It’s Burnley today and a win will lift the Gunners to second in the table. Yesterday all of Liverpool, Spurs, City and United dropped points, clearing the path for us to overtake the former two and increase the gap on the latter pair.
On paper screen, Burnley at home looks as winnable a fixture as it gets. The Clarets have been simply atrocious away from home this season, notching just one point in nine games. Sean Dyche’s men also scored just three goals on their travels, which is the worst result in the division by a distance.
However I think back to our away game against Burnley and that makes me uncomfortable. Amusingly, the Clarets have 25 points at Turf Moor, a haul topped by only Chelsea and Spurs. Without a doubt Burnley will be looking to repeat the kind of performance which very nearly cost us points back in October. So we have to be up for this.
In what is quite rare at Arsenal, the news on the injury front is better than expected. All of Bellerin, Gibbs and Coquelin are back in contention:
“Overall from last week, Bellerin, Coquelin and Gibbs are back in the group. Not Walcott, but these three should be available for selection for Sunday. We have no injuries from last week.” – Arsene Wenger
“No injuries from last week” also means Giroud is available and that completes the jubilation. No Theo Walcott still, which is a bit worrying, the guy hasn’t played for a month with a “matter of days” knock, but I guess five players back at the same time is one too many at Arsenal.
With the aforementioned back, Wenger will be spoilt for choice in defense and attack. His midfield options will remain restricted, but at least now he has three fit central mids and not just two.
I’m interested to see whether Gibbs will start at left-back. He generally offers a bit more forward thrust than Monreal does, something we can use against a deep-sitting Burnley side. However, having not played a competitive game for almost a month, think Gibbo will start on the bench.
In midfield it will be interesting to see whether Arsene sticks to Ramsey and Xhaka, or introduces Coquelin back in place of the Welshman. My money on AW keeping the duo which started against Swansea, simply because Coquelin will not offer much in unlocking a packed defense. The Frenchman was subbed off when we last needed a goal in this scenario (West Brom), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench come 14:15.
It just leaves us with the simple task of configuring the front line, and I have to say this is as hard as it gets even without Theo Walcott. We can perhaps count Ox and Lucas out of the running. Ox is just hit-and-miss, while Lucas is for some reason avoided by Wenger.
Don’t think Welbeck is ready to start either. Just two sub appearances after an awfully long lay-off isn’t the best preparation for starting today. Which leaves us with Alexis, Iwobi and Giroud. Huh. Maybe it wasn’t that hard.
And before we go off subject, I’m all for starting Giroud. The Frenchman is in terrific form and he might just be the one to make the difference. We struggled to break down Burnley with Alexis up top. We need a presence in the box for this one most definitely.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal – Xhaka – Ramsey – Iwobi – Ozil – Alexis – Giroud
As I said above, a win will take us second regardless of what happens in other games. That’s an opportunity we should snatch and hold onto. We definitely have enough quality players to dismantle Burnley at home, especially given their travails on the road.
My biggest worry is Arsenal ballsing it up just because. I don’t keep a diary or anything, but I have a nasty suspicion the Gunners tend to drop points when their rivals do too. Would someone with the numbers please step up and prove me wrong. I really want to be wrong on this one.
However barring a mental breakdown, I don’t see why we shouldn’t win this one. Sounds pretentious, I know, but there you go. So come on you Gunners. Wrap this weekend up nicely.
Back here with a review.