Arsenal’s bold approach of playing the ball out from the back since the arrival of Mikel Arteta in December 2019 has drawn plenty of praise and led to a number of wonderfully constructed goals.
It comes with obvious risks, however, and that was highlighted in the equalizer the team conceded in a 1-1 draw at Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday that left Arsenal’s chances of qualifying for European competitions even more unlikely.
Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka received a short pass from goalkeeper Bernd Leno, took a slightly heavy touch onto his weaker right foot, then attempted a dangerous pass across the face of goal around Burnley striker Chris Wood.
The ball ended up striking Wood on his hip and careering into the net, the unwitting scorer looking slightly sheepish as he celebrated his goal.
“It’s the way we play and the way we want to play,” said Arteta, whose side had gone ahead through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. “We have to know the risk and the rules for the way we want to play. It is what it is.”
Things often seem to go wrong for Xhaka when he plays Burnley. He was sent off in the teams’ meeting at Emirates Stadium in December and also in their game in January 2017.
His eight errors leading directly to goals since the start of the 2016-17 season is the most of any outfield player in the Premier League in that period.
Arsenal is nine points off the Champions League places with 11 games remaining. Its best chance of getting into the competition next season lies in winning the Europa League, where the team has reached the last-16 stage.