A Granit Xhaka red card summed up the current malaise at Arsenal after the Gunners suffered a home defeat to Burnley.
Hoping to put their goal shy nature behind them, Arsenal pushed forward in the early going in search of a fast start.
Within the space of 10 seconds chances came and went for Alexandre Lacazette, Bukayo Saka and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Burnley struggled to clear their lines.
The latter effort brought appeals for a penalty via a handball, but the set piece was not forthcoming.
Burnley then spurned a glorious opportunity to punish the hosts through Chris Wood.
The New Zealand striker somehow found himself unmarked inside the Arsenal box. A superb delivery from the wide areas picked him out with precision, but Wood failed to make contact with his head as the ball skewed aimlessly wide off his shoulder.
𝘽𝙄𝙂 chance for Burnley! 😱
Wood is unmarked in the box but heads wide!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 13, 2020
That moment was sandiwched between Arsenal pressure, with Lacazette soon going closest to breaking the deadlock.
A flowing move down the left saw Kieran Tierney receive the ball in behind. The Scot accurately picked out Lacazette, the his first-time effort was repelled by Nick Pope.
From the resulting corner, Gabriel Magalhaes headed wide in a chance his reaction suggested he should’ve done better with.
Despite boasting 67 percent of possession and taking eight shots, Arsenal’s familiar lack of cutting edge continued as the scored remained locked at 0-0 at the interval.
Arsenal attempted more crosses in the opening 45 minutes against Burnley than in the first half of any other Premier League game this season:
◉ 18 attempted
◎ 3 successful
◎ 2 chances created
The definition of insanity is… pic.twitter.com/A1bWb2Ehl3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 13, 2020
The Gunners crafted the first real chance of the second-half, though Mikel Arteta might have hoped the provider and shot-taker might have been reversed.
Aubameyang broke clear down the left before picking out Tierney inside the area. His control was immediate, but his right-footed strike was saved well by Pope who got down quickly.
Arsenal were coming closer, and Pope was soon called into action once more. A fast break set Willian away. Mimicking the prior chance in terms of positioning, he cut inside to Saka who fired a first-time strike goalbound. Pope – back to his best in recent weeks – was equal to the task.
Just as the hosts’ were building pressure, Xhaka pushed the release valve when pickig up a needless red card.
An altercation brought several players into a scrum, but Xhaka crossed the line when grabbing Ashley Westwood around the throat. His initial yellow card was rescinded in favour of a red via VAR.
Even by his standards, Xhaka getting a straight red for an overreaction to HIS OWN FOUL is astonishingly stupid
— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) December 13, 2020
With his dismissal went Arsenal’s momentum, and a wholly more even contest soon ensued.
Things went from bad to worse for Arsenal when Aubameyang revived his goalscoring ways at the wrong end of the pitch.
The striker climbed clear a fizzed corner, but the ball glanced the wrong way off his head and left Bernd Leno with little to do but gather the ball from the net.
The situation could’ve been worse prior to the goal when Mohamed Elneny appeared lucky to escape with a yellow card when appearing to raise his forearm into the face of James Tarkowski in the act of marking.
In fairness, Arteta’s side showed spirit and did continue to push for an equaliser, with Saka coming close if not for the headed intervention of Ben Mee.
Time was against them, however, and the curtains eventually closed on another disappointing defeat for the Gunners.