With seven games to go we sit on second place and there is a big chance for us to stretch the lead over the suitors as the Manchester clubs play each other.
In order to do that, complacency must be left out at London. Burnley have been very difficult opponents for the big teams this season, especially at home. Neither of the Manchester clubs have managed to score at Burnley while the reigning champions couldn’t beat The Clarets at home either.
The Clarets lie in the middle of the relegation zone despite the fact they have managed to avoid defeats on their trips to leaders Chelsea and reigning champions Manchester City. They might benefit from the nightmare schedule of Hull City though as The Tigers – who sit just above the relegation zone with a two-point-advantage over The Clarets – have to play Southampton, Liverpool, Arsenal, Spuds and Manchester United during their run-in. On top of that, Burnley can do something for themselves and beat Hull when they visit the KC Stadium.
Burnley have been tipped for relegation from Day One of the new season but their resilience on the pitch has kept their head above the water. Danny Ings is their star player and it’s very likely that he’ll play in the Premiership next season regardless of his club’s destiny. His contract runs out this summer with Liverpool and Spuds mentioned as his suitors. However, with all due respect to Ings’ quality, it’s team-work and never-say-die attitude that are the biggest strengths of today’s hosts. We’ll have to put on a professional performance to avoid dropping points like that time in 2009-10 when we were held to a 1:1 draw despite Fabregas’ opener.
Our team has been brilliant lately with both individual and team performances on the highest level. We got a rare boost from the medical department as Abou Diaby, Jack Wilshere, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Debuchy are all ready to play. However, as we say in Bosnia: “If everything goes just fine, put a piece of rock in your shoe to give you something to worry about.” That piece of rock is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s groin injury.
We won in the reverse fixture 3:0 but we had gone through seventy minutes of frustrating misses, incredible saves from their goalkeeper and a few scares when they had dangerous counter-attacks before Alexis Sánchez broke the deadlock. Calum Chambers scored with a powerful header to double our lead before Alexis scored once more. We should have scored five or six goals otherwise.
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Today we might see something like this:
David Ospina has done his job well so far and there is no reason why he should be questioned as our No.1.
Hector Bellerin gave another exciting performance against Liverpool and – even if Arsene Wenger might be tempted to give Debuchy the nod in the game against weaker opponents – he’ll probably maraud down the flank again.
Nacho Monreal has been immense lately but he might get a bit of a rest with Kieran Gibbs waiting for his chance to shine on the left.
Per Mertesacker and Gabriel might be the pair for today’s game. Koscielny was substituted against Liverpool due to injury and Wenger might decide not to take a risk with Kos.
Francis Coquelin is practically without competition for his place as our defensive shield in the middle. Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey are the remaining pieces of the midfield triumvirate with Mesut Özil swapping places with Ramsey during the game.
Alexis Sánchez will start on the flank, probably on the left one.
Olivier Giroud – who has become a goal-machine – can score in his seventh consecutive league game today.
So, that’s it. If we win the game, we’ll watch the Manchester derby on Sunday with a four-point-gap between us and United and a five-point-gap between us and City. Also, our victory would mean our gap to Chelsea is narrowed to four points.
My prediction: normally, we should all expect a regular 2:1 away victory after taking a two-goal-lead before conceding a consolation goal and biting nails for the last ten minutes. However, I think we have too much quality for Burnley so we should beat them more comfortably this time. I’d say: 4:0 victory for us with goals from Giroud (twice), Cazorla and Özil.
Bellerin Mertesacker (c) Gabriel Monreal
Burnley 0 v 4 Arsenal