Arsenal are privileged to host a Burnley side who have harassed and kicked their way past Chelsea, Fulham, West Brom, Tottenham and (as we already know) Arsenal in cup ties this season. Burnley is a club that plays traditional English football which means that they takes cup runs very, very seriously play solid at the back, tackle hard, take their chances efficiently, and harass the midfield. Arsenal will need some steel to pry this match from their cold Lancashire hands.
When the Bees hosted a mostly first team Chelsea back in November, tempers flared and boiled to the point that Drogba lost his mind (it’s a small thing so it’s easy to lose) and not only gave Burnley supporters the finger, but even tossed a coin back into the crowd. It was a moment of madness, obviously, but indicative of how Burnley frustrate their opponents. Arsenal’s midfield will need to show composure and maturity if they are going to get past this club.
Against Chelsea, the Burnley defense weathered 22 shots while their offense managed just 4, but 4 was all they needed as they converted those few shots into the one goal that got them into extra time. Similarly against Arsenal in December, Burnley allowed Arsenal the lion’s share of possession and when presented with 7 chances converted them into 2 goals.
Compact, efficient, harassing, these will be some pesky bees indeed.
In December, Wenger had the excuse of playing children but he’ll have no such luxury this time out. Apart from first choice players Fabregas, Toure, and Adebayor, Arsenal have to be considered to have a full compliment of players. Wenger has already indicated that he will do some rotating; Fabianski will come in for Almunia and possibly seeking revenge for the 2-0 drubbing he took back in December. Arshavin is gaining match fitness and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start since he is ineligible to play against Roma when Arsenal continue their Champions League campaign on Wednesday in Rome. Walcott is back and raring to go, look for him to come on in the 60th minute, possibly for Arshavin. Eduardo too has recovered from his hamstring injury but given Burnley’s style of play I’d be surprised if he gets a start — memories of the Taylor tackle will still be raw for the Crozillian and seeing the Burnley bullies bearing down on him might be too much. Wenger has to be aware of this and will more likely bring him on for van Persie if we need a goal late.
Of course that’s all guess work and one of the things that’s been “fun” about this season is waking up and seeing who Wenger will include in the lineup. I fully expect all of my logic to be upended and see some nutty lineup tomorrow.
Either way, Burnley are ready, with their boss Owen Coyle already plotting the post match handshake.
As hurtful as it would have been for him to lose in the Carling Cup Arsene Wenger was very complimentary and wished us well. I don’t think he will be wishing us well before the game on Sunday but I hope he is wishing us well after it. We are well aware Arsenal will have the bulk of possession and put us under pressure but I’m confident we can stand up to that. It is a different game on Sunday in that we are at the Emirates and they will have 55,000 behind them and we will have 5,000 but what a marvellous occasion to go and show you can play a bit.
I’m hoping that Arsenal show that they can play a bit as well.
Right, 6:30am (PST) kickoff and I’m going to be starting the live blog at 6:15am, so stop on by. See you tomorrow.