Our man in position
Can Arsenal begin an important week with victory?
A home defeat against Burnley in December – courtesy of Granit Xhaka’s brainless sending off and a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang own goal – was the low point of Arsenal’s season and raised the spectre of a relegation battle. That was always a fanciful prospect, but things have improved considerably for Mikel Arteta’s team since Christmas.
Only the two Manchester clubs and West Ham have won more Premier League points than Arsenal since Boxing Day, with the presence of Emile Smith Rowe, January signing Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka’s switch to the right offering them much needed creativity and technical presence between the lines. There has still been the odd slip-up, but in truth Arsenal deserved more than zero points from away trips to Aston Villa and Wolves. Despite losing to runaway leaders Manchester City a fortnight ago, the last few weeks have been positive: wins over Leeds United and Leicester City and progression beyond Benfica in the Europa League. They face Olympiacos in the next round on Thursday before a north London derby against Spurs.
Arsenal also have a fully fit squad, or as near as dammit with Smith Rowe facing a fitness test for some minor hip discomfort. That could prove telling against a stretched Burnley squad who were much more like their old selves against Leicester on Wednesday night. Sean Dyche could welcome back Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Robbie Brady but Jack Cork may miss out with a hamstring problem. The win at the Emirates in December was Burnley’s first over Arsenal in the Premier League but they are yet to beat them at Turf Moor despite some close run things. They will need a repeat of their Leicester performance rather than dreadful showings against 10-man West Brom and Tottenham.
Arsenal had a free week, and could welcome back Aubameyang, Saka, Thomas Partey, Hector Bellerin or Gabriel to the starting XI. Whichever team Arteta picks, Arsenal will have a very strong bench. Team news on the way shortly.