It’s Burnley at home today, the final game before we head into the Interlull, and a game we will be expected to win given how difficult today’s opposition have found it since they got promoted. Much like the Sheffield United fixture a few weeks ago though, I’m sure Mikel Arteta will be warning his players against any kind of complacency, because football is weird, and strange things can happen if you don’t have 100% focus at all times.
In terms of team news, there are doubts over Bukayo Saka who limped off on Wednesday night against Sevilla. At his press conference yesterday, the manager said:
B had to leave the pitch because he was in quite a lot of pain. He didn’t train yesterday and let’s see if he can make it tomorrow.
If you’re trying to read between the lines, he didn’t say he didn’t train ‘today’ (yesterday), so perhaps he’ll be ok for this one. He got a goal and an assist against Sevilla, a return to form after a couple of quiet games, so if there’s a chance I’m sure he’ll play. Then again, with international duty coming up, might Arsenal see this as a fixture they could manage without him, with the added benefit (perhaps) of him not going away with England to play games against Malta and North Macedonia – teams they should be able to cope with whether Saka is there or not.
If he does miss out, it seems like a straight choice between Reiss Nelson and Fabio Vieira to take his place. I think most options would sound a bit underwhelming compared to Saka, but there’s no question there’s a considerable drop-off to both of those guys. It’s an opportunity for one of them if Saka can’t play. Martin Odegaard is a ‘race’ to be available for today, certain protocols at play, and his return would be a nice boost – especially if we’re without Saka, Jesus etc.
Eddie Nketiah missed the midweek game because of an ankle knock, but was in the training pictures, so it looks like he’ll be available. That said, even though he scored a hat-trick against Sheffield United, I’d like to see Leandro Trossard continue up front. He was lively in the Champions League, our front three just feel a bit more connected with him in the middle, and maybe it’s just reward for him to keep his place after a good performance and a goal as well.
After that, if there’s a doubt over Takehiro Tomiyasu, Burnley at home feels very much like an Oleksandr Zinchenko game anyway, so we don’t have to take any risks in that regard. If there is a need for a closer/finisher sub later on, there’s always Jakub Kiwior who has acquitted himself well at left back for us in the past.
On today’s opposition, Arteta says:
Looking back on the games they have played and the results they’ve got, in some of them they merited much more than what they got. I don’t think it reflects actually what they deserved in games. But that is the difficulty of this league. Sometimes when you deserve more you don’t get it because the quality of the oppositions is so high. But the way they have transformed their way of playing, the club, and how they continue to play with the belief that they do, for me it’s remarkable.
How much they stick those principles remains to be seen today. When they faced Man City earlier in the season, they went with a back five, and by half-time they were 2-0 down, ending up the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline in the end. Vincent Kompany has shown some tactical flexibility this season, and we’ll have to just wait and see how they approach this one. I can’t imagine they’ll just sit in a low block, I don’t think they’ve got the defenders to be able to do that for 90 minutes, but I don’t think they’ll be gung-ho either. Otherwise we’ll eat up that space in behind. Let’s see.
As ever we’ll have live blog coverage for you, and all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News. There’s also a preview podcast to listen to now on Patreon, something to help you pass the time before the 3pm kick off.
Right, I’ll leave it there for, and catch you later for the game.