Arsenal’s end-of-season party – bring your own boos – has fallen flat, and so far 2022 has been a stench.
For the first time in 32 years, the Gunners are eliminated from all cup competition, home and away, before the end of January.
And fourth place – which is like winning a hideous trophy instead of the jackpot on a game show – will be a stretch if they continue to be so debauched.
December’s five-game winning streak is a distant memory. They haven’t scored in four games and, despite all their promises of a virgin sabbath, they were as direct as from the back of a bus.
At one point, manager Mikel Arteta lost his rag on the touchline. He insisted it had nothing to do with Burnley wasting time, but some of the Clarets’ sets took longer than reading a novel.
Referee David Coote only added four minutes of stoppage time. This pretty much covered one of Nick Pope’s goal kicks.
But let’s hear it for the stubborn Clarets back line, who refused to back down when Arsenal increased the pressure after half-time. James Tarkowski and Ben Mee were outstanding.
It was Burnley’s 5,000th league game in the top four divisions, not counting the play-offs – only the second club to reach that landmark, after Preston North End.
It’s fair to say that it’s not the most exciting games ever, but it’s probably in the top 4,999.
Sean Dyche’s side did not play with the resignation of a team that had won just once in 17 games, and in a match short of talking points to support the pub’s debrief of post-game beyond a quick half-time, Ashley Westwood’s first-half challenge on Kieran Tierney was probably the most controversial.
Coote’s penalty of a yellow card – for stomping without care and attention rather than a pad – was probably about right.
It was also Burnley’s closest to a player being sent off since Arteta took charge of Arsenal in 2019.
In that time, the Gunners have collected 14 red cards, yet some would have you believe that Burnley are saboteurs where Arsenal are angels.
A scrappy defeat in the same game 13 months ago had left Arteta staring at the barrel, and it’s fair to say the Gunners are in better shape now.
But they lack the cutting edge, and on an infuriating afternoon for their supporters, the odds came and went.
Emile Smith Rowe was denied by outstretched legs from Pope, and Alex Lacazette’s effort on the rebound was blocked by Ben Mee.
Bukayo Saka deflected his shot just wide of the far post, while Martin Odegaard’s free-kick had the right form but too much altitude.
But the Gunners’ best chance came midway through the second period, Lacazette stabbing from narrow wide after Smith Rowe’s electrifying burst in the box.
Not only did Arsenal fail to win it, they almost managed to lose.
Dwight McNeil’s breakaway in injury time stretched the Gunners and they were relieved when he shot narrowly over the top.
Arsenal leave for Dubai for a training camp in the sun, and goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale admitted: “We didn’t create the quality we needed. I don’t want to make excuses, but we’re exhausted in this. moment and some guys have played a lot of minutes. We have time to regroup now.