Burnley Preview: Team News, Injury Update and Predicted Lineups

14/15: Arsenal 3-0 Burnley - Alexis Sanchez

At this point, you just have to have to win your games as they come because in all honesty, we are actually running out of games. The Gunners take on a resilient Burnley side that has produced some great results in front of their home fans with Manchester City suffering a shock result there recently. The Clarets have notched up a win and a draw in their last two home games, recording clean sheets in the process but that win was Burnley’s only victory in their last 10 outings. (W1, D3, L6)

The home side will no doubt be looking to their main man, Danny Ings, that has scored nine and assisted four of Burnley’s 26 goals this season. However, he has gone six Premier League games without a goal, equaling his longest barren spell of the season. The Clarets’ manager, Sean Dyche, is a stern believer of continuity, and he has used the same XI for 16 games this season but he would be wary of the team’s weakness from set pieces as Burnley has conceded 17 headed goals this season and a further 11 goals from corners, both league-high tallies. This would be a huge concern to Burnley, especially with the mere fact that Arsenal has scored a record-high 20 goals from set pieces this season.

The club is staring relegation in the face and would want to do everything in their bit to avoid the drop but they are up against an Arsenal side with lofty ambitions of their own. Since the Gunners surprise 2-0 loss to Southampton on New Year’s Day, Arsene Wenger’s men have notched up an amazing haul of 15 wins from 17 games with the only blips coming at home to Monaco and at White Hart Lane.

The Gunners have won seven successive Premier League matches, scoring 17 goals in the process. It’s their best run of form since a nine-match streak between January and March 2004 during their unbeaten title-winning campaign. Winning at Burnley today would equal the feat the Invincibles achieved 11 years ago – eight wins on the trot. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal is the only side yet to lose against opponents in the bottom half of the table (W13, D3).

When both sides met at the Emirates early in the season, Arsenal ran out as 3-0 winners with Alexis Sanchez netting a brace as well as Calum Chambers scoring his first ever competitive goal. The Chilean hot shot would be hoping to do the double over Burnley but I’m sure Chambers would have to make do with a place on the bench with the kind of form Hector Bellerin is in.

The Gunners have built impressive momentum since the New Year’s Day loss at Southampton, winning 15 of 17 games in all competitions.

Team News

A couple of players are still working their way to full fitness and I’m sure that the manager would want to integrate them into the squad as soon as possible. Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby and Jack Wilshere recently featured in an Under-21s match against Stoke and they would be relishing the prospect of playing with their teammates again. Wilshere has recently spoken about the fierce competition for first team places in the squad and he knows that it’s for the overall benefit of the team.

The Gunners would be sweating on the fitness of Laurent Koscielny as he’s scheduled to have a late fitness test today. However, Gabriel Paulista could be in line to take the Frenchman’s place if he isn’t fit enough. Gabriel recently stated that he made the right choice joining the club in January and he’s looking forward to improving himself in one of the world’s most competitive leagues.

Alexis has scored five goals in five matches versus last season’s promoted sides, including two versus Burnley at the Emirates but the team will be looking to Olivier Giroud to continue his red hot goalscoring streak. The French forward has scored 10 goals in his last 10 appearances and he has also scored in six successive Premier League matches. If he scores today, he could equal Emmanuel Adebayor’s feat of scoring in seven Arsenal games in a row in 2007-08.

Injury Updates

Burnley: Kevin Long (knee), Dean Marney (knee), Ross Wallace (knee), Steven Reid (calf), Matthew Taylot (lacking match fitness)

Arsenal: Serge Gnabry, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Debuchy (all lacking match fitness), Laurent Koscielny (hip / thigh), Wojciech Szczesny (rib), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring)

Team Form

Burnley

  • Last Five Games: L L W L D
  • Last Result: Burnley 0 Tottenham 0
  • Leading Goalscorer: Danny Ings (9)

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: W W W W W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 4 Liverpool 1
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (20)

Predicted Lineups

Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton; Duff, Shackell, Tripper, Mee; Boyd, Arfield, Jones, Barnes; Vokes, Ings

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Ospina; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Ozil, Cazorla, Sanchez; Giroud

Gooner Daily says 1-3 to the Arsenal

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Burnley Pre-Match Stuff and Some Thoughts on Bellerin

Mesut Ozil

“The Boss is here”

These are the exact quotes the official Arsenal Twitter account uses when Arsene Wenger is gearing himself for another routine press conference before a game. I’ve asked myself this question before – How many press conferences has the boss attended? Your guess is as good as mine.

The manager was generous enough to provide some injury updates ahead of tomorrow’s game. Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Mikel Arteta all featured against Stoke U-21s and the manager has confirmed that they’d be available for selection tomorrow, which is great news. Matt Debuchy is still working his way to full fitness but he couldn’t feature in the Stoke U-21s game because you can only feature three over-aged players (wow! so Wilshere is over-aged? lol) in the U-21 competition. He wasn’t to confident about Wojciech Szczesny’s fitness but he stated that Laurent Koscielny will have to face a late fitness test. As it stands, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the only injured player in the team, which is quite strange for a club like Arsenal so renowned for having many injuries.

The boss had some nice words to say about Olivier Giroud and stated that the team has found some measure of cohesion, which has contributed to the great performances on the pitch. At the start of the season, the club suffered many injuries, especially in defense and that unbalanced back line suffered the ramifications of the club’s failure to sign a replacement for the departed Thomas Vermaelen. Calum Chambers, Nacho Monreal and even Debuchy featured in the middle alongside Per Mertesacker and further up the pitch, there was a period when the club didn’t have any fit central midfielder, which ultimately led to the recall of Francis Coquelin, and the rest they say is history.

In recent weeks, Wenger has trusted a specific set of players to do the business on the pitch and the ‘cohesion’ was epitomized in Giroud’s opener against West Ham. The passing play, the movement, the fluidity was just awesome. The boss also gave some insight on his squad building approach, where he stated how he tries to find that perfect blend between youth and experience. This season, many youngsters have featured for the club under different circumstances and while some have grabbed their chances with both hands, others, well, can’t be put in the same category.

Take the case of young Emiliano Martinez for instance, Szczesny suffered a knock, David Ospina still had his post-World Cup injuries, so the young lad had to stay between the sticks for a couple of games. He had a couple of clean sheets here and there but he struggled a bit in the defeat to Stoke. Ospina and Szczesny are clearly above the lad and when they got fit, he was shipped out to Rotherham United. In defense, Calum Chambers had a great start to his Arsenal career but in my honest opinion, he played far too many games and it took its toll on his form and fitness.

Hector Bellerin is another player that has had his luck shine on like a star with Carl Jenkinson shipped out on loan to West Ham and Debuchy suffering some unfortunate injuries. His debut against Dortmund was a baptism of fire for the young Spaniard but as he got more games he got better. He has even scored two beautiful goals, which were fully deserved for his brilliant play on the day.

However, much of Bellerin’s success can be attributed to the help he received from the other players. He recently stated that the senior players make him feel like he’s part of the family. Not those crazy folks in the Robert de Niro movie, a real Arsenal family,

“We’re all a team, the [senior players] have helped me since the beginning and are my. They are all really good people. They have been young players as well so they help you in everything they can, they make you feel like one more in the dressing room. That is really important, and as you get older that is what you need to do with younger players.

“There always has to be a transition between older players and the younger players. We are lucky at this club, young players get the opportunities and it is important that you take them. That is the way to get a place in the team and I am just really happy to be getting my minutes.

“Every single minute you play is like training, it helps you a lot and it gives you experience. With the back up of the players I have around me, it makes you look good as well. I will just work hard at training and try to improve myself, so I am glad people are seeing this improvement.

“I feel really comfortable right now, like one more in the team and that is something that you need to have if you really want to understand players in the game.”

Along with Francis Coquelin, Bellerin has been one of the finds of the season and I hope his good run of form continues. Debuchy is working his way to full fitness but he would know that three’s a dependable player that can be called on when the situation demands it. That man is Hector Bellerin.

Sayonara.

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Wilshere Ready to Play his Part for Arsenal

Jack Wilshere

It’s been quite some time since Jack Wilshere played for Arsenal.

Since that day Manchester United’s Paddy McNair almost snapped his ankle in half, the England international had to go under the knife to mitigate some problems he had with the ankle. After missing out for an age, Wilshere and some of his fellow first-team regulars played a closed door friendly against Brentford and he featured again (played all 90 minutes) in the Under-21s 4-1 victory over Stoke U-21s. Alex Iwobi was the star of the night, bagging himself a hat-trick but Wilshere would have been happy to go through the entire game unscathed.

Speaking after the game, the Englishman spoke about how he missed some first team football and has stated that he’s ready to play a role in the team’s surge for a strong finish to the campaign,

“You can train as much as you like but you can’t get that match fitness unless you play. In the Premier League you know how quick it is so you have to get back to that speed.

“I feel like I’m ready to play some part. When you’re injured you look at your comeback date and the games around that time.

“The one that stands out is the FA Cup semi-final but even before that we’ve got big games and we’ve got to got to Man United as well so there’s a chance to play this season.”

Wilshere must have been watching his teammates tear opposition team apart in recent weeks and he’d be longing to be part of that. Olivier Giroud has been grabbing the headlines with the goals but Arsenal fans know that it has been a great team effort for the lads to be where they are today.

In central midfield, Ramsey has been finding some form but he still pops up with those his moments of frustration from time to time. With Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla becoming indispensable members of the team, I can only see Wilshere replacing Ramsey in the team, because the Coq Block is there to stay. However, Ramsey is a better all round player than Wilshere and he also does his bit to provide defensive support to Coquelin – something Wilshere lacks.

Then there’s the issue of Wilshere’s style of play where he holds onto the ball far too long before threading a pass to a teammate in a better position. In more times than one, Wilshere usually runs into a brick wall, putting his team on the back foot. Nonetheless, he’s a player that still has a role to play at the club and I suspect that Wenger would schedule his comeback for the FA Cup semifinal against Reading in Wembley.

It would take a while for Wilshere to get a full hang of things and he’d need games but with Arsenal’s ‘one game at a time’ approach where every game seems to be like a cup final, Wenger would have to manage his team efficiently between now and the end of the season. Santi Cazorla has played a lot of games this season (42 appearances already) and he’d have to be given a breather from time to time.

It’s good to see Wilshere back in the mix and I’m optimistic to see what he has to offer between now and the end of the season.
Let’s hope he sees every team like Manchester City at the Emirates
Sayonara

Arsenal on Form: If It’s Not Broken, Don’t Fix It?

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So I’m at Genesis Deluxe Cinemas waiting to see the newest installment of the ‘Fast and Furious’ series but sadly I’d have to wait till 2.45pm as I’d missed the one I wanted to watch initially. ‘So what can a brother for the best part of one hour?‘, I asked myself. Window shopping? Eat something at the food court? Get some of that Coldstone Creamery goodness? Blog about Arsenal? Then a light bulb came on in my subconscious.

There’s usually little or nothing to write about Arsenal when we are winning games. This is because those Arsene Wenger wannabes can’t get a chance to shine because we haven’t lost. Have you ever noticed how fans become analytical geniuses when we lose?

Arsene Wenger was wrong to remove Sanchez in the 63rd minute! Yes, he looked tired but he should have stayed on the pitch!!!

David Ospina is definitely not better than Wojciech Szczesny. He’s playing with a more balanced defense. Bleeeeh.

Why did Laurent Koscielny misjudge the flight of the ball to allow Harry Kane head it in. I’m very sure Szczesny would have saved that effort. Ospina was rooted to the spot. F*ck!!!

You know… The usual.

I just thought about something. The Gunners have gone on an amazing streak of victories because the manager has placed his faith on a specific set of players with some chipping in from time to time to aid the team’s cause.

Whether you believe in his abilities or not, David Ospina has brought some measure of ‘calm’ to the Arsenal defense and he has raked up his fair share of clean sheets since he became the club’s No. 1 following Szczesny’s nightmare in St. Mary’s Stadium. The Polish has featured in the FA games since Ospina took his spot and he has done great. I still believe Szczesny has a bright future ahead of him but as it stands it would take only an injury or a howler to Ospina for him to return to the starting XI.

The defense has rapidly improved in recent weeks and I’m quite happy to see how Gabriel Paulista has acquainted himself well featuring alongside Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. However, Arsene Wenger’s dilemma currently lies in his fullback options.

I can vividly remember how fans used to fret when we see Nacho Monreal’s name on the team sheet but the Spaniard has been on another level of awesome and I’m still shocked to see how he composed himself for that strike against Manchester United in the FA Cup. As expected, Gibbs has had his injury problems but since his return to full fitness, he hasn’t been able to displace Monreal from that position.

Interestingly, Hector Bellerin has been one of the finds of the season but I’m very certain that when Debuchy reaches his optimal fitness levels, he’d return to the team ahead of the exciting Spaniard. I’m really interested to see how Wenger would handle the situation with Carl Jenkinson returning back to the team after a great spell with West Ham. At least, we know Calum Chambers is further down the pecking order.

Moving further up the pitch, Francis Coquelin has become an indispensable member of the team and this picture epitomizes everything about the lad.

image

Where does that leave the club’s captain, Mikel Arteta, and the aging Mathieu Flamini? Arteta has recently signed an extension to keep till 2016 but will the club retain his services after the campaign? I think not. With whispers of Morgan Schneiderlein coming this summer, Arteta’s position in the club will become untenable but I’m no Wenger and there’s no picture of lil’ ol’ Morgan wearing the Red and White of Arsenal, so I won’t comment on speculation till the move becomes a reality.

Then there’s the issue of the box-to-box midfield role that’s currently manned by last season’s player of the year, Aaron Ramsey. Santi Cazorla has been asked to put a shift there and he did a good job, but one wonders where a player like Jack Wilshere will fit in. There’s also a Wenger favourite, Abou Diaby, somewhere in the mix. With Coquelin and Cazorla regular starters in the middle while Mesut Özil has become more comfortable on the flanks, will the manager be tempted to give Wilshere a run-out at the expense of the ever-improving Ramsey?

Moving to the wings, what’s gonna happen to our own version of the Flash, Theo Walcott? He has been frozen out of the team recently but with players like Alexis Sanchez, the Ox and to some measure, Danny Welbeck, ahead of him as well as his lingering contract situation, the club might make a decision this summer.

So in the turn of the year, Arsenal has been winning game with what proves to be their strongest lineup;

Ospina; Bellerin – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Monreal; Coquelin – Ramsey; Sanchez – Cazorla – Özil; Giroud

This ensures that as long as these guys are fully fit, it won’t be easy for some players mentioned in the article to displace the players unless they’re injured or suspended.

So if it’s not broken, would you want to fix it?

Sayonara

Gunners Smash the Reds as Hot Streak Continues

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Arsenal 4 (Bellerin 37′, Ozil 40′, Alexis 45′, Giroud 90′) – Liverpool 1 (Henderson pen 76′)

The implications of the match were cast in stone, a win for the Gunners would surely put a massive dent on Liverpool’s Champions League qualification hopes and it would continue their hot run of form that has seen them win six on the trot. The visits had been in very good form till their defeat against Manchester United a fortnight ago and they were looking to bounce back from that disappointing outing.

Arsenal’s team selection was exactly as I predicted in the preview post and in my honest opinion, that’s Wenger’s strongest XI with maybe the exception of Mat Debuchy for Hector Bellerin but my oh my, that boy has been one of the revelations of the season. The guests were without the suspended duo of Steven Gerrard and Martin Skrtel but Danny Sturridge was fit enough for a place on the bench, which ultimately meant that Raheem Sterling was going to lead the line.

It was Sterling that would have opened the scoring if Lazar Markovic’s pass was a few inches closer. The Serb eased through the defense and set Sterling clean on goal but he couldn’t connect. Sterling had another chance when he dribbled past Koscielny and fired a shot that went wide of the mark.

The game had a dull outlook about it up unto Bellerin’s moment of magic towards the end of the half. The fullback cut inside the box and used his left foot to curl the ball past Simon Mignolet. So much for keeping six away clean sheets in a row. Shortly after that the Gunners had a free kick at the edge of the box. Up stepped Ozil to swing in a delicious curling drive past Mignolet. No, that wasn’t enough for the Wenger boys. Alexis received a pass and made an absolute fool out of Kolo Toure before blasting a piledriver past the hapless Mignolet.

Three goals in eight minutes. Utter destruction, Arsenal style.

Liverpool needed the ref’s halftime whistle to save them from their anguish and the poor ol’ ref heeded to their pleased.

Arsenal fans smiles turned to frowns with news that Koscielny had suffered a thigh injury, so he was replaced by Gabriel at half time. The visitors tried to make something out of the game with Emre Can side-footing a shot that was saved by David Ospina. However, they got a goal when Bellerin conceded a penalty. Ospina guessed the right way but Henderson’s low drive went past him.

Olivier Giroud was trying to get on the act following his recent interview where he stated that he’s on a competitive streak with Alexis. With the Chilean scoring in the first half, Ollie wanted to balance it out. He missed a ball from Cazorla and headed another wide. After Cazorla clipped the post and Emre Can suffered the ignominy of a red card, Giroud finally got his goal with a swerving shot from some distance that breezed past Mignolet.

4-1 to the Arsenal, the Premier League’s form team.

In the last 17 League matches or so, the Gunners have won 15 with the only blips in 2015 coming against Southampton at the start of the year and Tottenham. The only reason Arsenal is second in the log table is because of their shambolic form at the start of the season but in all honesty, this is championship winning form.

The positives in the game are countless but kudos to the lads for maintaining their focus after the international break. Burnley comes up next before taking on Reading in the cup.

I can’t wait for that.

Sayonara

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