Written by Danny Ward
Arsenal entertain Burnley at the Emirates on Sunday, with kick off at the unusual time of 2.15 due to the game being screened live on Sky.
Burnley travel to the capital in high spirits; despite having only won a solitary point on the road all season, they have made the most of their home comforts, notching up an impressive 25 points at Turf Moor. This has left them sitting pretty at 10th in the Premier League table – and crucially 10 points off the relegation zone, which was something unimaginable for many at the start of the season.
Meanwhile Arsenal have been… well, just as you’d expect Arsenal to be judging by the last few seasons. They show signs of real quality in certain matches and then struggle to dominate in others. The 4-0 hammering of a lacklustre Swansea side last weekend will have restored some faith after the disappointing 3-3 draw with Bournemouth earlier in January, but questions still remain as to whether the Gooners can mount an effective challenge for the title – particularly with how strongly Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side have been performing. Rumours of star man Alexis Sanchez leaving will have disquieted some, but it’s hard to see him leaving this transfer window.
The Clarets can play with no fear; they ran a full strength Arsenal side very close at Turf Moor in October, only to be denied by a controversial last minute Laurent Koscielny winner. Arsenal will have to keep their concentration and patience for the full 90 minutes to get the result they want; Burnley are solid defensively and will try to use Andre Gray’s pace on the counter.
credit Ronnie Macdonald
Clarets fans can expect virtually the same lineup as the one that beat Southampton last time out, with Dean Marney, who picked up a knock and came off early, the only real doubt. That could spell a first Premier League start for (Sir) Joey Barton. It would certainly be interesting to see how he matches up with Arsenal’s playmakers in the middle of the park, particularly because of his lack of pace. He isn’t getting any younger at 34, but he’ll always give his all and motivate those around him.
Arsene Wenger welcomed Hector Bellerin, Francis Coqeulin, Kieran Gibbs and Olivier Giroud back to training this week, so they should all be available for selection. Theo Walcott will miss out through his continued problems with a calf strain. It will be interesting to see who leads the line; Sanchez is the obvious choice as a focal point but Giroud has been chipping in with his fair share of goals recently, so if fit enough he could push for a place in the first XI too. The front 3 of Iwobi, Sanchez and Giroud seemed to work well last time out at Swansea, so perhaps Wenger will stick with that again here.
Prediction: From a Burnley perspective, I’d like to think we’ll have a go rather than sit back and invite Arsenal on. However, I can’t really see beyond an Arsenal win – they are usually strong at home and have enough class to break us down. It won’t be easy for them and they may have to bide their time to get a breakthrough, but I’m going with Arsenal to win 2 – 0.
What is your prediction for this game? Let us know by leaving a comment!