LONDON (AP) — Arsenal’s season went from poor to dreadful as captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored an own-goal and the Gunners were reduced to 10 men in a 1-0 loss to Burnley in the Premier League on Sunday.
Aubameyang had been looking to end his goal drought, but at the other end of the field at Emirates Stadium. The striker, however, headed the ball into his own net while defending a Burnley corner in the 73rd minute.
Boos rang out from the home crowd, with 2,000 fans allowed under coronavirus restrictions. There was some scattered applause for the players later.
But Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is under increasing pressure with his team 15th in the 20-team division with 13 points from 12 games — four points more than Burnley which climbed out of the relegation zone.
“We’ve had a tough start,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “We responded well to the challenge right in front of us — winning games.”
“We’re moving forward again,” he added.
At the time of the goal, Arsenal was already down a man after Granit Xhaka was sent off for violent conduct in the 58th following a VAR check and a review by the referee on the sidelines. Xhaka had grabbed Ashley Westwood by the throat and pushed him to the ground after a challenge on another player.
Arteta said that Xhaka’s behavior was “unacceptable,” especially at a time when Arsenal was finally gaining a foothold in the match.
“He’s made a mistake clearly,” Arteta said. “We made the match more difficult and you give the opponents a chance.”
The Gunners were lucky not to be down to nine men after VAR deemed that Mohamed Elneny wasn’t guilty of violent conduct just before the corner was taken that led to the goal. Replays showed Elneny appearing to push defender James Tarkowski in the face. He ended up with a yellow card instead.
“I don’t know how Xhaka is sent off and Elneny isn’t,” Dyche said. “But he wasn’t.”
The Gunners have now lost four consecutive home league games.
“The players are hurting,” Arteta said.
Arsenal struggled to break down Burnley’s resilient defense in the first half and, when the Gunners did manage to break free, they couldn’t make it count.
The home side’s clearest chance came in the 28th when Arsenal carved through Burnley’s defense and went five on three. A cross from left back Kieran Tierney found forward Alexandre Lacazette, whose low shot forced a good save from goalkeeper Nick Pope.
Burnley also had opportunities to go ahead, taking advantage of a shaky Arsenal back line. The biggest moment came in the 13th minute when the visitors launched a quick counterattack down the right and a diagonal cross was headed just wide of the post by forward Chris Wood.
Arsenal’s overreliance on crosses into the box to create chances, many of them poor efforts, hasn’t paid off.
Aubameyang hasn’t scored — for Arsenal — since Nov. 1, when he converted a penalty against Manchester United in a 1-0 win at Old Trafford.
Burnley put Arsenal under pressure at times with a high press. A nervy home side found it difficult to get through solid team defending by Burnley.
Arsenal started to take hold of the match in the 50th and had several chances to score.
But Arsenal quickly surrendered their dominance when Xhaka was sent off for violent conduct. Xhaka was initially shown a yellow card after a challenge on Dwight McNeil. But other players surrounded the Switzerland international and replays showed that Xhaka put his hands around Westwood’s throat and pushed him to the ground.
After VAR looked at the incident, referee Graham Scott reviewed the incident on a TV screen on the sidelines and sent off Xhaka.
Xhaka has “fouled Dwight and gripped him and then he’s put his hands on me and you can’t do that in today’s game,” Westwood said after the match.
Arsenal fans will be wondering why Arteta didn’t name Mesut Ozil in his 25-man Premier League squad as the troubles have mounted in the team.
The players’ discipline has also become an issue as Xhaka’s red card was the second in four league matches. Nicolas Pepe was sent off for violent conduct against Leeds for a headbutt, and the Burnley match was the last of his three-match ban.
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