Mikel Arteta’s most undroppable player clear after Arsenal’s Burnley frustrations

Burnley v Arsenal: Match in pictures

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The 1-1 draw at Turf Moor may ultimately be a result Mikel Arteta looks back on as a major factor in Arsenal’s failure to secure a top-six finish. Burnley were more than game opponents, but it’s a match that the Gunners could – and should have won.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s early opener was rich reward for a start that showed the confidence that last week’s win over Leicester had given them.

The Gunners skipper should have made it two, putting his snap shot wide, before Bukayo Saka missed an even better chance, poking his one-on-one wide.

It looked as if those chances wouldn’t have any major repercussions with Sean Dyche’s imposing side held at arm’s length by the Gunners.

But that good work was undone when Granit Xhaka decided to fire a pass directly into the chest of Chris Wood, with his rebound trickling into an empty.

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The error is the latest in a long-line of gaffes for a player that has made more mistakes leading to goals than any other outfield player since his Premier League arrival.

But while the central midfielder was coming in for bundles of well-deserved criticism, his partner in the middle of the park was enjoying a serene return to form.

It was the Ghana international’s first start since the beginning of February as a hamstring injury kept him sidelined.

That issue was the third separate injury problem he has suffered since signing last summer.

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In the Premier League, he has played just 786 minutes, with Arteta obviously frustrated by the lack of involvement his main signing has had on the season.

But in every minute he does play, his influence on this Arsenal team becomes more apparent.

Partey’s impact on Arteta’s team was perhaps perfectly encompassed by the passage of play that resulted in Aubameyang’s early opener.

Picking the ball up on the edge of his own box, rather than panic like Xhaka, he dropped his shoulder to evade Matej Vydra before driving forward with the ball.

The 27-year-old, then exhanged quick passes with his midfield colleague before finding Willian, who in turn found the Arsenal skipper to fire home.

It’s the kind of intervention that has been so lacking for the Gunners at times this season.

Ironically, before the horrific mistake, Xhaka was enjoying another positive performance, but he hasn’t the same sort of dynamism as the ex-Atletico Madrid star.

Similarly to Mohamed Elneny, Xhaka is a player that is more content to find one of the more creative players within the line-up, rather than be the architect themselves.

With a fit Emile Smith Rowe in front of him, there are the hallmarks of the kind of midfield that could drive Arsenal to success in the future.

The question remains on who his best partner is or whether they are currently at the club at all.

What isn’t in question is that Arsenal must build around the player Arteta has always claimed to be their ‘signing of the season’.

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