Pre-Match Report

Arsenal v Burnley - Match Preview

By Rob Kelly


“If we can now win our games, the fact that we haven’t lost a lot will help us in the league and that’s our target. We know Burnley are a difficult opponent - much more difficult than the numbers indicate in the table. We will focus and be ready.” - Arsene Wenger


If last weekend’s victory at Sunderland owed more than a little to the generosity of the hosts, it has also provided the Gunners with that most valuable of sporting commodities: momentum.

Hours before the clocks went back, Arsenal secured their second successive win for the first time since the season got underway. If their dramatic Champions League victory at Anderlecht three days earlier had, in truth, been something of a smash-and-grab, their performance on Wearside was much more compelling.

 Fortune played its part as firstly Wes Brown and then Vito Mannone presented Alexis Sanchez with his two goals, but the level of control the Gunners exerted on proceedings was encouraging. Confidence is seeping back into Arsenal bones - now the challenge is to keep climbing the table, find some fluidity and maintain that momentum.

That’s easier said than done this season. This has been a campaign marked by shock results, with some of the traditional powerhouses falling to surprise defeats and Southampton and West Ham United gatecrashing the top four. Last weekend alone saw the Hammers beat champions Manchester City, Hull hold Liverpool at Anfield and Newcastle stun Tottenham.

It serves as a warning to Arsenal, who welcome the Premier League’s bottom club, Burnley, to Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Without a win so far and having conceded 12 goals in their last four matches, the stats don’t make pretty reading for those of a Clarets persuasion. But Arsene Wenger is well aware of their quality and the need for his side to keep their focus.

“I think there’s a difference between the quality of their performance and the number of points they get,” he said. “They still have to adapt to the Premier League but looking at the quality of their games, their position is not definite.”


Wenger is likely to shuffle his pack on Saturday with questions marks over the fitness of both Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs. The manager is confident that the latter will pass a test to take his place in the backline, but his England international team-mate has been all but ruled out.

While it may be an unwelcome development for the manager, he was pleased with the defensive platform provided by Mikel Arteta - poised for his 100th league appearance for Arsenal this weekend - and Mathieu Flamini at Sunderland and could opt to keep the same pairing in central midfield.

"The way he’s integrated our values and qualities is absolutely fantastic. Then you add the numbers to it and the goals he’s scored this season, it’s fantastic"

Arsene Wenger

One by-product of their partnership at the Stadium of Light was the freedom it afforded Alexis in the No 10 role. The Chile international responded with another electric performance, and won the club’s Player of the Month award for October two days later after polling more than 90 per cent of the votes.

However, despite eight goals and three assists in his last 11 games, Wenger believes Alexis’ impact has been a touch underrated in some quarters. For not only is he one of the most effective, most efficient players in the Premier League, he must be one of hardest workers as well.

“If you consider the hype, yes [he is underrated],” the manager said. “I think it just confirms that we made a good buy and that’s what we wanted.

“I believe there’s something more than the numbers - there’s the attitude, the teamwork, the team ethic. The way he’s integrated our values and qualities is absolutely fantastic. Then you add the numbers to it and the goals he’s scored this season, it’s fantastic.

“You want a great player to be a great example and you become a great example with your attitude and your winning desire. He’s a winner and he wants to win every game. That’s why that comes out. Everybody will say, ‘Yes, Alexis is a great player and he is also a fighter’.”


Burnley arrive at Emirates Stadium as heavy underdogs after a difficult start to the season as they adapt to life in the top flight. However, the quality and spirit of their performances has not gone unnoticed by Wenger, who expects a tougher test than the statistics would indicate.

“They’re still learning,” he said. “We have analysed them and we are really concentrating on moving on in this league. We know that how well we do against teams like this at home will be vital.

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“We did it well last season and we want to get back to that this season as well. They’re quite dangerous going forward and they don’t give many chances away if you analyse their numbers. We have to produce the same quality of performance that we did against Sunderland and then we will get there.”

Wenger’s opposite number on Saturday, Sean Dyche, may be a relative managerial novice but the Frenchman has been impressed with what he has seen of him - despite a limited budget and a quiet summer in the transfer market.

“The problem is that when you come up, you have to anticipate what will happen in the future,” he said. “When you come up you have to analyse what happens financially if you go down. I think they just made that decision [not to spend much] because they have the quality of players that is absolutely exceptional.

“Dyche has done extremely well. The quality of the manager is to get the maximum out of the team and I think he has done that extremely well. He also has a style of play that is very good, and he has a very positive attitude towards football - I respect that as well.”


While they may have won two on the bounce, the Gunners are yet to produce a truly comprehensive home display in the Premier League this season. There have been sustained periods of pressure - against Manchester City, against Tottenham - but they have yet to really cut loose.

Team News

Arsenal: Gnabry (match fitness), Koscielny (Achilles), Ospina (thigh), Ozil (knee), Sanogo (hamstring), Debuchy (ankle), Giroud (tibia), Wilshere (doubt - knee), Gibbs (doubt - hip)

Burnley: Reid (groin)

A game against the bottom club should be an inviting prospect then for a side rich on talent but still searching for their most fluid football. However, after trailing in each of their last four Premier League games at the Emirates, it is a case of taking it one step at a time.

Wenger may be wary of the threat posed by Burnley, but he also has his sights firmly set on another morale-boosting victory. No other result will do if they are to ratchet up the pressure on pacesetters Chelsea.

“[To go on a winning run] is what we want,” he said. “We won on the back of a difficult Champions League game away from home and then won away from home again.

“If we can now win our games, the fact that we haven’t lost a lot will help us in the league and that’s our target. We know Burnley are difficult opponents - much more difficult than the numbers indicate in the table. We will focused and be ready for this game.”

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