Arsenal host Burnley on Saturday as the Gunners look to cap off a rocky early November with two wins on the trot before another international break.
Mikel Arteta’s side looked motivated on Wednesday when they dispatched Sevilla 2-0 with relative ease in the Champions League. It was a necessary salve after the Gunners dropped two frustrating matches in the Carabao Cup and the Premier League. It was especially necessary after the controversial match at Newcastle.
Burnley are…not very good. Much like Sheffield United, who the Gunners dispatched 5-0 in October, they look to be going back to the Championship as quickly as they returned to the PL. Under former Manchester City legend Vincent Kompany, they have struggled to keep up with the pace of Englands top division, sitting 19th on 4 total points with their sole win over recently-promoted (and likely to be relegated) Luton Town.
The name of Saturday’s game is survival. Arsenal are nearing a minor injury crisis. Both starting strikers are injured, as well as two of the club’s most influential midfielders. On Wednesday, Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was voted Arsenal’s Player of the Month for October, came off with a knock.
Burnley would love nothing more than to catch the hosts playing it safe, which makes a strong showing all the more important for the hosts.
Five talking points ahead of Saturday’s match:
Leading the Line
The absence of Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Jesus saw Mikel Arteta start Leandro Trossard in the false nine role against Sevilla on Wednesday, a move that worked well, with the Belgium opening the scoring and looking sharp. It was reminiscent of his impressive form during January and February of last season, when he came into the side and pulled strings in Jesus’ absence. Arteta may opt to ride his hot hand against the 19th placed visitors even in the event Eddie is healthy and available.
The Rise of Kai
Kai Havertz has yet to capture the sort of form that one would expect considering his steep transfer fee, but he has slowly shown his influence in matches. Mikel Arteta in particular seemed very please with his recent performances, which may be chalked up to the need to instill a little confidence in the German midfielder. He was solid against Sevilla, nearly finding the net with a powerful curler that went inches wide. Burnley may just be the sort of match for him to deliver a strong showing as the Premier League nears its halfway point, especially as the Gunners struggle to find their footing in the midfield.
The Return of the King?
Martin Odegaard has been left out of the side for the last two matches as he recovers from a nagging injury. Although the Gunners looked good without him on Wednesday, his absence was especially felt against Newcastle. His influence on the flow of the attack has waned, but as Arteta revealed a few weeks ago, he has been carrying a knock, which certainly would explain the drop in his offensive contributions. Having rested the last two matches, is there a chance he sees the pitch on Saturday?
One of the major differences between last season’s whirlwind success and this one’s good-but-not-great start is the chemistry on the pitch. Last season, the players looked to play as if they shared on brain for the majority of the season. So far, it hasn’t quite clicked, although they have shown glimpses of the dazzling verve that made the footballing world take notice last season. But much of that comes back to the abundance of rotation Arteta has been forced to work with as injuries have hit the side. The side that faced Sevilla looked very sharp, a great boost of confidence that the Gunners could be rounding back into a much more recognizable form.
The biggest difference between this season and last is the lack of early goals. Arsenal have been late bloomers this season, scoring the majority of their goals in the second half of matches and rarely, if at all, scoring in the opening 25 minutes of a match. Gabriel Martinelli said that Arteta told he and Bukayo Saka to be more direct on Wednesday, encouraging the wingers to take on defenders with more aggression. It made an immediate impact, as Martinelli in particular relished the opportunity to put the Sevilla fullback on rollerskates all match. If Arteta has indeed decided to take the governor off his wingers, the goals could be flowing at the Emirates once again.
Saturday is a great chance for the Gunners to do what they do best at home - win, and look good doing it. A win keeps them firmly in the mix at the top, especially after Tottenham unraveled against Chelsea on Monday. City may be back on top of the table, but Arsenal are still within touching distance. Get in, get out, and stay healthy.
WHAT: Arsenal vs Burnley
WHEN: Saturday, November 11th, 10:00am EST/7:00am PST/3:00pm GMT
WHERE: The Emirates Stadium, London
HOW TO WATCH: Streaming live on Peacock
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