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Arsenal at Burnley preview: a matter of perspective

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The Gunners are a work in progress. How that work is progressing is an open question.

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Arsenal Training Session
New man Cedric Soares is recovering from a knee issue but should be ready to go after the break.
Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Raise your hand if coming into the season you thought Arsenal would be level on points with Burnley on February 1st. I’m not sure even the most skeptical, pessimistic among us would have thought the Gunners would sink so low. But here we are — 14 Premier League matches remaining, 10th place in the table, an astounding 12 draws, and 30 points to show for it. And somehow that paltry total is just four points back of both Europa League places.

Whether the glass is half-full or half-empty is up to you. Arsenal are on a six-match unbeaten run and did not lose a match in January. The Gunners have only one win in their last eight Premier League matches. Both are true, but they paint significantly different pictures of where the club stands. Have the Gunners improved under Mikel Arteta? I think so. Do they have a ways to go? Absolutely.

Arteta’s side will be bolstered by the return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has served his suspension for the straight red he picked up against Crystal Palace. Aubameyang leads the Gunners with 14 league goals this season. For reference, Arsenal have scored 32 league goals total — Alexandre Lacazette is second with 5, Gabriel Martinelli is third with 3. David Luiz is also available after serving his one-match ban.

The Arsenal injury report remains largely unchanged. Sead Kolasinac (thigh) and Shkodran Mustafi (ankle) are being assessed ahead of Sunday’s match, but with a break looming, you’d hope the two only play if absolutely necessary. New signing Cedric Soares has a knee issue but should join training if not over the break then just after it. The same goes for Reiss Nelson (hamstring). Kieran Tierney hopes to return to training in March. Calum Chambers is out until next season.

Burnley are relatively healthy and coming off two impressive Premier League wins — at Old Trafford and home to Leicester City — but if you go back one more league match, they were rolled 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. Sean Dyche will be without striker Ashley Barnes, who is recovering from hernia surgery, and winger Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who has a hamstring problem. Preferred right back Phil Bardsley is available for selection after missing two matches with a back injury.

When these two clubs met at the Emirates way back in August, the Gunners prevailed 2-1 on the strength of goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (shocker) and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal have never lost to Burnley in the Premier League (10-1-0), and a 2008 League Cup loss is the Gunners’ only blemish against the Clarets in the PL era.

After this weekend’s matches, the Premier League goes on a two-week break during which the Gunners head to Dubai for a four-day, warm weather training camp. Time off passes easier with the lingering taste of a win, so hopefully Arsenal take care of business.

WHO: Arsenal at Burnley
WHERE: Turf Moor
WHEN: Sunday, February 2nd 6 AM PT | 9 AM ET | 2 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here.

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