Back to Premier League matters, as we go to Turf Moor to take on Burnley and look to continue our recovery from our poor start to the season.
Yep, it’s another away game and that is enough to lessen our optimism as our away record isn’t the greatest, but we actually haven’t lost on our travels since November. That does include a lot of draws, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
Plus, we have also been canny in the transfer market and signed two players in positions where we definitely needed strengthening. Pablo Mari will add real quality to our backline as Mikel Arteta continues to push his side into high-line defending, and Cedric Soares can play on both the right and left full-back positions. Given our first choice full-back’s propensity for injury, Soares could well be a busy man.
Burnley are in decent form though. Their last two Premier League matches were wins against Man United at Old Trafford and a 2-1 victory over Leicester City. It shows that Sean Dyche has his side operating smoothly and running his gameplan.
We will have to go to Turf Moor and execute exactly what Arteta has planned. Press quickly and high, play it forward quickly and take our chances.
Oh yeah, and defend well aerially.
Who will play?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and David Luiz are both back from suspension so will most likely come straight into the side. That could mean the bench for Rob Holding and Gabriel Martinelli, although the Brazilian has been in red-hot form and could still find his way into the eleven.
Reiss Nelson is still out injured and Kieran Tierney will be another month before he comes back for selection. Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustafi are both facing fitness tests before the game, and with Kolasinac especially, his fitness could dictate selection.
Should the Bosnian fall short, then Bukayo Saka should come into the side, as new signing Cedric is continuing his efforts to get back his match fitness.
Player to Watch
The New Zealand striker has hit a patch of form and his strengths are well documented. He is strong in the air and he holds the ball up well. Wood is also adept at getting into the positions that defenders fail to track, so front post flick-ons could prove our downfall should our marking fail.
How This Could Go
This match has draw written all over it.
Burnley are in great form and they have previous when it comes to giving us trouble. Every game with Burnley means maximum effort is required. Our last couple of matches have even taken on a sort of ‘grudge match’ status too, with Sean Dyche bemoaning everything from poor refereeing to playacting from our players. Burnley have taken Stoke City’s place it seems…
We need to harness our speed. That means getting the ball to Auba or Martinelli, who are both strong at the front post. Burnley will defend stoutly and as a team, so Mesut Ozil needs to be at his best to unpick the packed lines.
The Clarets will also hit us with set plays that will test our central defence. Granit Xhaka showed he can fill in when needed, and if he can lend his body to propel the ball away from our box, it will take the weight away from Sokratis and David Luiz, or perhaps even Pablo Mari should he make his debut.
This game could well be a case of taking the lead and then allowing the home team to build momentum and snatch a draw, or they score and we eventually find an equaliser. Either way, I can’t see past a stalemate here.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Bellerin, Luiz, Sokratis, Saka, Torreira, Xhaka, Martinelli, Ozil, Auba, Laca
Predicted Score – 1-1
Can you predict the lineup?