Arsenal: Pearson Previews

Arsenal

Arsenal are in need of a return to winning ways this weekend but will face a rejuvenated Hull City side which has picked up points in three of their last four games. Saturday’s early kick off at the Emirates is a game which in December you would put as a home banker. Times have changed however and Hull are starting to show the kind of defensive solidity which might just see them survive this season. Games against the more organised ‘sit back and defend’ teams this season has yielded just a handful of goals for Arsenal. Add to that the fact that the attacks of Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea have struggled to score many against Hull in recent games, an early goal will be vital to prevent a frustrating afternoon for the Gunners. A point for Hull may be enough to move them out of the bottom three, depending on other results.

Burnley’s home record has been the reason they are not currently involved in a relegation fight. 28 of their 29 points have come at Turf Moor but now it faces one of the toughest tests as league leaders Chelsea pay a visit. With this game being on Sunday, Chelsea may already be afforded the luxury of knowing a win could increase their lead over the rest of the league. Burnley however have only conceded once in the last four home games so this may be a tight game.

The weekend fixtures see another two Champions League chasing sides face each other, this time at Anfield where Spurs are the visitors. Liverpool are without a win in the league since December, but it has been well documented that Klopp’s side perform well against the better teams. Having dropped out of the top four last week, they will be looking to turn the corner and return to winning ways ahead of a run of fixtures which sees them face Arsenal and Man City in the next 5 games. Tottenham are looking like the only team who can mount any sort of challenge against Chelsea this season. With two draws and a narrow win in the last three games, they will need to put in a performance to maintain their second place league position.

Manchester City, the big movers from last weekend’s action, will have to wait until Monday night where they face a long away trip to Bournemouth. A point in this game will be enough to keep Pep Guardiola’s side in the top four but without a fixture next time out they will be looking to put points on the board. Bournemouth have picked the ball out of their net 31 times in their last 12 league encounters, conceding 3 or more goals in 8 of those games. This could prove a fruitful fixture for Man City’s in form attacking line.

Manchester United will be looking to maintain their impressive run of form as they host Watford on Saturday. It is the last February league fixture for the Red Devils as they then move focus to three cup competitions. They may find themselves in the top four by the end of this weekend though; they currently sit just two points behind fourth place. United will have to overcome a Watford team who have climbed into the top half of the table following points in their last four games. The Hornets new winter signings seem to have made an impact on the starting line up and so they will be looking to continue that into this weekend.

Everton, fresh from their 6-3 victory over Bournemouth last time out will travel to the Riverside to take on Middlesbrough. They are unlikely to receive the same number of scoring opportunities against the team who have conceded just eight goals in their last eight league fixtures. Everton are an outside bet to trouble the top four, but if they can keep up a run of form which has seen four wins in five, they may stake a late claim to a European spot. Middlesbrough on the other hand are now just one point above the relegation places, all be it with a superior goal difference.

As we turn our attentions to the battle at the other end of the table, Sunderland will be at home to Southampton where they will be looking to move off the bottom. Back to back clean sheets have seen Sunderland move closer to their rivals and a win over the south coast side may be enough to move them out of the relegation zone. Conversely, Southampton have now slipped to 13th place in the league following a run of form which has seen just one win in their last seven games.

Sam Allardyce will be looking to see more from his Crystal Palace side than they showed in the defeat to Sunderland last week. That result saw them stay off the bottom on goal difference alone. With only five wins all season, they travel to Stoke City, looking for a repeat result from earlier in the season when they won 4-1. The Potters dropped into the bottom half of the table following their first loss in five games at West Brom last week. Stoke have not lost at home since November and will be looking to cement another strong finish in the league this year.

Sunday evening’s game at the Liberty Stadium sees the two teams who are just above the drop zone meet. 17th place Swansea are the hosts to 16th place Leicester are at the opposite end of the form table and this is a game which could tell us which team has the best chance of survival this season. A narrow defeat at Man City last week denied Swansea a points return in the fourth game out of five. Champions Leicester however have picked up just one point since January began and have not scored a goal in that time. This could be the game to find their scoring boots though, Swansea have gone without a clean sheet in their last nine games.

The final game of the weekend is West Ham at home to West Brom. The Baggies currently are best of the rest in eighth, but with the Hammers only one place and five points behind, they could close the gap. West Ham have scored either 3 goals or no goals in each of their last five games. It will be interesting to see which side turns up this week against a defence which has conceded just eight times in seven games. It was West Brom who won the earlier league fixture in September 4-2.

Following recent results the Gunners have slipped to fourth place and they cannot afford to lose any more ground on those around them. With an away trip to Munich in midweek, changes may be made but they must not drop focus on the league. With a blank game week at the end of the month, Arsenal need to register points ahead of a busy few weeks in the FA Cup and Europe.