MIKEL ARTETA may be regretting talking Granit Xhaka into staying last winter.
Because that show of faith was embarrassed here as Xhaka’s brainless red card intensified the heat on the Spaniard.
To add to the humiliation, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored at the wrong end to spark Arsenal’s worst home run for 61 years.
The Gunners had been poor anyway but Xhaka’s moment of madness was the turning point.
It was Arteta who convinced the Swiss his future was still at the Emirates after his infamous bust-up with the Arsenal fans under predecessor Unai Emery.
Xhaka looked on his way out after swearing at supporters who had booed him while he was being substituted in a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace.
Interim boss Freddie Ljungberg brought him back into the fold but Arteta was instrumental in the midfielder’s U-turn at the club.
That rage that saw him react angrily at fans showed itself again here, as VAR caught him grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat.
Ironically, it was in front of a watching public again as this was the first league match to see supporters return to the Emirates.
Burnley made the man advantage count as Westwood swung in a corner and the ball flicked off the top of Aubameyang’s head and into the back of the net.
It was 1959 when the club last lost four league games in a row on their patch.
Dogged Burnley were one of the sides to inflict one of those miseries over half a century ago with a 4-2 win.
They repeated the feat here fairly comfortably, as Arsenal looked toothless.
This was yet another game where skipper Aubameyang failed to net – at least, at the right end.
It means he has struck just twice in 12 league games this term, constituting an astonishing drop in form for the Gabonese, who had been so prolific in England up until signing his most recent contract.
Arteta said in the lead-up to the game that his star man needed to think less when presented with chances and that the pressure of his drought could be affecting him.
The bigger worry has to be the lack of chances Aubameyang seems to be getting, despite Arteta deploying him through the middle here.
No wonder many Gunners fans are calling for the reinstatement of Mesut Ozil in January.
The divisive German, who is closing in on the final six months of THAT £350,000 a week contract, is not currently in Arteta’s 25-man squad.
But the manager did not completely dismiss the prospect of Ozil’s return in his pre-match press conference.
And after another insipid display devoid of creativity, what previously seemed impossible suddenly seems a viable option.
Whether Ozil could recapture anything like the kind of inventive spark Arsenal need right now after so much time kicking his heels is questionable.
What seems more pressing is for Arteta to give his stifled side more freedom as a whole.
Because right now, this feels as bad as anything served up by Emery.
That lack of spark was exacerbated by Dani Ceballos’s absence from the starting XI, in favour of Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny.
The Spaniard put in his probably best performance in an Arsenal shirt in this fixture last year, setting up both goals on debut in a hardfought 2-1 win.
How Arteta would have snapped your hand off for that unconvincing scoreline before the game.
His side created little in the first half, in what will have come as no shock to the two thousand ‘lucky’ fans inside the stadium.
Burnley should have had their opener inside 14 minutes but, amazingly, an unmarked Chris Wood headed wide from eight yards.
Arsenal livened up in the second period – as they had to – and went close with three chances in two minutes, but none of Kieran Tierney, Aubameyang or Bukayo Saka could beat Pope.
Willian then had a shot cleared off the line and the tension was clearly getting to the home team as Xhaka was initially booked after getting into a shoving match with Dwight McNeil.
Yet the decision was overturned after VAR spotted the Swiss to have grabbed Westwood by the throat in the melee.
Ref Graham Scott checked it out himself on the pitchside monitor and promptly upgraded his card to a red.
Burnley may have struggled this term but Sean Dyche’s team remain organised, and the extra man was likely to be key.
So it proved as the ball skimmed in off the top of poor Aubameyang’s head with 17 minutes to go.
Just before Aubameyang's unwanted winner, Arsenal were lucky not to have another man sent off as Mohamed Elneny was caught by VAR pushing James Tarkowski in the face – but surprisingly, only a yellow was issued.
Had Covid never happened, the Emirates would likely have been just as empty in the final stages.
At least one boo rang out as Willian was substituted, before many more followed at full-time.
This Sunday is due to be Arteta’s one-year anniversary in charge of the club.
But given this result and how badly things are going, you wonder if he will make it.
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