Arsenal travel to Turf Moor to take on a stalling Burnley side that are lurking just outside the relegation danger zone. I think they’ve already picked up enough points that they’ll be alright, but six points clear of the drop is not a comfortable spot. Their recent run of results have been quite Burnley-esque. They got smashed by Tottenham two matches ago, but drew Leicester City last weekend. They’ve lost to Chelsea and City recently but beat Aston Villa. Under Sean Dyche’s, uh, physical style, they’ve always seemed to be a tough out for the Gunners. Hopefully Mikel Arteta’s men aren’t taking today lightly.
You never quite know what you’re going to get from Burnley, but their results do seem to hinge on scoring first. They’ve only scored 19 Premier League goals this season, second worst in the division. Give them a lead and they retract into a well-drilled shell that is difficult to break down. Make them play from behind, and they struggle.
Earlier this season in the midst of their horrendous slump, Arsenal fell 1-0 to Burnley at the Emirates. Granit Xhaka was sent off for grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat early in the second half, which really put a damper on the Gunners’ ability to come back in that match. Honestly, there’s not much to take away from that result to inform today’s contest. As far as I see it, that was an entirely different Arsenal team.
If you want some good news, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored seven goals against Burnley since joining Arsenal, more than against any other opponent, per @Orbinho. And if you’d like more reason to be positive, this chart gives a good idea of how it’s going for the Gunners lately.
Trust the process: Mikel Arteta edition pic.twitter.com/Z0RGGkTyaa— Tom Worville (@Worville) March 5, 2021
The Gunners are in a good spot. Expected goals for higher than expected goals against with the former trending up and the latter trending down is what you’re looking for. And that’s where Arsenal are. It’s reassuring, too, that the underlying numbers are trending in the right direction because there were times this season when I was concerned that the improvement under Mikel Arteta had regressed / whatever improvement thought I was seeing was not backed up by the advanced stats.
The inflection point this season was Emile Smith Rowe becoming a regular starter. He’s doubtful with the hip injury that forced him off against Leicester City, but the injury is not thought to be serious, and he has an outside shot to be available today. Alex Runarsson has recovered from his knee strain and is back in training, although I’d expect Mat Ryan to be on the bench.
Mikel Arteta is likely to make some lineup changes after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka rested last weekend. I’d expect the pair to start today. I’d also expect Kieran Tierney, who was not rested last weekend, to get a rest. Thomas Partey could return to the starting lineup as well. I’d like to see Nicolas Pepe retain his starting spot. He’s been playing quite well when given the chance recently, and it feels as if he’s “earned” another start.
Burnley will be without Ashley Barnes, who is out with a thigh injury. Wingers Robert Brady and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson are both doubts as is central midfielder Jack Cork.
This is the type of game that Arsenal need to win. They absolutely need to win it to keep their faint hopes at a European place from the table in play, but almost more importantly, they need to prove themselves capable of this kind of win if they think themselves serious contenders for anything next season.
Arsenal - Leno, Chambers, Luiz, Mari, Tierney, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Willian, Aubameyang
Burnley - Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, McNeil, Westwood, Brownhill, Gudmundsson, Wood, Vydra
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