Saturday, 30 January 2016

Arsenal v Burnley: FA Cup Fourth Round Preview

Arsenal haven't done too well in their last three Premier League games with only two points to show for their efforts and they get a break from league action this weekend when they play Burnley in the FA Cup. Arsenal are the current holders of the cup and they have won it more times than any other team. In fact they have won the cup for the last two seasons and are looking to become the first team to win it three seasons in a row for 130 years.

With Arsenal doing so well in the league this season they rarely play at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, but the cup has been a different case so far. I was lucky enough to be at the third round game against Sunderland when Arsenal came from behind to win 3-1. They were slow to get going that day, but fully deserved their win and I had a great time on my trip to see them.

One of the highlights besides the Arsenal game and a great day in The Tollington was a trip down Oxford Street the next day. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me as I strolled down Carnaby Street and checked out all the shops. I ate in a place called Five Guys and I can't recommend it highly enough. Their burgers are probably the best I've ever tasted and I was delighted to read they're coming to Dublin this year.

Anyway I digress and it's back to the important business of my preview of the Arsenal game. As usual we can expect a bit of rotation for the cup and the boss has a few options open to him thanks to some players returning from injury. It appears the team's injury woes are finally dissipating and it couldn't be coming at a better time with so much still to play for.

Both Francis Coquelin and Tomas Rosicky will be available for selection in midfield while Mohamed Elbeny could be in line for his debut. Mikel Arteta has been back for a couple of weeks too and he might expect to be in the team as well. Alexis Sanchez made his comeback as a sub in the defeat against Chelsea last week and I would imagine he should start against Burnley. There's also the option of Alex Iwobi playing after he impressed in the last round and the boss will certainly have to get his thinking hat on.

With so many options it's not so easy to predict what the team will be, but I imagine we will see him start with David Ospina in goal. Kieran Gibbs should get a run out in defence and Gabriel Paulista is a certainty to start too, but the continued rumours of Mathieu Debuchey's departure will probably mean he won't play. I don't see Calum Chambers as a central defender which will probably mean Laurent Koscielny will play in defence and Hector Bellerin should start too. 

In midfield it's not easy to call at all, but I imagine Mathieu Flamini will get the day off and we could see a debut for Elneny with Arteta possibly beside him. I don't think Coquelin will start as he has been out for over two months and he will probably be introduced from the bench at some stage. If Arsenal are going to fight it out for the league title he's a very important player to have available and the games will be coming hot and heavy very soon.

I can't see Mesut Ozil playing as there's a league game at home to Southampton on Tuesday night and we need our strongest team possible in a game where nothing less than three points will do. Iwobi might just get the nod again although we could see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in Ozil's role too. Aaron Ramsey would probably love to play there and be freed of the defensive responsibilities of his current role, but I think he will be saved for Tuesday night too. Ramsey made the difference when he came off the bench in the last round and he might just be held in reserve if more of the same is needed.

Olivier Giroud was the player to make way early on in the game against Chelsea  when a defender had to be brought in for the red carded Per Mertesacker. Apparently he was carrying a knock in that game which could have swayed the mind of the boss and he might sit this one out too if he's not fully recovered. If that's the case Theo Walcott could get to play in his favoured role as the central striker and maybe that might help him to find some form. He's been well below his best for most of the past two months now and we could do with him firing on all cylinders.

If Chamberlain isn't playing behind the striker I expect him to play in a wide role with Alexis playing on the other side. If he does play more centrally them Joel Campbell could start wide right, but I think he has done enough to make himself so much a part of the team that he could be rested for Tuesday night. I might have the team completely wrong, but I don't think I'll be too far off the players who start the game.

Burnley were relegated from the Premier League last season, but they're looking like they might well make a quick return at the moment. They're up to third in the Championship table and have found same very good form recently. They have won their last three league games and scored 12 goals in the process after struggling for goals for much of the season previous to those games.

As good as they have been recently they're still a whole league below Arsenal and Arsenal will be expected to win convincingly. There's enough quality in any team the boss picks to dominate the game and progress to the next round. I expect Burnley to put up a real fight though and Arsenal certainly won't have it all their own way.

We'll be treated to the thrill of seeing serial bad boy Joey Barton playing against us and I wouldn't put it past him to put the boot in on one of our players or try to get one sent off. He's got away with doing both in the past and it's in his character to try it again. I have no doubt the home fans will give him the abuse he deserves at every opportunity and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

It's not all about the performance as the result is key, but it would be nice if the team could put in a good performance as well as winning the game. They need to put a run of a few league wins in a row together to stay in the title fight and a good win would certainly help with the confidence levels. Hopefully the team can put on that performance and win their 14th FA Cup game in a row to set them up for the next few weeks. Finally for today I really hope the injury problems are behind us and all of those who play will cone through unscathed.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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