Premier League 17/18 Week 37: Arsenal vs Burnley – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Arsenal look to bounce back from European heartbreak against a Clarets side aiming to snatch their 6th-placed position
16:30 BST, Sunday 6th May, Emirates Stadium (London, England)
Arsene Wenger now knows his final season will end empty-handed after Atlético Madrid prevented them reaching the Europa final. With only 270 minutes of his 22-year Arsenal career remaining, Wenger will hope to shake the disappointment from his players and leave the fans with some final happy memories. As the 606th and final game on Gunners home turf, it will surely prove to be an emotional day for the French manager.
Looking to spoil the party is Sean Dyche, a no-nonsense manager who will not allow sentimentality to cloud his team’s plight. Trailing the Gunners by 3 points, this game offers Burnley their best chance of being able to wrestle 6th position from Arsenal’s grip. While Arsenal have a game-in-hand and a significant advantage through goal difference, a win for Burnley could have a demoralising impact on Arsenal which could leave the door ajar for them going into next weekend’s final match.
Last Time Out
Atlético Madrid 1-0 Arsenal [agg 2-1] (Europa League)
The Gunners could not overcome a stubborn Spanish side while a familiar face came back to haunt them. The Wanda Metropolitano was never likely to be a forgiving venue but Arsenal fell upon a harsh reality in their semifinal.
Arsenal suffered at both ends of the pitch as they were guilty of missing good chances and defensive naivety which saw the home side triumph. It was Diego Costa that provided the killer blow to the Gunners hopes, afforded too much space from an angled through-ball from Antoine Griezmann before easily brushing aside his marker to smash the ball past David Ospina.
There were several good chances for Arsenal to get onto the scoreboard, however, Madrid’s defence was everything that Arsenal’s weren’t. A serious injury to Laurent Koscielny further marred the evening which left Wenger broken at the final whistle.
Burnley 0-0 Brighton (Premier League)
In a match that was tainted by the home fans inexcusable behaviour towards Brighton left-back Gaëtan Bong, Burnley struggled towards a hard-earned point against the Seagulls. Brighton enjoyed more possession in this game but neither team created very many opportunities to score in a game in which both sides cancelled each other out.
Burnley saw two penalty appeals waved away in the first half, both of which for hand-balls that were more ball-to-hand than anything untoward. The second half put the Clarets onto a back-foot as a Brighton team striving to draw clear of relegation took the imitative in the game. The Defensive capabilities for which Burnley have become renowned for came to the fore and Dyche’s men hung on to claim what was remarkably their first clean sheet in 9 attempts.
Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) has been ruled out for several months and will miss this match along with Mohamed Elneny (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles), the latter of which is now close to making a return but still highly unlikely to start this week. Wenger should again opt to bring in several changes after the short time since his team played their last game in Spain, possibly resulting in the same lineup which he used against Manchester United.
Chris Wood (foot) joins Ben Mee (shin) Steven Defour (knee) Scott Arfield (calf) Robbie Brady (knee) and Jonathan Walters (knee) who are all unavailable for this game. This could see the return of either Sam Vokes in attack or Jeff Hendrick to bolster the midfield.
Key Battle: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) vs Kevin Long (Burnley)
After being cup-tied from the European game in mid-week, Aubameyang will return to lead the Gunners attack this weekend. In his 10 appearances since moving to London, the forward has already been directly involved in 9 goals (scored 3, assisted 6) to make an instant impact at the club. Facing one of the most organised and disciplined defences in the league, his threat will be vital to his new team if they’re to break down the Clarets and come away from the game with all 3 points.
Looking to keep him at bay is a stand-in central defender who has become a regular part of Sean Dyche’s team this year. Long has had mixed fortunes in Burnley’s backline but was one of the best players on the pitch against Brighton last weekend. This weekend will see a more refined and deadly attack and Long will need to maintain his impressive standards faced with one of the top strikers in the game.
The long goodbye
There are many memories, happy and otherwise, which Wenger will leave behind when he clears his desk later this month. Irrespective of how some sections of Arsenal’s fan base view their manager, nobody can cast any doubt over the fact Wenger has only ever wanted what’s best for the club. While some of his ideologies may have been misguided, nobody can be correct all the time, especially throughout a career which spans 22 years.
The final match on home soil has been a long-time coming for Wenger but it’s finally upon us. For 90 minutes the French manager will put all thoughts of this and any personal attachments and emotions to the back of his head as his team do battle with Burnley. When the final whistle signals the match as over, the reality of the situation is likely to dawn heavily on fans and manager alike that a change to what has become Arsenal’s natural order is soon coming.
A blessing or a curse
Everton’s failure to beat Southampton yesterday evening sealed Burnley’s 51-year wait to return to European competition. Their guaranteed 7th position will enter them into the qualifying stages of the Europa league which are scheduled to begin in late July. As this comes weeks before the Premier League’s opening weekend and hot on the heels of the summer’s World Cup, it will leave little room for time off amongst the Burnley squad.
While taking 6th position from Arsenal remains a slim possibility, it would also mean direct entry into the Europa League and avoidance of the qualifiers. Either way, it will prove to be a long season for Burnley’s players during their next campaign, a problem which tempts with glory but has cast many a team before them upon the rocks of fatigue and under-achievement.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley
The young squad fielded against Manchester United by Wenger gave huge belief for the Gunners future and it could well come to the fore again this weekend against the Clarets. This match will throw up drama in a typical Arsenal way, however, the occasion should carry the Gunners to victory over a Burnley side who will provide stern opposition.
(Photo Credit: Reuters/Matthew Childs)