Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs and the Clarets take care of their own destiny
When the tide came crashing up against them, Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs found a way to repel the waves and create history.
In the face of unrelenting pressure from the San Francisco 49ers defence, when trailing in Miami, coach Andy Reid made delicate tactical alterations to get his star man firing again.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, last year’s MVP, was the jewel in their crown. In four minutes and 57 seconds in the fourth quarter he made two key throws as the Chiefs scored 21 unanswered points to take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in 50 years.
Victory at the Hard Rock Stadium was something of a collector’s item, as was Burnley’s first point against Arsenal under boss Sean Dyche.
The Clarets hadn’t had any joy against the Gunners in 11 games beforehand, since Graham Alexander’s penalty secured a point during Owen Coyle’s tenure just over a decade ago.
And Mikel Arteta’s men would have prolonged that agony had the home side not adapted to vulnerabilities in the way they had set up.
This breakthrough, just like that of the Kansas City Chiefs, was down to intuition and adaptation at Turf Moor.
Burnley’s energy and vibrant press looked effective against last season’s Europa League finalists on first viewing, but it appeared to be a clever ploy from the visitors to master transitional phases of play and break the lines with relative ease.
With the Clarets’ midfield invited to press a high line, and their defence opting to sit deep, Germany international Mesut Ozil was able to pick up positions in-between the two banks to lead Arsenal’s counters.
On another day it might have paid off. Alexandre Lacazette should have found the target with a header when finding space to meet Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s delivery.
Arsenal’s Gabon international, who had netted in every game he’d played against the Clarets previously, then fluffed his lines when poking wide of the post having collected a David Luiz pass.
And James Tarkowski - who should be a shoe in to make Gareth Southgate’s England squad for friendlies against Italy and Denmark next month - made an outstanding challenge on the edge of his own six-yard box to ensure Lacazette couldn’t get a shot away.
At that moment the hosts modified their system. Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood dropped a little deeper to fill in the cracks, allowing others to press from the front instead.
“We got used to their shape,” said Tarkowski. “Ozil was picking up space early on, which we found a little bit difficult. But once we got that sorted we dominated the game.”
Arsenal would threaten again later in the half when Nick Pope restricted the space for Aubameyang to work with from Granit Xhaka’s incisive pass, but Ozil’s influence had waned.
In fact, the World Cup winner’s contribution had petered out to such an extent that Arteta was forced to withdraw him just after the hour. Job done.
Aubameyang’s header from Lacazette’s centre flashed past the upright midway through the second half, though that was the highlight of the away side’s second stanza as the Clarets diluted their creativity.
Instead it was Burnley who pushed for the points and a first league victory over the Gunners since 1974.
Jay Rodriguez had stung the palms of Bernd Leno in the first half, Dwight McNeil had cleared the crossbar and Jeff Hendrick went within a whisker of converting.
They would go even closer after the break. Rodriguez got too much on Westwood’s set-piece at the near post while Hendrick guided a header just wide of the woodwork when getting ahead of Xhaka to meet McNeil’s delivery.
The home side looked as though they had made it three wins on the bounce late on - adding to the scalps of Leicester City and Manchester United - only for Rodriguez’s effort to drop on the line after clipping the underside of the crossbar.
The striker seemed destined to net another winner when reacting to McNeil’s cushioned header from Westwood’s cross, but he connected with the ball almost too well and Chris Kavanagh confirmed that the ball hadn’t crossed the line.
Regardless, it was a seventh point from nine for the Clarets, who climbed to 11th in the top flight and remained level on points with the Gunners.
Kansas City Chiefs and the Clarets both found a way to transform their destiny, but Arsenal were reduced to excuses in light of their frailties.
“The conditions were difficult, the grass was long, they didn’t put any water on it and that is not a very helpful thing to play football,” said the Gunners boss.
“Absolutely (I expected the conditions) I didn’t water the pitch yesterday at the training ground. I expected it but it doesn’t make it easy to play.”