Arsenal will play The Clarets in The Emirates and hope for another great performance in front of the fans they welcome into the stadium. To do that, they will need to find a way to breakdown Burnley’s staunch low block.
The question is, who can provide the ticket through Burnley’s barricade and will Arteta select them?
Head. David sustained a deep laceration to the head during Wolves (h) on November 29. Due to the significant impact, David has continued to be closely monitored for a concussion and has followed all protocols. David is now back in training and his fitness will continue to be assessed ahead of Sunday’s match.
Left knee. Sustained injury during training on June 21. Gabi successfully played 45 minutes for the Under-21s in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday night. He has recovered well from the match and is now in full training.
Left thigh. Sustained a strain to the left thigh during Tottenham Hotspur (a) last Sunday. This is in the same area of the thigh as the initial strain which Thomas sustained against Aston Villa (h) on November 8. Thomas will be unavailable for forthcoming matches and is working hard with our medical team in order to return to training as soon as possible.
Suspended. Serving the last of a three match Premier League suspension.
When trying to select the lineup, we first have to discuss formation. Normally, with Partey out, I would suggest that Arsenal take up their 3-4-3 shape. The only reason that Arsenal were able to consider a four-back system this season was because they purchased Thomas Partey’s services. Without him, that notion has seemed like a trap and has seen Arsenal struggle, trying to force a system to work that doesn’t have the personnel.
However, given that the opposition tends to play in a low-block, and has struggled to score goals and keep opposition out, a 4-2-3-1 seems highly likely. Getting an extra attacking player on the pitch with a few more natural attacking talents is a must.
In the back, I selected Leno in net, Tierney as the left back, a central pairing of Gabriel and Luiz, and Bellerin at right back. I know that Luiz is being assessed, but something about the report tells me he will be available. If not, we can expect Holding to get the call once more.
Tierney continues to be a solid player down the left regardless of what is asked of him in both the attack and defense. When it comes to Bellerin, many are becoming unhappy, but I will continue to select him until Arteta shows any sign of there being real competition from Soares. Bellerin has had his defense struggles, but it is worth noting that the right side has significantly less cover at times than the left, and with Bellerin being tasked with helping supply opportunities in the attack, he is often stretched and scrambling to get back on the break.
The midfield three I selected was a pivot of Xhaka and Elneny while Lacazette continues to try to shove himself into a 10 role. Personally, I despise this set up. I find Xhaka extremely slow and negative in just about everything he does, and while you can win with him, he puts a cap on the midfield potential. When it comes to Lacazette, I just flat out do not believe he is capable of playing within that role at the level needed to compete within the Premier League. Trot him out there for Europa League group stage matches all you want, it’s a completely different level when to get to matches like these.
On the upside, Elneny looked good in the Europa League and he has a real knack for providing balance and compatibility with whoever Arteta puts next to him. Xhaka on the otherhand, is notoriously incompatible with just about everyone you put next to him…. Hoping to see Elneny come through and produce another good, solid shift in the midfield while balancing out Granit Xhaka.
Up top I have returned to a Saka, Auba, Willian attacking front. With the need to breakdown the low block, I suspect that Arteta will look to pack players who could provide technical capabilities in tight spaces… even if they haven’t shown it. Cough, cough, Willian! Expect the wingers to be tucking in centrally quite a bit to provided options between the lines while the outside backs bomb forward.
If Willian is a must — as Arteta has shown he seems to be — I would actually prefer Willian play centrally in place of Lacazette while Saka and Reiss Nelson are given the winger roles. I think Nelson provides plenty that Willian does not and would much rather see him play.
It’s a tough lineup to predict and this is entirely based on Arteta selecting 4-back system. There is a chance we see a 3-4-3 with the intent to get into attacking positions. Im not sure it provides the attacking presence in between the lines that is needed for a game like this, but even within a 4-2-3-1, Arsenal have struggled to get into those spaces. We will wait and see.
This match is going to be a struggle. It’s going to be ugly, long, boring, and frustrating. Arsenal aren’t in fine form and have yet to show much of the fluid attacking football needed to break down blocks like these. I expect Arsenal to being slogging away for 90 minutes trying to breakdown a defense that is all too willing to concede possession.
If Arsenal can find the net early, any way any how, it will spoil Dyche’s plan and force his hand. If they can’t, it will be Arsenal that gets more and more desperate as the seconds tick away. In the end, I have to back my team and hope that the historical success of the Gunners and Aubameyang can come through one more time.
Arsenal 1-0, but Arsenal will have 68% possession producing few real chances.