Xhaka’s Error Gifts Burnley A Point Against Arsenal

Arsenal lost further ground in the chase for European places thanks to an horrendous error by Granit Xhaka which gifted struggling Burnley a point.

There was late drama, as Nicolas Pepe’s 84th minute volley was cleared off the line by Erik Pieters with referee Andre Marriner initially awarding a penalty for handball and sending off the Burnley substitute.

But a VAR check showed the full-back had done brilliantly to divert the ball with his shoulder and Arsenal were denied a sorely-needed win – although they only had themselves to blame.

Since the start of the 2016-17 campaign, the Swiss international has made mistakes leading to eight goals – the most of any outfield players in the league – but none more bizarre than this.

Xhaka’s moment of madness came six minutes before the end of a first half which had been completely dominated by Arsenal.

Keeper Bernd Leno’s pass should have offered few problems for the midfielder but Xhaka, under no pressure, tried to pass across his area to David Luiz, having somehow failed to spot the 6’3” Wood in his path.

The ball simply struck the New Zealand international forward and flew into the empty net for an equaliser that few would have seen coming.

In fact, Arsenal should have been leading by far more than the solitary goal that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang claimed after six minutes following a surging run from halfway by Willian.

The Brazilian slipped the ball to Aubameyang who cut inside Matt Lowton far too easily and shifted the ball onto his right foot before beating Nick Pope low at his near post.

The England keeper should have kept out that attempt and was fortunate not to have been beaten on at least two other occasions.

Thomas Partey’s excellent lobbed pass was mis-controlled by Lowton and allowed Aubameyang to shoot just wide and Bukayo Saka did likewise after a one-two with the Arsenal striker.

The second half opened with a Martin Odegaard shot forcing Pope into a routine save but the contest rapidly went downhill with Arsenal unable to rediscover the creativity of the first half and Burnley apparently happy with a point and a fifth successive home draw until a late flurry of activity.

Pieters might have pulled off a stunning win for the home side with a late 20-yard volley which Leno tipped over and the keeper did equally well moments later to block a shot from Wood.

And after having been denied their penalty claim, Arsenal were unfortunate not to claim an injury-time winner when Dani Ceballos struck the post.

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