Today’s blog will be a very quick Burnley preview because I don’t know how much you can really say about a game against Burnley.
The expectation is three points, not unreasonable when you’re at home against the team propping up the league. I don’t know exactly what kind of team we’re going to put out today, but assuming there aren’t any adverse reactions to the game on Thursday, I imagine it’ll be something very close to the same XI.
There’s no Thomas Partey after his red card against Liverpool, and there’s no Granit Xhaka after his red card against Liverpool, so midfield remains the area of the pitch without much depth. However, I thought Martin Odegaard was very good on Thursday, and if we see a sharper, less rusty Emile Smith Rowe, and Bukayo Saka more on his game, then things should function better.
I don’t take anything for granted today though. In truth, January has been a miserable month in terms of results. There was encouragement from the way we played against Man City, but ultimately we earned nothing tangible from it. Similarly, the 10 man display against Liverpool was something we can take heart from, but in the end we didn’t make it to the Carabao Cup final. In the middle of all that was a horrible performance against Nottingham Forest which saw us crash out of the FA Cup. I know there have been some mitigating factors but it’s time we got ourselves out of this little funk we’re in, and today is when it needs to happen.
It’s one big push before we have this little break, a chance to recuperate and recharge some batteries. Then there’s a warm weather training camp in Dubai, apparently, and hopefully by the next time we play the squad will be physically better and augmented with some quality and depth via the transfer market (as well as a couple more back from AFCON).
Today though, we have to dig in and beat a side who, despite being bottom of the league, will be up for the fight, as we know they always are. Relegation would be a disaster, so nothing will come easy today. It does look as if they have some issues with injury, there’s no Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood was sold to Newcastle, so the long-held tactic of lumping it to two big lumps up front might have to be tweaked.
The key is what we do though. Making more chances, being more efficient with the ones we have, and playing in a way which tests them defensively. This isn’t a side which is going to play a high line, so some presence at centre forward is going to be necessary, and then hopefully the precision of Odegaard, and something from Smith Rowe, Saka and Martinelli in terms of goal threat, will be enough for us today.
Let’s hope so. Even with our various problems, anything less than 3 points today – as some of the teams around us continue to pick up wins – will be a massive disappointment and just not good enough.
Catch you later for the game.