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The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Burnley

Billed as

Alexis Sanchez versus The Rest.


S’land 0-2 Arsenal (Prem)

Anderlecht 1-2 Arsenal (CL)

Arsenal 2-2 Hull (Prem)

Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal (Prem)

Arsenal 4-1 Galatasaray (CL)


Burnley 1-3 Everton (Prem)

Burnley 1-3 West Ham (Prem)

Leicester 2-2 Burnley (Prem)

WBA 4-0 Burnley (Prem)

Burnley 0-0 S’land (Prem)

The lowdown

Winless. Bottom. Blunt. Burnley have little reason to think they can get a result on Saturday. But Arsenal’s form at the Emirates will give Sean Dyche ammunition for his pre-match team-talk.

If the Premier League table was based on home form alone, the Gunners would be in 12th, having claimed just six points from a possible 12. They have had to come from behind in three of their four games at home. Since their opening day victory against Crystal Palace they have drawn with Manchester City, Tottenham and Hull – shipping six goals in the process.

The secret to nullifying Arsenal’s attack and exploiting their fragile defence has been out in the open for years: get men behind the ball and try to nick something on the counter-attack or from set-pieces. If Dyche doesn’t adopt this tactic, this correspondent will cover his computer in Marmite, carve it up and eat it for lunch.

Arsenal are more than accustomed to facing this pragmatic approach, but they still haven’t found a solution that incorporates their style of play. Fixtures at the Emirates often follow the same pattern:

The Gunners start slow, but dominate possession. Visitors score on the break against the run of play and protect their lead by defending in numbers. Arsenal then throw everything at them in a bid to salvage the game. This has mixed results.

Given the frequency with which this happens, psychologically, Burnley will know Arsenal are there for the taking. One man they will have to keep quiet if they want to get anything is Alexis Sanchez.

Since his £35 million transfer from Barcelona, the Chilean has scored eight goals, made three and propelled the team forward with his pace, power and tireless running.

All this as he makes the transition from tiki-taka La Liga to the turbocharged Premier League. Burnley’s back four - signed for less than £2m – just have to find a way to stop him. Don’t forget your shinpads...

Team news

Beds are starting to free up in the Arsenal treatment room, but it’s still a star-studded roster with Laurent Koscielny, David Ospina, Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Mathieu Debuchy continuing rehabilitation. Jack Wilshere is set to miss out with a minor knee problem, while Theo Walcott isn't considered fit enough to start yet. Burnley’s injured quartet of Steven Reid, Dean Marney, Matt Taylor and Sam Vokes are still out.

Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

During the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal have always had a talisman capable for dragging the team forward – Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. In Sanchez, they appear to have their next match-winner. When Arsenal threatened to drop points against a shaky Sunderland side, Sanchez was the man to smell blood and punish the opposition. Yes, the goals came courtesy of two defensive howlers, but it was the Chilean’s intelligence and energy that seized upon the openings.

Technically, he fits the Arsenal mould – against the Black Cats he finished the game with an 84% pass completion rate. Of his 59 successful passes, 32 were made in the final third. His relentless work off the ball isn’t something you would associate with the Gunners, but it illustrates his education in Barcelona.

Against Sunderland he made 12 ball recoveries – more than any other player. He also made 6 successful tackles – a total matched only by the combative Lee Cattermole. Whether they’re in possession or trying to defend, not one of Burnley’s back four can afford to switch off for a moment with him around.


Arsenal 3-1 Burnley (PL, Mar 10)

Burnley 1-1 Arsenal (PL, Dec 09)

Arsenal 3-0 Burnley (FAC, Mar 09)

Burnley 2-0 Arsenal (LC, Dec 08)

Burnley 0-2 Arsenal (FAC, Jan 08)

The managers

After two wins on the bounce, Wenger believes his team are reaching ‘boiling point’, but they’re still looking to “add that extra degree”. A third straight win on Saturday against bottom-of-the-table Burnley won’t signify an Arsenal side in full flow, but it will bolster their confidence as they look to claw back a nine-point gap between themselves and Chelsea. With Theo Walcott back, Wenger has another lightening quick weapon at his disposal – whetting the appetite for a front four capable of holding its own on the athletics track: Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott and Danny Welbeck.

After Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Turf Moor – Burnley’s second successive home defeat – Dyche admitted the ruthless quality in the Premier League is showing no mercy. “It was a very challenging game against a fine side [Everton], decided more or less once again on high-quality players doing what they do,” said the Clarets boss.

“That was their clinical edge against ours, and they showed more sign of it over the game. The margins are fine between the players, we have to find a way of altering it to find a way of winning.” If he thought the Merseysiders gave his side a harsh lesson, he can expect a masterclass from Arsenal’s array of internationals.

Facts and figures

  • Jason Shackell is the first Premier League player to make over 100 clearances this season (101).
  • Arsenal have been behind at some point in each of their 4 Premier League home games this season.
  • Burnley were the first lower league team ever to beat an Arsene Wenger Arsenal team in a cup competition when they won 2-0 in the 2008/09 League Cup.
    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

Burnley won’t be able to contain Arsenal’s firepower. The Gunners to coast to a 3-0 win.

Back 3-0 at 15/2 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication

Arsenal vs Burnley LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone