Saturday, 25 November 2017

Arsenal Face A Crucial Trip To Burnley

After the euphoria of the victory over Spurs last week it's back to basics in the Premier League this week for Arsenal. They face a very tricky trip to Burnley and it's an absolute must win for them if they're going to build on last week's win. There's no point in beating one of the teams above us if we follow it by losing to a team who are not one of the top six teams in the league.

The thing about Burnley is they have made massive progress under Sean Dyche and he is to be hugely admired for the job he has done and is doing. They are currently level on points with Arsenal and only behind us and Liverpool on goal difference. They are a very hard team to beat and any team has to be concerned about a game against them at home or away.

When you factor in Arsenal's away record tomorrow's game has to be a real cause for concern. We have lost four of our six away games with defeats at Stoke and Watford added to the more predictable defeats at Liverpool and City. The only plusses away from home so far were the 0-0 draw at Chelsea and the 5-2 win at Everton.

We have been poor away from home for the most part and I think the best way to counter that is to play our best team. It might sound like a simple solution, but it's one we haven't exactly utilised away from home so far. In particular the trio of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette have only started one away game together and that just happens to have been our only win.

I'm not saying playing those three from the start would have got us better results in those four defeats, but it would have given us a much better chance in my opinion. There were of course reasons for any and all of them missing those games, but Lacazette in particular was kept on the bench until it was too late against both Liverpool and City.

I'm still struggling to understand how we could spend over €50 million on a player and then keep him on the bench against two of the best teams in the league. With our defensive record away from home the only way we're going to beat teams is by outscoring them and playing your record signing striker should surely be a massive part of that strategy. I hope it's a strategy we follow at Burnley because we are going to have to be at our best to break them down.

We did beat them at home and away last season, but if memory serves me correctly we left it very late on both occasions and we had more than a touch of luck on our side. There are rarely many goals in a game when Burnley play and for that reason we need to keep it as tight as possible at the back. If that means we don't over commit in attack that's OK with me, but we have to be aware that most of the goals we concede come when the ball is turned over and we are caught out of position.

I would be very surprised if there are any changes to the team that beat Spurs last week and we need the same attitude and commitment from the players that we got in that game. It's surely not too much to ask for the players to show those attributes in a game against a team other than our local rivals. As much as beating Spurs means to the fans they also want to see the team beat every other team in the league as often as possible.

Between the victory over Spurs and the game against Burnley there was the game against Koln on Thursday night, but like our other Europa League group games this season it wasn't a hugely important event. Our second string lost to a dodgy penalty, but the other result on the night means we will top the group and we can look forward to the knockout stages in the new year. There is one final group game to come at home to BATE, but it means a lot more to them than us at this stage.

Given the lack of commitment from some of the more senior players in some of the group games so far there's a case to be made for playing a lot of the promising youngsters in that game and maybe even in their best positions. I suppose our "best" team is almost so set in stone that many of the players playing in the Europa League don't think they can get in and consequently they aren't doing all they can to make an impression. It's not what you would want from highly paid professionals, but it can't be easy to motivate yourself knowing you won't get your break no matter what you do unless an injury comes along.

Anyway, as usual, I digress and it's back to Burnley and our chances against them tomorrow. They have already got very good results away to Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool, but the calibre of opposition in their home games so far hasn't exactly been top class. They have four clean sheets in their six home games with only United and Liverpool conceding less goals at home, but Palace are the only team to score less goals at home.

It all points to a low scoring affair despite our defensive frailties and we need to make sure we come out on top. We have to be aware of their threat on the break and particularly from set pieces, but we will also have to be patient in our attempts to open them up as they will defend deep and in numbers too. It's something we are used to, but we have struggled against it away from home this season and we need to change that.

A win would put us up to fifth at worst and maybe even fourth as the two teams directly above us play each other today. With nine Premier League games in the next 36 days there are loads of points to be won and we have to start winning them at a quicker rate. We have won six of our last eight games, but it seems every time we get some momentum we lose a game and that's something we have to conquer in the next 36 days. I know we can do it and I even think we might, but you just never know what you will get with this Arsenal team.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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