There are some universal truths in life: death, taxes and Burnley fans booing something an opposition player does even though he was in fact probably fouled. And Burnley’s fans are the booiest fans you’ll ever see. If there was a sweepstake on the first minute at which the Burnley fans would boo Arsenal today, I wouldn’t be putting down any cash unless I could choose one of the first five minutes as an option. I’d guess at three minutes. So it’ll be interesting to see what triggers them. Probably a ball going out for a throw-in.
Irate angry northern fans aside, this will be a tough ol’ challenge for Mikel and his charges today, because Burnley are a physical side that press with high intensity deisgned top unsettled you higher up the pitch. In the 1-1 draw last season they scored their goal through a mistake between Xhaka and Leno essentially gifting Chris Wood the stupidest of goals we could concede, then we never really managed to get back at them and today I’m expecting the same industry from Seran Dyche’s players as we got last season.
I’ve got a mate who’s a Burnley fan and we always send the odd message to each other around the time of these games. He’s had a few words to say about some of the decisions he feels have gone against them in games, like Koscielny’s handball goal a few seasons back, but last season it was me lamenting the decision making of the officials as a clear handball penalty by Pieters was just ignored by the officials. I think his response was something like “still doesn’t make up for all the decisions that have gone against us!” but I begged to differ because with VAR in place and replays not even looked at, it was criminal that the decision wasn’t to give Arsenal a penalty.
But we’re in a new season and the hope is that the irritations of last season can be forgotten, hopefully with some proper refereeing that can take place today too. Arteta was asked that in his press conference and he swatted it away rightly, but I’m sure he’ll be mindful of some of the decisions that referees haven’t taken in games against them this season already. There was a nasty tackle – in the box too – by Ashley Barnes a few games back (I think against Liverpool), then there was the Tarkowski challenge last Monday against Everton which looked remarkable similar to the Granit Xhaka red card he got against City. But Tarkowski got nothing and just because he got a tiny bit of the ball, doesn’t mean that you can get away with anything in the modern game. So to me that’s two red card challenges that should have been called out and I hope Andre Marriner grows a pair if the same happens to an Arsenal player today.
In terms of our team line up, there are questions as to hoe many changes Arteta will make today. I don’t think he’ll make many. I think Ramsdale will start in goal and hopefully command his box a little better than Leno. That will come in handy with aerial bombardment from set pieces and balls in and my hope is that he makes a claim for the ball early on to show the home team that he’s happen to pluck some balls from the air and therefore negate Burnley a little.
In defence I don’t see how Arteta changes it. Tomiyasu has to play right back, White and Gabriel in the middle and Tierney on the left. It’s a quartet that we are hoping establishes itself and it will be tested much more than Norwich today. I hope they are up to the challenge.
In front of them the question is whether Partey comes in or not. To my mind he simply has to. He and ESR made a massive difference to our build up when they came on last weekend and so my hope is that he’s now fully fit and raring to go, having completed 30 minutes against Norwich and having had another week of training under his belt. Next to him will be interesting though. The gut feel is that Sambi is the perfect partner for him and I am certainly eager to see that like I’m sure you are. We all want to move away from Xhaka but I think most of us know Arteta loves Xhaka, which is why he’ll probably come back in for the North London Derby, which means Sambi only really has this game and maybe the AFC Wimbledon one next week to show how good he is alongside Partey. Today could be the day, but we could also see Ainsley get a shout. Arteta has offered him the olive branch and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting, so let’s see how this plays out.
In front of them there are more questions, because Pepe, Odegaard, Smith Rowe and Saka can only occupy three positions behind Aubameyang. Pepe was a key chance creator last weekend and at Turf Moor last season he was a key player in what should have been a penalty to us for the handball, but I wonder if he’ll drop out today. If he does I think it’ll be Saka wide right, ESR wide left, Odegaard through the middle with Auba up top and that’s quite an intriguing prospect. ESR and Tierney have a good relationship with one another and Odegaard will naturally drift over to the right, so if that is the front four you can see those partnerships across the pitch starting to develop. But Pepe does offer that ‘X Factor’ and a little bit of unstructured chaos on the pitch that can sometimes unlock defences like last weekend. Maybe he is a good option to come on for the final third of the game, in a way that ESR and Partey came on and changed it last weekend?
Whatever the decisions, Arteta needs a performance today and with a week on the training ground and so as we’ve all been saying now, there really are no excuses for us not to see players looking fresh and clear on their instructions and what they need to do today.
Fingers crossed for three points.
Catch you all tomorrow.