Burnley v Arsenal - Match Preview

by JAMES CURTIS – Beating Liverpool on Sunday was a hurdle Arsenal desperately needed to jump. Over the Christmas period and through the new year, Arsenal’s fixture list looks much kinder than at any other stage this season, starting with the trip to Burnley tonight.

Games against Hull, Aston Villa, Portsmouth, Bolton, Everton and Bolton again all follow the Burney tie, and while it might be getting ahead of ourselves to scroll so far forward, it’s worth a peak. After that handful of matches the Gunners play Villa (a) Manchester United (h) Chelsea (a) and Liverpool (h).

It’s a little pocket where Arsenal potentially could drop points, not because those teams can’t be defeated, simply because a four game streak against quality opposition is testing of anybody. Beating Burnley then is of immense importance, for the three points needed to keep within touching distance of United who won yesterday, and to engineer a much needed winning run.

Arsenal’s test tonight must not be taken lightly. Away from home, Burnley have conceded 27 goals, the worst record in the league, but at Turf Moor only seven goals have breached Brian Jensen‘s net, better than Manchester United and Arsenal themselves. Owen Coyle’s clarets also beat United at home back in August.

Irish Guy PREDICTS GW16 Premier League Results

To crack Burnley’s defence in their own lodgings, it’s probably best to start with the leagues leading scorers on the road. That happens to be Arsenal with 18 goals. Of course the pace has slowed since the injury to Robin van Persie whose gift was making the lone-strikers roll seem like candy. All this means is Wenger must ask must more from his other midfield options to get forward and support Arshavin.

Leaving the little Russian isolated is bread and butter for the even the most benevolent of defences. As soon as two or three more nippy attackers join the attack, Arsenal can make a parody out of the surest of defence. When not feeling inconvenienced to do so, Arsenal’s movement is the deadliest in the world. A bitter Lancashire eve should prompt the players get the blood flowing and subsequently force out some of that uncontrollable movement.

Denilson and Traore latest injuries  

Defensively Arsenal face more woes, the larger concern once again turning to Arsenal’s left-back position. Armand Traore’s second half display against Liverpool was the most settled the young Frenchman has looked since replacing Kieron Gibbs. He  misses tonight with a hamstring injury.

Wenger’s tirade at half-time impelled the Gunners to hurry Liverpool from the top – a yellow card showed even the well behaved Arshavin had turned surly. Pressing high suited Traore and the worry now is Silvestre’s affinity to retreat which could drag Arsenal back into playing deeper.

Think back to Shaun Wright-Phillips’ goal in the Carling Cup. Silvestre recoiled so much SWP was allowed a free run at goal from around 40 yards out. Incidently, if Silvestre plays, he could be the only Gunner on the field tonight who was involved in last fixture with Burnley, a 2-0 Carling Cup quater-final defeat last December.

My inclination would be to start with the returning Emmanuel Eboue. It’s not ideal but at least it would keep Arsenal playing a frantic style of defending. Communally, this approach suits Arsenal better and quick breaks are a possibility too.

Denilson also misses out with a back injury. The Brazilian was a main talking point among Insiders this week, brining about mixed feelings over his presence in the team, although there are reason to agree with both sides of the debate.

His role is ultimately defensive, so for the British fan whose idea of Brazilian football is samba – the rhythm of attack – Denilson might come across as stale. He carries out a specific role for Wenger, to collect loose balls and distribute simple passes.

This is effective when playing teams at the possession game, where a sensible head like Denilson’s grinds down the concentration of others. Sometimes his mood is leisurely and his technical speed is nothing special. When Arsenal need galvanising Denilson can’t be looked towards and perhaps this balance in his play was the reason for so many draw last season (12).

Aboue Diaby or Aaron Ramsey will fill in for Denilson. Against Wolves Ramsey shone under similar conditions as to what we can expect tonight.  Anyway, Alonside Alex Song, anybody can look good. He has certainly been Arsenal’s best performer this season and will be taking on more large shares of responsibility tonight.

This time last season 

Around this stage last year Arsenal began an unbeaten run that would eventually stretch over 21 Premier League games. Robin van Persie silenced Stamford Bridge with two goals of technical superiority, gifting Arsenal a win and a reason to feel unbeatable.

That was after 15 games, as many as Arsenal have currently played heading to Turf Moor. Like the 2-1 victory over Chelsea back then, Arsenal have again come from behind to win away at a ‘big four side‘ after the victory over Liverpool on Sunday. So is another unbeaten run possible and do the players have the shoulders for it?

A reason to suggest yes: the addition of Thomas Vermaelen. Twice voted player of the month by fans on the clubs website, and tallying five goals already in an Arsenal shirt, the Belgian has certainly replaced the departed Kolo Toure.

Vermaelen has a big heart which was sadly missing in Toure last season. William Gallas has responded well to the moral fibre of his new central partner and the pairing could be the foundation needed to stitch together an unbeaten run.

A reason to suggest no: the renewed competitiveness in the Premier League. It’s been a cutthroat start to the season where big teams are vulnerable of dropping points to once regarded lowly challengers. Perhaps a World Cup next summer is the motivation as impressing now is the last chance for any player on the international borderline.

Asking for another 21 game unbeaten run might be beyond any team. So far it looks that way. In the short-term however, Arsenal’s coming fixtures are a tasty prospect to be taking full advantage of. Victory at Burnley will keep the ball rolling at such an important phase.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know