by Laurie Laker
Arsenal Football Club vs. Burnley Rugby Club
The Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove- 17August 2019
Bernd Leno – 5.5
Could do nothing about Burnley’s goal, and looked a little shaky on high balls into the box – maybe a new CB pairing ahead of him made for communication issues? Alert when required, mostly, though.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 6.5
Clearly still learning the RB trade, but was sharp when he needed to be and offensively kept offering a threat and an option for the front players to combine with.
David Luiz– 7
We know what he’s good at; being a ball-playing centreback. His lapse to lose Barnes for their goal was annoying, but he wasn’t helped by a deflection on the pass. Overall, he looked solid – decent debut, valuable minutes before a very tough next two fixtures.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos – 6.5/7
He looked fine. He did the basics well, and he relished the physicality that Burnley brought.
Nacho Monreal – 7.5
Captained the side today, and looked good doing so. Did his work at both ends of the pitch, defensively sound and offensively always available. Nearly had an assist but for his foot being offside. Encouraging return to form for the 33 year old.
Dani Ceballos– 9* (*MOTM)
Easily the best player on the park by a country mile. Oozed quality on and off the ball; his energy was wonderful to watch. Close control was Cazorla-esque, his running into the final third added bodies and options, and his tenacity earned him two assists. What a debut. Fingers crossed Raul’s on the blower right now, working out a payment structure.
Matteo Guendouzi – 8
Impressive today, again, in a deeper role than we may be used to seeing him in. Dropped to collect the ball from the centre backs, completed 48 of his 51 passes today which is brilliant. Really, really encouraging – we’ve got a player, here.
Joe Willock – 7
His first start at the Emirates in the Premier League, and he looked right at home. His runs forward and the way he carries the ball is really, really lovely – able to break lines so effectively. Needs consistency, but he’s totally unafraid to commit and play his game.
Reiss Nelson – 6.5
Decent today, had a goal disallowed for a narrow offside against Monreal. Drove inside and attacked well after he found his rhythm, but the substitution at half time was probably the right choice.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – 7.5
Continued with the goals by getting today’s winner – a lovely shoulder drop and placed finish from the left channel of the area. Always looked a threat on the counter, his pace is just electrifying (I use that word deliberately given its TH14 associations) and worked hard when he had to. A man in form.
Alex Lacazette - 7
First goal of the season, and all his own work. He loves that lower right quadrant of the box; good strength, a sharp turn, and a neat finish as he was falling over. Needs more minutes to get up to full fitness, but he’s there to score goals and he did that.
Pepe (Nelson, 46) – 7
Gets a good rating for the nutmeg alone; pretty sure he stole a man’s soul today and we all watched in real time. Great feet, but clearly needs minutes. Should have sealed/assisted the sealing goal late on, but an encouraging half.
Kolasinac (Lacazette, 72) - 6
He was fine. Alert defensively. Mostly, just relieved to see him back in light of ongoing and recent off-pitch issues; got a great reception, which was a nice touch.
Torreira (Ceballos, 83) – 6.5
Only got 10 minutes, but looked sharp and involved right from the off. Had a good effort well-saved.