Arsenal will host Sean Dyche’s Burnley on Sunday in a bid to keep the pace with the sides above them in the race for the league title.
The Gunners have been indifferent in recent weeks – two losses in the last six games, sit fourth in the league table, but still only one point separates them from second placed Tottenham Hotspur. They will go into this game in high spirits on the back of a comprehensive win against Swansea City away from home and the contract extensions of some of their key players – more recently defender Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla. With Alexis Sanchez in fine fettle, it’s imperative that Arsenal kept their run of four games without a loss in the Premier League and gain as many points as possible before to potentially capitalize on when their rivals play against each other.
Burnley are firmly positioned in mid-table. Although they are overachieving at this moment in time aided by their brilliant record at Turf Moor (third best home record in the division), Sean Dyche needs his men to get something out of the Emirates to instill some much needed confidence and belief that they could cope when the time comes in late February and March and they get to play four games in a row away from home – three of those against sides currently in the bottom three when the results will carry more than just three points. They have only gained one point out of a possible 27 (at Old Trafford) and the Clarets will do very well to improve that tally come Sunday in the capital.
Arsenal will be boosted by the returning trio Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs and Francis Coquelin on Sunday. Olivier Giroud has overcome the ankle problem he suffered last week, but Theo Walcott is out with a calf injury.
Burnley trio Dean Marney, Ashley Barnes and Johann Berg Gudmundsson are expected to be available after missing the midweek FA Cup win through injury. However, winger Scott Arfield looks like missing a third successive game with a hamstring problem.
- The Gunners have scored in their last 12 league games, the best current run in the top flight.
- The Clarets have scored just three away goals in the top flight this season – every other club has scored at least twice that total.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored or set up 21 goals this season, more than any other Premier League player.
- Burnley have never won a Premier League match in London (D2, L12). Their last top-flight win in the capital came in January 1975, when they won 1-0 at QPR.
Key Men Battle
Mesut Ozil (Arsenal) v Joey Barton (Burnley)
Mesut Ozil may not have as many assists as he had to his credit last campaign – but the German playmaker is still one of the most influential playmakers, not just at Arsenal but the whole of Premier League. He has created 47 chances (3 assists) from open play (only Sanchez has created more at Arsenal) and scored 5 goals in the campaign and is expected to take it up a level in the second half of the season when games come thick and fast. With Burnley looking to retreat back and concede possession slowing down the general play, Arsenal will need the 28-year old to be at his creative best to help his side unlock the opposition enough for them to get all three points.
Joey Barton, on the other hand, will be pivotal for Burnley, especially in this game, when they will be up against it from the first whistle to the last. Barton does bring bags of experience in these type of games, against sides in the top end of the table, though not often pleasant when it comes to playing Arsenal as he has ended up on the losing side 11 times out of 18 he came up against Arsene Wenger’s Gunners. He will be relishing this opportunity – to stamp his return to the Premier League against a quality Arsenal team at the Emirates and could hence, be central to anything Burnley end up getting on Sunday – be it a miraculous win, a valiant draw or a good ol’ hiding.
I think it is going to be a good ol’ hiding as Arsenal love a comfortable win when not under the radar.
Arsenal 3-0 Burnley.