analyst tells me it was six or seven seconds over (the allotted time) when it went in... And it's a handball goal. You're frustrated when you lose any goal but particularly one like that.

SEAN DYCHE, Burnley manager, smarting over Arsenal's late goal.

Wenger, who naturally did not see the incident to add to the already bulging file of other controversies he has missed over the past two decades, acknowledged the helping touch without which Arsenal would not have won 1-0.

The fifth consecutive English Premier League win moved the London club up to third, two points behind leaders Manchester City (18).

"I was fuming because we played the short corner at the end of the two added minutes," said Wenger.

"I was asking why didn't we take the direct corner? I didn't see it go in, but I've been told that we were fortunate to get the goal."

Burnley manager Dyche cut a frustrated figure after the defeat, which left his newly-promoted side 14th in the table.

"It's hard not to be frustrated when something is taken away from you that is in the hands of the referee," he said.

"Our analyst tells me it was six or seven seconds over (the allotted time) when it went in. That doesn't sound a lot, but it is in this case. And it's a handball goal. You're frustrated when you lose any goal but particularly one like that."

Wenger was still probably entitled to think his team had enough of the ball to warrant the victory.

Equally, the Arsenal manager accepted it was a laboured performance riddled with "technical mistakes".

Arsenal did at least conform to the adage that all teams with realistic title ambitions need to know how to win when playing badly.

But it was not easy to watch this performance and find a plausible argument that Arsenal have fixed the flaws that have left them short since their last championship win 12 years ago.

"It was the kind of game we could have won or lost 1-0," Wenger said.

"Burnley make everyone suffer here."

This was certainly several notches down from the performance with which Wenger's team won 3-0 against Chelsea the previous weekend.

Arsenal might have been the more cultured side but they looked surprisingly devoid of wit or imagination on the ball.

THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'A lucky gift for Wenger'. Print Edition | Subscribe