ARSENAL: Szczesny, Chambers, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexis, Cazorla, Welbeck
SUBS: Martinez, Bellerin, Rosicky, Ramsey, Walcott, Podolski, Sanogo
BURNLEY: Heaton; Ward, Shackell (c), Duff, Trippier; Boyd, Jones, Marney, Arfield; Ings, Sordell
SUBS: Gilks, Wallace, Mee, Kightly, Jutkiewicz, Chalobah, Keane
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The Arsenal season so far has lacked momentum as they have failed to put a decent run of wins together. All too often they have drawn games which they should be winning on paper at least, but have failed to do enough to merit victories. What they need to regain some vital confidence is a few wins in a row and the opportunity presents itself at the moment. As it stands they have won their last two games but they have been far from convincing in either game. It took two magical minutes at the very end in Anderlecht for Arsenal to snatch three lucky points and they failed to create any clear cut chances of their own against Sunderland last Saturday.
Thankfully Wes Brown and Vito Mannone were on hand to dish out some very early Christmas presents and Alexis Sanchez took full advantage both times. In the next few days they play at home to the Premier League’s bottom club and then they have the return fixture at home to Anderlecht. On the face of it they are games Arsenal should win and they will find themselves on a run of four consecutive wins if they do just that. I’m not saying it will be easy in either game, but they are games they have to win if Arsenal are to be considered more than also rans this season.
First up is Burnley at home on Saturday afternoon and another chance to get three points while some of the other top teams could struggle for the second week in a row. There’s not much as sweet as seeing Arsenal rack up three points while the likes of Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs and United all drop points as they did last weekend. When that happens it’s vital to keep up the momentum and a home game against a team who have failed to win in their opening nine games fits the mould perfectly.
At the start of the season I thought Burnley didn’t look strong enough to avoid relegation and it looks like they are destined for the drop unless something changes drastically. They are pretty resolute in defence, but their inability to score is proving to be a fatal flaw so far at least. They have managed two draws in their four away games so far, but they have failed to score in three of their four away games.The team news for Arsenal isn’t as bad as might have been expected with Per Mertesacker showing no ill effects from the weekend and Kieran Gibbs likely to recover from the knock he took too. The only new absentee would seem to be Jack Wilshere who is likely to miss out with a knee injury, but he didn’t play last week due to suspension. It means Arsenal will more than likely field a fairly similar team to the one which won 2-0 at Sunderland last week.
We could get to see Theo Walcott make his comeback after almost 10 months out of the team due to injury. I doubt if he will start, but the chances are he will get a run from the bench and it will be even more likely if Arsenal have a nice lead under their belts.
There’s more good news on the injury front with Olivier Giroud well ahead of schedule in his recovery and set to join in full training after the next international break.There is the possibility of a couple of fringe players getting a game and I wouldn’t be surprised if either Lukas Podolski or Joel Campbell was in the team from the start. For me the most important player for Arsenal at the moment has to be Alexis and I’m pretty confident of them winning once he’s in the team. His purchase in the summer was a master stroke from Arsene Wenger and it’s a joy to watch him play for the team I support. His energy and commitment are an example to the rest of the team and Arsenal would have a lot more points if the other players could match them.
I was at a home game against Burnley a few years ago when Arsenal won 3-1 and Nicklas Bendtner missed an absolute hatful of chances. He went on to score a hat trick only a few days later against Porto in the Champions League. Bendtner is no longer an Arsenal player, but it just goes to show how unpredictable a game football can be.
I expect Arsenal to dominate the game from start to finish and put loads of pressure on a Burnley team who have struggled at this level. The three points are theirs for the taking once they apply themselves properly and I expect Arsenal to win by two or three goals. It would be great to see them come out from the start and get a goal or two before Burnley know what has hit them, but I’ll be happy once they play well and make plenty of chances as well as winning the game of course.