Arsenal will look to finish a difficult month with a win when they face relegation-threatened Burnley at the Emirates.
It has been a terrible January for Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal side, who will hope to end the month with a victory over Burnley. Positive COVID-19 results, injuries, suspension and unavailability due to the Africa Cup of Nations have been the telling factors in creating those problems for the Gunners, although things are now gradually improving on all fronts.
On New Year’s day, Arsenal were praised for their performance despite losing to Manchester City as the game was marred by controversy surrounding refereeing decisions. They earned further plaudits for their resilient display at Anfield in their Carabao Cup semi-final first leg, as they held Liverpool to a goalless draw despite going down to ten men.
An FA Cup exit at the hands of Nottingham Forest squeezed between those games, and their recent loss to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg means Arsenal are winless in January. There was also additional scrutiny on the club for their successful request to postpone the North London Derby, which drew the ire of Tottenham Hotspur and sections of rival fans.
The Gunners will be hoping to get back on track after the defeat to Liverpool and secure three points against a struggling Burnley side at the Emirates. Clinching three points is essential for Arteta as it would keep Arsenal firmly in the race for a top-four finish alongside Tottenham, West Ham United and Manchester United.
Burnley have had an even more disruptive last month and a half due to a coronavirus outbreak. Most of their games were postponed, and between December 12 and this weekend, they have played just four matches in all competitions. The Clarets have not taken to the pitch since their FA Cup exit to Huddersfield Town earlier this month.
Burnley’s 17 games played in the Premier League represents the lowest tally of all teams, as they have played six matches fewer than Chelsea’s 23. Apart from COVID-19 infections, January has also been a troubling month for the Clarets, because they had to let top scorer Chris Wood join relegation rivals Newcastle, leaving them short in the attack.
Ideally, nothing short of a win should do for Burnley, as their only hope of getting out of the relegation zone is through victories in the league. However, considering they have won just a single game all season and none away from home, it is difficult to see them achieve an improbable result against an Arsenal side who have been formidable at the Emirates.
Team News & Tactics
💬 "It's a massive game after the defeat and disappointment and we want to get back on track quickly."
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 21, 2022
Mikel Arteta might have fielded a strong lineup against Liverpool, but many of those players were unfit. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Martin Odegaard and Emile Smith Rowe barely had any training under their belt before the game, an issue the Arsenal manager might now have resolved.
While the Gunners came out unscathed on the injuries front in the midweek contest, they now face another problem in midfield after Thomas Partey’s late dismissal. He only returned for the Liverpool clash 48 hours after Ghana’s elimination from the Africa Cup of Nations and now finds himself suspended, meaning he will miss the Burnley clash along with Granit Xhaka.
Partey and Xhaka’s absence will force Arteta to field a lineup similar to the one that took the field on Thursday, with Albert Sambi Lokonga sitting at the base of the midfield. Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard will provide defensive support to Lokonga. Their formation might seem like a 4-1-4-1, but in reality, it could take the shape of a 4-3-3.
Arteta would hope the last few days might have been enough for the returning players to recuperate from fitness problems and get their sharpness back. With Calum Chambers and Cedric Soares both out with injuries, Arteta has no other choice but to start Tomiyasu. The Arsenal manager would have liked to give the Japanese international a breather after his recent struggles, but is forced to start him due to the absentees.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Odegaard, Lokonga, Smith Rowe; Saka, Lacazette, Martinelli
Sean Dyche will be hoping he has a strong enough squad to put together against Arsenal after his team was heavily affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Dwight McNeil, Dale Stephens, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Erik Pieters have since returned to training this week, and the Burnley manager will be hoping for their involvement from the start.
💬 "It’s always a tough game going to Arsenal, as is any game in the Premier League, but we’ll take on the challenge."
— Burnley FC (@BurnleyOfficial) January 21, 2022
Ashley Barnes is the only definite absentee, alongside Maxwel Cornet, who remains away with Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations. Connor Roberts will also be assessed after returning to training following an injury. Charlie Taylor, however, is a doubt after suffering a knock in training this week.
The big trouble for Dyche would be to recalibrate his frontline with Barnes injured and Wood no longer at the club. The goalscoring burden now falls on Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez, who is searching for his 100th goal in English and Scottish football combined. Aaron Lennon could also be an option if Vydra does not get the nod.
Burnley will look to keep their 4-4-2 shape, with Gudmundsson, Ashley Westwood, Dale Stephens, and McNeil primed to take up midfield slots, with the usual back four behind them. Rodriguez and Lennon could pair up in attack, providing Dyche a different dimension compared to a Rodriguez-Vydra partnership.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Pieters; Gudmundsson, Westwood, Stephens, McNeil; Rodriguez, Lennon
- Arsenal have failed to win, earned three red cards, and scored just a single goal in four games in January.
- Arsenal are undefeated in 16 of their last 17 games against Burnley in all competitions.
- Arsenal have the third-best home record this season, earning 22 points from their ten games at the Emirates.
- Burnley have failed to win their last 11 away matches in the Premier League.
- Burnley last won at the Emirates last season. Before that, they lost nine consecutive games there.
Player To Watch
There have been plenty of players at Arsenal to have shown an improvement this term, with Martin Odegaard one such star ever since his move from Real Madrid. He opened his account this season against Burnley in the reverse fixture, and the Norwegian has recently found a rich vein of form.
His has been involved in six goals in seven Premier League games, and the midfielder looks like a bargain for the money Arsenal paid to sign him. Odegaard might end up playing in a deeper position against the Clarets, although his display against Liverpool in a similar role was promising. He will be the player to keep an eye on as the Gunners look to bounce back from recent results.
Arsenal 2-0 Burnley
Arsenal have been exceptional against teams in and around the relegation zone and especially against those starting the day at the very bottom. Moreover, they have to keep up the pressure on Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United in the race to a top-four finish, making this clash a must-win encounter.
Burnley have been depleted in attack due to the departure of Chris Wood, who used to provide a physical presence and an aerial threat. They will miss the New Zealander badly and will lose to Arsenal as a consequence. Expect the Gunners to collect three points at home and get their Premier League campaign back on track.