30 September 2016

Are Burnley banana-peel or simply brown trout?

There is optimism, and there is overconfidence. Arsenal have just emerged from a dense, dense thicket through which the squad played no less than four matches in just 12 days. That we won all four has bred a fair amount of chest-pounding and back-slapping, The feeling of braggadocio has only swollen as we look ahead to fixtures to come and reckon that the next half-dozen or so should, by rights, end with maximum points. Burnley, newly promoted though they may be, represent just the sort of banana-peel we can ill-afford to slip on if we expect to match or improve on our second-place finish of last season.

Still, it's hard to resist the unbridled optimism. The signing of Mustafi seems to have elevated our defense to new levels, with the more-breathless among us touting he and Koscielny as the best CB pair in the Prem. There may yet be something in that. At the other end, Walcott has found four goals in his last three outings and looks to have risen to another level of play entirely. 'Twixt the two, we've scored 13 goals and conceded just one in our last four while also finding a valuable draw in Paris to boot. By rights, we should be able to stride into Turf Moor and take all three.

However, our new-found confidence is just that: new. Burnley are off to a strong start, especially at home, where they've lost just one from four while throttling Liverpool 2-0 in the process. Those among us whose memories stretch back to matchday one should contrast that against our own 3-4 loss to the same. That represents the only match of eight in which Liverpool have failed to score. For as tempting as it may be to heave a sigh of relief after being the first English club to beat FC Basel in thei last four trips in England, the Swiss side having drawn at Old Trafford in 2012 and winning at White Hart Lane in 2013 and Stamford Bridge in 2014.

Having conceded just two goals in four matches at home, Burnley may very well prove to be a tough nut to crack, if not the banana-peel your correspondent fears. We are after all in rare form and, if anything, might rue missed chances more than we count blessings. For as good as we've been of late, we might have hung six or seven goals on Basel, and we can count on one hand the clear-cut chances we conceded to them and to Chelsea just a few days prior. Heck, were it not for a scintillating sequence in the opening moments in Paris, I might have had to dust off a few more superlatives.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves by looking to the past, though. We have in front of us a very winnable match if we don't drop our guard; along with it, we have a chance at closing the gap between us and Man City, who visit Tottenham on Sunday.

LAST 3
Arsenal 2-1 Burnley (30.01.2016—FA Cup)
Burnley 0-1 Arsenal (11.04.2015)
Arsenal 3-0 Burnley (01.11.2014)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first clashed on 1 August 1897, a 1-1 draw in the Second Division.
Arsenal have never lost a Prem match to Burnley (four matches).
Theo Walcott has scored four goals in his last three starts.

INJURIES
Welbeck, Ramsey, Coquelin, and Mertesacker have all been ruled out.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerín; Elneny, Cazorla; Iwobi, Özil, Walcott; Alexis.

Despite fears previously mentioned, Arsenal should find ways to carve open Burnley's well-organised defense.

GOONERSPHERE PREDICTION
Burnley 0-3 Arsenal..