We have five full days before a Europa League away trip to Athens so, even though it is generally agreed around these parts that the EL is our top priority for the rest of the season, we may well see something close a full strength side from Mikel Arteta today.
Our visit to Turf Moor won’t be easy. Despite a recent thrashing at the hands of the Spuds, Burnley have been hard to beat lately (that defeat was the only one in their last six games). On the other hand they’ve been clocking up a lot of draws and struggling to score goals (a 3-0 win over Palace being the exception).
The Clarets’ main threat is in the air. They’re a big team with the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes dangerous from set pieces. For once, despite our nickname, it’s the opposition who will be providing the artillery (a barrage of long balls into our box) so we’ll need to keep our tin hats on, be brave and hit them with speed and movement when we attack (the cavalry).
This could easily be a draw but, if our recent form continues, I fancy us to take the points provided we avoid any of those self-inflicted wounds which we’ve seen rather too often this season. Let’s not trip over and fall on our sabre today.
The only injury doubt we have is Emile Smith Rowe (hip strain), so my predicted starting eleven is:
Bellerin – Holding – Luiz – Tierney
Xhaka – Partey
Saka – Odegaard – Aubameyang
If El Patron decides to start with Auba down the middle, then I would expect to see either Pepe or Willian as the wide left attacker with Laca on the bench. There’s a case for Ceballos to play in the spot I’ve allocated to Odegaard, but Arteta seems to really like the young Norwegian.
I’ve gone for Holding and Luiz at the back but, in truth, any combo out of Holding, Luiz, Mari and Gabriel would not surprise me.
The EL may be our priority, but maintaining momentum in the Premier League is also important, if only for the psychological boost it will give us in the European competition.
Come On You Gunners!