Sunday, 22 January 2017

Arsenal v Burnley Preview

Arsenal play at home to Burnley today in a game which gives them the chance to climb to second in the table. Yesterday's results went very well for Arsenal with Liverpool losing while Spurs, City and United all drew. Those slips mean Arsenal can go one point above Spurs in second place and five points behind Chelsea before the league leaders play Hull later in the day.

I don't hold out much hope of Hull getting anything from Chelsea which would see them maintain their eight point lead over Arsenal as long as Arsenal beat Burnley. On the face of it Arsenal should have few problems against the team with the worst away record in the league and a team who have only scored three goals in their nine away games. Of course things are rarely that easy in football and I expect Burnley to do all they can to keep Arsenal at bay.

Arsene Wenger is unlikely to make too many changes to the team which won 4-0 at Swansea last week and maybe Swansea's win at Liverpool yesterday puts a little more perspective on that result last week. Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Kieran Gibbs all return to the squad and all three could genuinely hope to play from the start, but I think Bellerin will probably be the only change made. Gabriel Paulista has looked better defensively at right back than he has done in the centre, but Bellerin's attacking prowess could be very useful today.

I expect Burnley to sit deep, tackle hard and hope to get something on the break or from a set piece. Arsenal won 1-0 away to them earlier in the season with a last gasp goal that never should have stood as Burnley put up s very good performance. Their home form is right up there with the best teams in the league, but they are a different team on their travels.

It could well be another game where Arsenal have to be patient and then need to push home their advantage if they do take the lead. Far too often for my liking the intensity from Arsenal has dropped off after they have taken the lead and their opponents have got back into the game. It nearly happened at Swansea last week, but the second half display was a lot more like the performance of a team who want to challenge for the title.

I would love to see them win by a few goals and I would be very surprised if they failed to score in the game. Burnley have found goals very hard to come by away from home and you would imagine scoring more than one goal today should be enough to tie down the three points. Even if Arsenal win they will more than likely be eight points behind Chelsea and it's going to be a tough gap to close.

To be fair any team that wins 14 of 15 games is going to streak away from the opposition and Arsenal will not catch them unless things start to go wrong for Chelsea. After the FA Cup games next week Chelsea travel to Liverpool for a midweek game and it's a game every other team hoping to challenge has to want Liverpool to win. Then Arsenal travel to Chelsea the following weekend and again all logic says it's a game Arsenal need to win for their sake and the other team's sakes too.

They need to go into that game on the back of wins at home to Burnley and Watford and that starts today. They have taken 10 points from their last four games and 16 from six games would be a good way to go into that Chelsea game despite who the opposition might have been in those games. I still doubt this team's ability to do what needs to be done at the crucial stages in the season, but they at least have to go to Chelsea in a position where they can do something.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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