With another week of practice behind them, Arsenal are a step closer to getting their preferred XI on to the pitch. While we expect changes from last week’s win, the expectation is that the team that faces off against Burnley on Saturday won’t be that much different from last Sunday.
The crescendo of preparation that will see us field our newest signings on a regular basis together with some of our more productive stars, will still be building to a finish as Sean Dyche’s claret and blue squad visit the Emirates. But the league is now well and truly under way and youngsters and non-regulars are going to be required to set the tone at the Emirates as the first home match of the season kicks off.
Last weekend the hero was Pierre Emerick Aubameyang with supported by little subplots of excellence from the likes of Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Arsenal will need not only Aubameyang again but anyone who comes into fill in a spot from one of the youngsters who is likely to see a spell on the bench beginning this weekend.
The visitors pose a sturdy test for the Gunners at this season’s home opener. Dyche has his team drilled well and their disciplined defensive approach saw them walk away with all 3 points as they opened up the season against Ralph Hasenhüttl’s Southampton.
The Arsenal Approach
Last season, the Emirates was a fortress. The Gunners managed to lose only twice at home – to Manchester City and the unfortunate 3-2 loss to Crystal Palace which may have been the reason they missed out on the Champion’s League spot.
Unlike their road adventures, Emery’s side were in a word – solid. They averaged 2.21 (42) goals per game scored and were stingy only conceding an average of 0.84 (16) goals. 6 of those home matches where were won by a score of 2-0.
If Arsenal are going to mount a serious challenge, they are going to have to maintain this impressive home form while improving their away record.
Last weekend, Emery lined his side up in a 4-2-3-1 in an attempt to get the more fluid, free-flowing football we’d like to see.
The problem in that match was with Xhaka and Guendouzi acting as a double pivot, they struggled to connect the back line to the attack. The inability to transition from defence to attack, hampered Arsenal’s ability to move the ball effectively.
Only when Chambers carried the ball forward or Aubameyang drifted out to the right or when Willock moved out to support combination play were Arsenal able to effectively break down Newcastle.
Much like last years travails on the road, Arsenal had the lion’s share of the possession but were unable to create chances against a defensive unit that sat deep and cut off any chance for the Gunners to penetrate the final third.
What that was down to is up for debate. The long-held position is that Guendouzi and Xhaka together is more defensive in nature and unbalances the team when trying to be more progressive in attack.
It could merely be down to so many first-choice players not being available to the manager on that day or it could be that Arsenal are still trying to find their feet as the fledgling season kick’s off.
Whatever the reason, the Gunners need these early points as matches against Liverpool and Spurs loom in the near future. Those matches have to be looked at with wary eye as the present challenges to Emery’s team the likes of Newcastle and Burnley don’t. Maximum points are a must.
Stingy Sean Dyche
Sean Dyche is regarded by the British Press as one of England’s bright managerial talents. Along with Eddie Howe of Bournemouth, the press continues to wonder when this bright generation of English managers will get a call to a bigger club.
The answer to that may be when Sean Dyche can start playing more expansive football and not rely too much on a low-block to play most of their games.
Against their opponents this past weekend, Burnley defended with a narrow and disciplined 4-4-2 structure, resulting in the aforementioned low-block. With two lines of four set up to cut down space in the channels and limit and through balls into the final third.
Dyche expects his team to congest the midfield and force their opposition to play into the wide areas trying to force it backwards and then engage a three-man press that looks to cut out the lateral passing angles.
By ceding possession and taking away Arsenal’s passing lanes, Burnley look for the opportunity to win the ball and quickly engage the counter – with Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood leading the line looking to catch the opposition far up the field and get into 1v1 situations with the Centre Backs.
Emery could elect to try and get Burnley to play out by relinquishing some of the possession in an attempt to get the visitors to open up and then use his own counter-attack to grab a goal and thus open up the match.
The Spaniard’s line up decisions and tactical set up are key here as he faces another season of teams looking to frustrate a side blessed with a plethora of attacking talent.
Dyche is a creature of habit and he’d love nothing more than to upset Arsenal’s opening home tie of the new season. Still, the attacking talent, plus Arsenal’s regular home form, lean the tie squarely in the Gunner’s favor. It’s all down to Emery and how he sets his team up.
Arsenal 2 – 0 Burnley
What the Head Coach is Saying (courtesy Football.London)
“It’s going to be a very physical match and we need that adaptation physically to be strong. We need our game plan with our structure, with our tactical positioning and then after with individual duels against them.
They are very strong in the duels, they are very strong in their structure, with two strikers. They are going to demand a lot of us defensively, with their long balls especially. They’re the best team that I saw in the last match of the last teams I saw with a lot of structure.
They are very clear, very efficient with playing with that structure. Also they have players who play very well. If you let them play, they can build up with [James] Tarkowski, with [Ben] Mee.”
Players to Watch
Arsenal: Bernd Leno
Burnley: Ashley Barnes
Arsenal Record vs. Burnley
10 matches played 9W 0L 1D (Premier League only)
Referee: Mike Dean (1M 4Y 0R)
Assistants: Darren Cann, Dan Robathan
Fourth official: Peter Bankes
VAR: Chris Kavanagh
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday
UK BT Sport 12.30 BST
US: NBCSports Network 7:30 AM EST
Match Facts (Courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Burnley have lost nine successive league meetings – the longest losing streak in their top-flight history against a particular opponent.
- Their only victory in the past 19 away games against Arsenal in all competitions came in September 1974.
- Arsenal have won all seven encounters at the Emirates Stadium by an aggregate score of 21-4.
- Arsenal are looking to begin a league campaign with two straight wins for the first time since 2009-10.
- The Gunners have lost their opening home league match of the season in five of the past eight seasons.
- Only Manchester City and Liverpool claimed more home points than the 45 accrued by Arsenal last term.
- They have lost only one of their past 25 league games when scoring first, winning 20 of them.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored eight goals in his last six games in all competitions.