It’s a trip for me and the better half today up to Lancashire to watch The Arsenal take on Burnley at Turf Moor and with City and the Tiny Totts playing each other today, it’s also an opportunity to close some ground on now of those teams at least, so we need to take advantage of that fact.
The good news is that we’ve hit a bit of form since the opening couple of games of the season. We look like a team that has confidence in the way we’re playing and one of the issues we’ve all said as fans is that we have looked like we’d lost a bit of our identity over the last couple of seasons. But in our last two football matches it feels like we’re starting to find some of it. Art home to Chelski and Basel we were excellent in the first half and controlled in the second, so I’d be over the moon if we can replicate that against a stubborn and resistant Burnley team who will look to close the spaces as much as possible to stop us playing.
They’ll be buoyed too, after beating Watford under the floodlights last Monday. Watford weren’t great, but Burnley looked really up for it and I saw a team with a collectively endeavour that will help get them over the line in many games this season, so I’m expecting to see even more of that when Arsenal come to town. I watched the Watford game and it was notable how Burnley packed the box on set pieces and looked to overwhelm Watford, so I’d expect the same when we play them today. They will look to rattle our back four and they’ll do it with every ball that is swung in. So we need to be organised.
I suspect we’ll see Cech return to the starting line up and the back four to remain the same. We’ll need Captain Kos to make sure he’s up for a few aerial duels and Mustafi too, who has impressed with that lately, so I hope he continues to improve again today with his performance.
In midfield we’ve got to be looking at Xhaka and Cazorla again. That partnership worked well against Chelski when the Swiss came on, then again against Basel and whilst I recognise that at home there’s a slightly different feel to a game, you have to give them another run out. Not least because for me, I love the idea of a could of deep lying ball-playing midfielders, along with Mesut Ozil, picking out pass after pass. Last season teams could overload Mes by putting numbers on him, but if Burnley do that today, it gives Santi and Granit the opportunity to find the wide forwards, who will most likely be Walcott and Iwobi. Up top it’ll be Alexis and if the three of them continue to learn each other’s positions and movements, then we’ll hopefully get more of the same rotation in zones across the pitch that has seen us do so well. And Theo popping up with goals too.
As for Burnley, they’re missing Andre Gray through suspension, which means they’ll most likely play Sam Vokes up top. It means they’ll have a target man rather than nippy forward and so their style of play will inevitably reflect that. I’d expect to see their wide men trying to get in to those corners of the pitch that afford them the opportunity to get in-swinging crosses to Vokes, which means Monreal and Bellerin will need to make sure they cut the supply line. Hector has benefitted from Theo’s new-found desire to track back and support the full back on his side, but Monreal hasn’t been as fortunate, as that part of Iwobi’s game is still something he needs to work on. Teams have targeted Nacho at times this season and I suspect that Dyche will have looked at our left hand side as an opportunity to get some joy.
They don’t mind not having much of the ball, but when they do, if they play like they did when I watched them against Watford, they’ll look to give it to Defour as much as possible. He’s a clever player and is the one who takes their set-pieces, so if we concede a fair few today, he won’t be spraying many out of play for our amusement. He leads their stats in things like assists, but also pass completion percentages and I think if we can make him look ordinary today by closing him down when he has possession, we could stifle Burnley going forward.
Then it will just be about us taking our chances. I suppose that’s one of the few negatives you could label Arsenal with in the last couple of games – that we have squandered a few really good chances – but when you’re already a couple ahead, I do wonder if the urgency just isn’t as much and therefore it’s not something the players are too worried about. perhaps not, but I hope we can just be a few goals up today before we start missing guilt-edged chances today.
Sing up for the Arsenal, and let’s have some fingers crossed for three points today.