What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, Arsenal were riding a 22-game unbeaten streak and playing leapfrog with Tottenham for a place in the top four. Now, after two consecutive losses, they’re a club in crisis (ok, maybe not actually, but from the way some people are talking about things...).
To be fair, it has not been a good week. The loss at Southampton was bad - those are three points the Gunners should have won. Losing in the Carabao Cup doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but being blanked by Tottenham at the Emirates doesn’t feel good. The butcher’s bill keeps getting steeper. And then there is this business with Mesut Özil.
By this point we’ve all heard the rumors. The “injuries” aren’t really injuries, the “tactical reasons” aren’t really tactical reasons. They’re all covers for a rift between Özil and Emery, and Mesut is on his way out in the January window.
Well, he’s back in the 18 for Saturday’s match with Burnley at the Emirates. Whether he starts or plays remains to be seen, but I suspect that coming off two losses and needing to turn things around, Unai Emery will have his highest paid player on the pitch. Arsenal have struggled to generate chances lately and that’s exactly what Özil excels at.
Perhaps a date with Burnley is just what Özil and the sputtering Arsenal attack need. The Clarets are tied for the most goals conceded in the Premier League and have managed only one win in their last 10 league matches. One of the few bright spots for Sean Dyche’s men has been Joe Hart, who leads the league in saves. Hart has always been a good shot-stopper, and I expect he will have a healthy quantity to stop on Saturday.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the most recent addition to the Arsenal injury list. He joins Danny Welbeck (ankle, out for season), Rob Holding (knee, out for season), Dinos Mavropanos (groin, not back in training), Emile Smith Rowe (groin), Hector Bellerin (calf, out for a few weeks), and Shkodran Mustafi (thigh, being evaluated) in the training room. Unai Emery expects that Sead Kolasinac (thigh) should be available for selection.
Burnley will be without Aaron Lennon, Steven Defour, Stephen Ward, and Nick Pope. Robbie Brady and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are carrying knocks but may be available.
I’d like nothing better than for the Gunners to cruise to an easy 2 or 3 goal win, but my gut tells me this is going to be a one goal game. These are three points Arsenal simply must win. The club cannot afford to drop points to a relegation-threatened team at home.
If you want a more positive spin - remember, the last time Unai Emery’s Arsenal lost two games in a row, they backed it up by going unbeaten in 22 straight. The new streak starts tomorrow.
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Burnley
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Saturday, December 22nd 4:30 AM PT | 7:30 AM ET | 12:30 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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