Why Arsenal’s late winner was more about bloody-minded persistence than luck

The proverb ‘fortune favours the bold’ has never seemed a more apt description of a game as when applied to Arsenal’s last-gasp victory over Burnley on Sunday.

It was a victory that was so good, and that arrived in such dramatic fashion, that its value and importance far exceeds the same victory secured in comfortable fashion.

It was the sort of game that, in seasons past, would have ended in a frustrating draw and howls of derision about a lack of cutting edge from fans and pundits alike.

And, although the performance bore all the hallmarks of that sort of result, there was something just that little bit different this time around.

It was the sheer bloody-minded persistence of it. When every avenue seemed to have been exhausted, and all ideas had been tried, we managed to come up with something different in the final seconds to snatch it.

It was a triumph for daring over drudgery – and that is great for football and even better for my soul.

There was more than a whiff of good fortune about the goal. Were it scored against your Sunday league team, you could rightly complain of handball or perhaps even offside, but neither were appealed for or given. It was fortunate.

But then, as a team, if you show the sort of relentless ambition and desire that we showed, right until the final kick, you put yourself in the position where you can be on the receiving end of that luck.

It’s why teams in the top half of the league are always given more penalties than those in the bottom half. The better teams spend more time in the opposition box, thereby giving themselves a greater chance of drawing a foul and earning the penalty.

People will inevitably complain about injustice and how well Burnley defended but football isn’t fair. We have learned that to our cost over a period of many years.

Besides, do Burnley really deserve reward for excelling in only one facet of the game?

The fact is, for the last 20 minutes, they abandoned any concept of attacking football and were quite content to obfuscate and spoil. When they did win the ball, they were only interested in lumping it into space up field before the process was repeated.

Is that really worthy of reward? Should we really be lauding a system of football that entirely discards a key facet of the game for marginal gains?

I don’t believe so.

Burnley may have started the match with the hope of getting the win but that plan was abandoned at half-time, and they re-emerged a side intent on the point. That’s poor form for me.

If you get your nose in front, I absolutely support sitting in and defending what you have, but I will never support blocking out for the draw in the Premier League. It’s negative, regressive and, let’s face it, downright dull.

Although Arsenal were not at their best, they were at least ambitious and creative. Not only that, they were excellent in defence and scarcely gave the hosts a sniff. Their all-round game was far superior to that of their hosts and that is why they warranted the victory.

It was good fortune, but the players had to put themselves in the position to earn it. It wasn’t a freak gust of wind or a balloon deflecting a speculative shot, it was sheer hard work and persistence.

So while the late penalty shout that very much went our way at Leicester earlier in the season was bare-faced luck, this was more reward for hard work.

A great way to sign off ahead of the international break.

It wasn’t our best performance of recent times but the team has expended a lot of energy over the last month in turning around a pretty poor start to the season.

I had expected to see some changes to the starting line-up given how much the team had given but there were none.

Combined with the obstinacy of Burnley, it certainly made it tough going and there were some very heavy legs by the time the 92nd minute arrived.

Many people were critical of how the team performed but that, I think, is unfair. They have turned in some excellent performances of late and it is impossible to replicate that every three days for an entire season.

To a man, they put in a shift and were, ultimately, rewarded for it. I can’t argue with that. They will play better at other times this season and lose but, for now, let’s enjoy a memorable win and a slice of luck to boot.

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