10 April 2015

Burnley-Arsenal Tactical Preview—sorry, Theo; this one's not meant for you...

All of the talk around Arsenal lately has centered on how well we’ve done in winning seven in row—can we actually challenge Chelsea? Along the way, certain matches have been highlighted and others neglected, as if we can blithely blitz a few “lesser” opponents as we waltz our way towards a Prem title. Thank you, Burnley, for serving notice that all is not quite done and dusted yet. In recent weeks, after all, the Clarets have found a way to earn a draw at Stamford Bridge, win at home against Manchester City, and earn another draw at home against Tottenham. We might sneer at that last one, but we’d do so at our own peril.


While we might be riding high at the moment, Burnley have concerns of their own (namely, avoiding relegation) and would enjoy nothing more than to upset our apple-cart. Those directly above them, QPR, Hull, and Aston Villa, have challenges of their own this weekend: QPR host Chelsea, Hull visit Southampton, and Aston Villa visit Tottenham. If the Clarets play their cards right, they could rise from relegation with a quickness. After all, they hosted Tottenham this past weekend, a club that both knew and had to believe that it should take all three points to climb into the top five. However, Spurs could do little more than secure a draw.

 To be fair, Turf Moor can be a tricky place to visit, and the Clarets parked the bus for long stretches. Then again, they did find time to take more shots than Spurs (15-12) and put more of those on target (4-2). Long story short, we will have to face a side that is likely to hunker down and defend in numbers—their 4-4-2 will likely amount to seven or eight defenders in the box, which might suggest that there will be little room for Theo Walcott to run in behind the defense. On the other hand, they might still be bold enough to get forward to grab a goal as they very nearly did against Tottenham. Those who saw this one as a cakewalk, in other words, don’t get the relegation-battle or, for that matter, Burnley. They may have struggled to score just two goals in their last six outings, but one of those secured that draw at Stamford Bridge and the other the win at home over Man City. While it might be tempting to look past this one towards other, sexier fixtures, we should go in just as focused we were against Liverpool in order to secure the result we need.

 In the reverse-fixture back in November, we steamrolled our way to a 3-0 win, but that means little to nothing for this one. It’s tempting to look at this fixture as low-hanging fruit, the kind one can seize with little effort. That only adds pressure to us. No one expects Burnley to win this one or to stave off relegation, and so they can try to grind out a draw or somehow steal a win. At our end, however, we need and are expected to claim all three points in order to defend our new-found status as Chelsea-chasers. On paper, it looks like an easy three for Arsenal. Whether that proves out on the pitch is another question altogether.

LAST THREE

  • Arsenal3-0 Burnley (01.11.2014) 
  • Arsenal 3-1 Burnley (06.03.2010) 
  • Burnley 1-1 Arsenal (16.12.2009) 
FACTFILE 
  • The two clubs first clashed on 6 September 1897, a 5-0 win for Burnley. 
  • Arsenal have scored two goals or more in their last seven Prem matches. 
  • Arsenal have scored ten goals in their last four outings against Burnley. 
INJURIES 
Believe it or not, it looks as if only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been ruled out. To be fair, though, Diaby, Wilshere, and Koscielny face late fitness-tests.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI 
Ospina; Monreal, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Bellerin; Cazorla, Coquelin; Alexis, Özil, Ramsey; Giroud.

PREDICTION 
Burnley 0-2 Arsenal. The Clarets will be looking for a point if not three, but an early goal from Giroud should settle matters.


This post first appeared at Goonersphere.

What say you, Gooners? Do we have what it takes to break down a stubborn side that is trying to stave off relegation, or will this be one of those banana-peels that sees us slip? Make your predictions in the comments-section below!