The games are coming thick and fast as we head into the festive season and Mikel Arteta must be begging Santa for an early present in the form of a convincing win and three points. Curiously, Arsenal seem more at home these days in the Europa League than they do in the Premier League and even though the Gunners have beaten Burnley in their last nine meetings at home, there will still be a nagging doubt about the outcome at the Emirates.
Mikel Arteta’s side has been massively misfiring and has looked dreadfully ordinary with just 10 goals to their name, but more worryingly, they just don’t look fluent and lack penetration. All the hubbub about the defensive improvements since Arteta’s arrival were dismissed in the North London Derby against Spurs. That was heavily underlined by the Lilywhites’ second goal which made them look clueless and distinctly amateurish.
If Arsenal are to get a vital three points, they need to take this game to a Burnley side that will make it extremely difficult. It’s hard to think of this game as a six-pointer but that’s what it is, even though it’s early days in the campaign. It’s a crucial game coming up to Christmas and it’s one that neither side can afford to lose.
Burnley have had their problems in recent seasons but always seem to have enough in reserve to be able to keep their Premier League status. Last year was a tricky affair and one expected the Clarets to consolidate fairly substantially in the transfer window but mysteriously, they didn’t.
That doesn’t appear to be the Burnley way. It’s all about collective spirit, togetherness, and a willingness to dig deep which has been instilled by the gravel-throated Sean Dyche. Here is an old-school, no-nonsense manager that would rather be relegated than compromise his ideals. His side is certainly made in his image and gives a full-throttle, committed performance even if they don’t always get their just desserts.
Arteta needs to shuffle the pack again to inject some much-needed enthusiasm and dynamism. I’m looking at some of those youngsters that featured against Dundalk and I’d certainly be ready to risk three points on a combination of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarun Balogun, Eddie Nketiah, or Emile Smith Rowe.
3 – Arsenal are the first team to have three English players aged 21 or younger (Balogun, Willock & Nketiah) score in a major UEFA European match since Spurs in 1982 vs Coleraine (Garry Brooke, Terry Gibson & Gary Mabbutt). Lions.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 10, 2020
The time has long gone for hope to play a part and Arteta needs to roll the dice to ignite Arsenal’s exceeding poor season. Arsenal need to bring the four P’s for me, pace, pressure, precision, and perseverance. Arsenal need to get forward, stay forward, spray the ball out wide and over the top to unlock Aubameyang or find Balogun.
Sadly, I think Arteta will go with Nketiah but I’d be willing to risk all to get the reward. Balogun is the real deal in every department and his contribution in Arsenal’s Europa League adventure should have reminded his Spanish boss that a cure for the Gunners’ goalless predicament is at hand.
No Pepe, No Partey, No Nelson for the Arsenal vs Burnley clash and I think it’s safe to assume that the midfield is going to be key here. I’d drop Xhaka who was completely off his game in the NLD, reduced to the role of an onlooker for that embarrassing second goal.
It’s a shame about the injury to Reiss Nelson, I’d have put him in the flank in a new untried midfield wit,h perhaps, Smith Rowe. They need something different, a player that hasn’t suffered stage fright and there are now a few academy players pushing hard.
Arsenal need some fearless creativity with the brakes taken off. Arteta’s game plan of square passing and tippy-tappy football has just quashed any chance of a free-flowing attack in recent games. They need to get back to Arsenal’s DNA of taking the game to an opponent and giving them a nosebleed with their pace and flair.
Burnley will be able to play and spray the ball around. They’ll be solid, organised, and physical, fighting for every ball and if Arsenal leave the door open, the visitors will happily take advantage. The Gunners can’t take anything for granted and will have to guard against the type of counter where they were so cruelly exposed to last weekend.
Key Players for Burnley: Westwood, Barnes, and Rodriguez.
Key Players for Arsenal: Saka, Smith Rowe (if he plays), and Gabriel
My Prediction: A 3-0 scoreline, but be prepared for a hard first 45.
Predicted Formation: 4-4-2
Predicted Team: Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Gabriel, Tierney; Maitland-Niles, Ceballos, Smith Rowe, Saka; Aubameyang, Balogun.