Two defeats in a row will have eroded the confidence of the team somewhat. Yes, the midweek defeat was in the League Cup, but nevertheless it was a pretty much first choice line-up, in terms of the players available. Arsenal’s defensive issues finally cost them dearly, although they had dropped points in the unbeaten sequence in terms of drawing matches whilst conceding. The character of the team was frequently criticised during Arsene Wenger’s tenure. It was seen as brittle. That is something Emery has to change. However, the injury crisis in defence does provide an element of mitigation.
So who is actually fit to play in defence?
There is a lot of contradictory information on this one, but it appears that Mustafi and Bellerin are not yet fit enough to play, although Sead Kolasinac might be. If the Bosnian is fit, it gives Emery the opportunity to play a back five of with Lichtsteiner on the right wing, and a central trio of Sokratis, Koscielny and Monreal. Or he may retain Granit Xhaka there. Things are so bad that people are starting to appreciate Shkodran Mustafi’s abilities at the back. However, this is Burnley. Arsenal’s main problem will be breaking down Sean Dyche’s defence, as opposed to worrying about their attackers. Still, let’s not get caught out on the counter-attack, eh lads?
Mesut Ozil is in the squad
Emery stated Ozil was not even on the bench against Spurs for tactical reasons. And yet, Arsenal did lack an element of creativity against their neighbours. Emery can only hope that the experience of being dropped has a motivating effect on his highly paid number 10. Mkhitaryan isn’t fit, Alex Iwobi has stuggled for form of late. Burnley at home? If there is one match in the next three that Emery can gamble on playing Ozil, it’s this one. I reckon he may well start, along with Alex Lacazette in the centre and Aubameyang on the left.
Burnley’s ability to frustrate should not be underestimated
They sit in 18th place and have lost four of their last five Premier League outings. In their 17 league games so far this season, they amassed three victories and three draws. But last weekend, they visited London and almost denied Spurs three points. They can certainly be obstinate opposition. Additionally, it seems obvious that currently, Arsenal are vulnerable in the air. When Burnley do encroach into the opposition half, prepare for an aerial bombardment.
Twas the last Saturday before Christmas
Which means only one thing. A percentage of season ticket holders will have other priorities than attending the Emirates. Expect a crowd with at least 10,000 empty seats, maybe more. The players will have tomorrow off, but be in for training on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They will however, not be travelling to Brighton until the day of the game, so that they can spend Christmas Day with their families after training has finished. He’s all heart is Unai.
In spite of their injury problems, this has to go down as a home win. And given Burnley’s lack of firepower (15 goals scored so far this season, compared to the Gunners’ 37), I’m even going to predict a clean sheet. 2-0 to Arsenal.
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