Coming up to the 70th minute of Arsenal’s midweek FA Cup tie against Bournemouth, Arsenal were 2 nil up and comfortably containing an insipid Bournemouth attack. Instead of sitting back and letting the game drift by, Arsenal pressed the Bournemouth defence so aggressively that an under pressure Steve Cook hooked his back pass out over the end line for an Arsenal corner.
That one moment is an illustration of the increase in intensity of Arsenal’s pressing game since Mikel Arteta replaced Unai Emery as manager.
Like his former boss Pep Guardiola, Arteta appears to have a set of non-negotiable managerial principles and a high work rate is one those. His side’s dogged defensive display, while down to 10 men at Stamford Bridge, was evidence of a squad far more united and focused than under Emery.
The star forward trio of Alex Lacazette, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Nicolas Pepe have notably bought into Arteta’s methods and are leading the press from the front. This increased aggression crossed the line into recklessness against Palace as Aubameyang was sent off for a wild lunge but I’m sure Arsenal fans will take the odd red card if the team are playing with this intensity.
While Arteta has been the catalyst for a change in attitude, not even Harry Houdini could fix Arsenal’s problems at centre half without dipping into the transfer market.
Arteta can’t go right, no matter who he chooses from the calamity triumvirate of Mustafi, Sokratis & David Luiz.
Rob Holding came on for 30 minutes against Bournemouth in midweek and Arteta may opt to give him a start at the weekend. Burnley will look to expose Arsenal’s soft centre undoubtedly through an aerial assault. No team in the league wins more aerial duels than Burnley and only Sheffield Utd play more long balls than Sean Dyche’s team so it’s fairly obvious how they will attack Arsenal.
Burnley possess one of the in-form strikers in the Premier League in Chris Wood who has come a long way since his early struggles at Leeds in the Championship. Wood has 10 league goals this season and that is no fluke as he has XG figures the same as more high profile names like Raheem Sterling and Tammy Abraham. With Ashley Barnes still on the treatment table, Burnley are heavily reliant on Wood for their limited style of play to function.
As previously mentioned, Arsenal still have huge weaknesses at centre half which Burnley can expose and it’s hard to see Burnley keeping a clean sheet against Arsenal’s potent forward line with Aubameyang set to return from suspension. 8/11 looks a more than fair price
This is a great matchup for Wood and I would expect him to get plenty of chance to get to score. Let’s hope he takes one of them
Charlie Taylor will likely be playing at left-back for Burnley and he will be up against Pepe, one of the most prolific dribblers in the league. Taylor is prone to the odd rash tackle and 7/2 looks a fair price for him to be carded.