Seeking to put the disappointment of Thursday’s EFL Cup exit behind them, Arsenal return to Premier League action with the visit of Burnley to the Emirates on Sunday afternoon.
The Gunners currently find themselves sixth in the rankings – two points worse off than fourth-placed West Ham United – while Sean Dyche’s men remain rooted to the bottom of the pile.
Another day, another Arsenal red card – this time to a player who had barely become accustomed to life back in England again before being made to take the walk of shame, as Thomas Partey’s sending off rounded off a miserable Thursday evening for Mikel Arteta’s side.
Despite welcoming many big-hitters back to the fold from injury and coronavirus, the Gunners’ EFL Cup dreams came to an end in the final four, as Diogo Jota struck either side of the break for Liverpool to propel the Reds into February’s final with Chelsea.
It is now top four or bust for Arsenal – whose request to postpone last weekend’s North London derby was granted amid widespread condemnation from rival fans and pundits – and they have now been leapfrogged by their bitter rivals following their dramatic late comeback versus Leicester City.
January has been a truly forgettable month for the Gunners with three defeats and a draw from four games in all competitions – failing to score in each of their last three – but Premier League games at the Emirates is where Arteta’s men have typically excelled.
Indeed, Arsenal’s tally of 22 points from 10 home games this term is the third best in the league, and they even gave Manchester City a good run for their money on New Year’s Day, so the Premier League’s basement side have their work cut out to make one of their several games in hand count for something.
Many Arsenal fans were quick to point out that Burnley’s wave of postponed matches did not lead to similar uproar which we saw for the North London derby cancellation, as Dyche’s side saw their relegation six-pointer with Watford called off due to a long list of absentees.
Amid calls for rule changes from the under-fire Premier League regarding the criteria for postponements, Burnley – who have now played six games fewer than Chelsea, the busiest team in the league with 23 – travel to the Emirates with a glimmer of hope of clambering to safety.
The Clarets have not taken to the pitch since being dumped out of the FA Cup by Huddersfield Town on January 8 – their third loss on the bounce in all tournaments – but they are only three points adrift of 17th-placed Watford with two games in hand on the Hornets.
Many eyes will be on how Burnley plan to replace Chris Wood after somewhat inexplicably allowing their top Premier League goalscorer to leave for a direct relegation rival, but it is also desperate times on the turf for this week’s visitors, who are one of only two teams – along with Newcastle United – still winless away from home in the 2021-22 top-flight season.
A Martin Odegaard stunner propelled Arsenal to a 1-0 win at Turf Moor earlier in the season, although that represents their only defeat from their last four versus the Gunners, who succumbed to a 1-0 defeat in this fixture last term via Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s own goal.
Arsenal Premier League form:
Arsenal form (all competitions):
Burnley Premier League form:
Burnley form (all competitions):
We say: Arsenal 2-0 Burnley
Whether Burnley’s COVID-hit contingent are ready to return or not, their lack of recent action could work against them, especially versus an Arsenal side more determined than ever to pick up their first win of 2022.
Dyche will certainly instruct his side to expose Arsenal’s midfield frailties while the hosts’ naughty step remains well-occupied, but the Gunners’ bright, youthful attacking forces should propel their side to a much-needed three points.