Saturday’s trip to Turf Moor will be an intriguing match-up for Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side. Over the last few seasons, games against the so-called ‘lesser sides’ have not been Arsenal’s biggest strength. Against Burnley, they will be severely tested. As always.
Every football fan on the planet knows how Burnley likes to play its football: tough, physical, and long balls to the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes have proved to be something that Arsenal has found difficult to navigate past.
Last season Burnley got the better of Mikel Arteta’s side, winning 1-0 at the Emirates in December thanks to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal after Granit Xhaka was sent off.
Then, in March, Chris Wood secured a draw at home for the Clarets as they held the Gunners to a 1-1 draw. Aubameyang had notched Arsenal in front with an early goal, only for Xhaka to have another deciding say in this fixture by doing that.
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3 key aspects of Arsenal vs Burnley that Mikel Arteta’s side will have to manage in order to beat Sean Dyche’s side in the Premier League meeting
Nicolas Pepe struck the bar late on and should have won his side a penalty after one of the most baffling VAR decisions somehow saw Erik Pieters escape with the epitome of a blatant handball. Oh, yeah, and Dani Ceballos smashed the post as well after Bukayo Saka had an effort cleared off the line.
It was eventful.
So, after a painfully hollow week, how exactly does Arsenal get the three points on Sunday at a venue that is always pre-judged to be difficult, but one the club haven’t lost at in seven Premier League attempts?
1. Match Burnley’s Physicality
Burnley replaced Stoke as the team that likes to be The Kings of the Physical. Real physical. Tough, hard contests and the willingness to put their bodies on the line are a trademark of a Sean Dyche-led team.
That James Tarkowski tackle away at Everton in their last outing? Yeah, that’s Burnley.
Whether you agree with the ‘methods’ or not, the fact is Burnley is far from easy to beat, especially at home, even if their record of late has been poor. Fine margins, etc.
Because of this, matching the physicality of Burnley – or at least turning it up a few notches – is perhaps the most important part of Saturday’s game. Having Thomas Partey, Gabriel, and Kieran Tierney in the side certainly helps, as far too often Arsenal has been accused of having a soft underbelly – there is merit to that.
Technical director Edu said after signing both Partey and Gabriel:
“I think we improved the squad’s quality and physicality,” he said. “If you see Gabriel, he gives us a lot of physicality and presence.
“Thomas, physicality, quality and mentally he is very strong.”
Too many times when the pressure has been put on Arsenal they simply fold and can’t handle it. This is why Partey, Gabriel, and now Takehiro Tomiyasu, being in the side is critical. All three relish the physical nature of football and that will need to be demonstrated on Saturday.
At some point during the game, each Arsenal player is going to have a stick or twist moment where the pressure is applied, and how they react to it will tell us a lot. Will they revel in it? Or will they do what many Arsenal teams have done over the years, wilting and succumbing to a team that is inferior on paper?
Troy Deeney has made it a point to state Arsenal’s ability to crumble under physical pressure and on Saturday this will go a long way in determining a positive result for Arteta’s side.
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