by Phil Gregory
Three points at Anfield. Excellent. Exactly what we needed given the opportunity provided thanks to United and Chelsea’s poor results. The Gunners next trek up Turf Moor to face a Burnley side surpassing all expectations in the Premier League this season.
Arsenal secured their second win on the trot at Anfield, with Andrey Arshavin again proving pivotal on surely his favourite stomping ground. A lacklustre first half display was turned around in the last 45 minutes, and Arsenal’s confidence and belief will undoubtedly be restored.
The critics still point to three losses in the last five games, but two were Carling Cup sides so all is forgiven.
Burnley have been fairly average recently: home draws with Aston Villa and Fulham and ten goals conceded in three away games. That said, it is December and they are solidly midtable, a position they surely would’ve taken at the start of the season.
As ever, Arsenal’s injury list is seemingly ever growing, though Abou Diaby did make his return from injury at Anfield. Van Persie and Djourou are, as we all know, out for the season, while Niklas Bendtner’s injury was recently re-evaluated to a New Year return. Rosicky is expected back early January, so hopefully he’ll be back by the summer ready for preseason soon.
Clichy should be back soon (though Traore is performing above expectations – and appears now to be injured) and Gibbs is out until February. Denilson is unfortunately out until the weekend after picking up a back injury. Eboue has recovered from injury.
Burnley are without academy product Jay Rodriguez, while Northern Ireland international Martin Paterson is a big loss for the Clarets, given he fired 19 goals in their promotion campaign. Long-term absentee Chris McCann is also expected to miss the game at Turf Moor.
Arsenal will anticipate a hardworking, physical affair on Wednesday and as such will look to the likes of Diaby and Eboue to provide the strength and directness to deal with a Burnley team who can beat anybody in front of their own fans.
Burnley will look to ex-United winger Chris Eagles to take advantage of Traore’s defensive naivety after giving a solid player in Stephen Warnock a torrid time last time out in front of the home fans. Jensen, the Danish goalkeeper who proved the nemesis of Bendtner in the Carling Cup last season, has been impressive for much of the season and could frustrate Arsenal’s depleted frontline
Arsenal predicted line-up:
Sagna Gallas Vermaelen Silvestre
Eboue, Arshavin, Nasri
Subs: Fabianski, Ramsey, Vela, Wilshere, Walcott, Merida, Eduardo
Despite a shaky performance at Anfield, I expect Almunia to continue between the sticks, but will have a changed back four in front of him. Quite a few knocks were picked up after the Anfield game, but thankfully we seem to have shaken the majority of the off. Song, as ever takes the holding role, while Diaby replaces the injured Denilson.
This of course assumes he is believed to be fit enough, Nasri could slot into central midfield, and Arshavin wide right, with Eduardo returning to the centre. If, however Diaby is played central, I’m assuming Wenger will stick with a winning formula and keep Arshavin central, with Eduardo ready to come on if we need to change things around later on.
Eboue gets the nod instead of Walcott, but I am unsure about this one. I feel Eboue’s directness and ability to ride challenges will be vital on the right hand side. That said, Burnley aren’t going to sit back and play for a point, so Theo Walcott could find plenty of space down the flanks on the break. We will see!
Not easy to call this one. The team we have out is more than capable of getting us the three points, but Burnley too have match winners in amongst their side. It’ll be an open game, very unlike the usual “promotion side versus a top four side” clash, which is what gives me reason for optimism. Expect wingers, not a tight midfield from Burnley: they will be playing to win.
This though is probably to our benefit – as long as the defence keeps it together, and the midfield supports adequately we should be able to shut them out until we’ve scored. If we score one or two, they will press forward and the floodgates could well open. Let’s just hope we aren’t complacent: failure to win here and the result at Anfield means nothing.
A very good analysis of the likely impact of the African Cup of Nations can be found here. In short, by looking at the fixtures, it seems likely Cameroon will get to the quarters and then be knocked out by either Egypt or Nigeria. This would mean Song was back to us in time to face United at home.
Naturally, anything can happen and we have no idea what condition he will be in when he comes back, anyone unsure of the dangers of Angola should have a read here too. Admittedly, it is Daily Mail, but Samuel used to write for the Times and hasn’t completely lost the plot yet.
PS: From Tony. Ever wondered what others think of us? Read a review of this site, and of the book MAKING THE ARSENAL. There’s a review of Christmas football 100 years ago on the Woolwich Arsenal web site and now the prediction…
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Burnley 1 Arsenal 3.
(c) Untold Arsenal 2009
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- After two games we can start to make one or two judgements