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Arsenal vs. Burnley preview: there’s no place like home

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Just backheel the ball three times...

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Arsenal Training Session
Love the look of this trio.
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal’s poor away form last season was well-documented. Less talked about was how good they were at home. They were the third best team in the Premier League at the Emirates. They scored more than two goals a game and conceded less than one. The Gunners will (obviously) look to continue that form in their home opener against Burnley on Saturday.

For what it’s worth, Arsenal haven’t been great in home openers over the past 10 years. They’ve only managed a 4-1-5 record, with stumbles against Aston Villa and West Ham sticking out like sore thumbs. Fortunately, the Gunners haven’t lost to the Clarets since 2008 and in the league since 1974 ***knocks on wood***. Last season, Arsenal won both meetings 3-1.

Notable new faces for Burnley this season include left back Erik Pieters, striker Jay Rodriguez, and defensive midfielder Danny Drinkwater on loan. The Clarets hit the ground running in Matchweek 1, dispatching Southampton 3-0. Ashley Barnes netted a brace and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson notched a third. For Burnley on Saturday, Robbie Brady is likely out with a rib injury, Steven Defour will miss out with a calf problem, while Charlie Taylor is back in training but probably not match fit.

For Arsenal, both Mesut Özil and Sead Kolašinac have returned to training following their security scares and are available for selection. Özil is likely to replace Joe Willock in the 11 while Kolašinac may or may not get the nod over Nacho Monreal. Lucas Torreira is likely to replace Granit Xhaka (leg and lower back bruising) in the starting lineup. The Gunners long-term absences are unchanged.

The big question, as it will be all season, is how will Unai Emery deploy his attacking talent. Against Burnley, expect Alexandre Lacazette to make his season debut and lead the line, Nicolas Pépé to get his first Arsenal start on the right, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (who has scored a brace in all three of his Premier League games against the Clarets) to move to the left. That grouping puts the three best players on the pitch at the same time, although not in optimal places. Aubameyang’s numbers decrease dramatically when he plays from wide. Perhaps the best formation is a 4-3-2-1 with Aubameyang and Pépé given the freedom to drift behind Lacazette instead of playing in an out and out 4-3-3.

Not to sound alarmist heading into the second week of the season, but three points against Burnley is quite important. Arsenal are away to Liverpool next week, host Tottenham the week after, and travel to United next month. That’s three difficult matches in the next six. A stumble on Saturday (or in the upcoming matches against Aston Villa and Watford, really) could see the Gunners in a less-than-flattering position come the end of September.

WHAT: Arsenal vs. Burnley

WHERE: Emirates Stadium

WHEN: Saturday, August 17th, 4:30 AM PT | 7:30 AM ET | 12:30 PM BST

US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.
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