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arsenal-1000x500We’ll once again tomorrow be looking to make a big improvement on our away record this season but it couldn’t be a much tougher assignment as we face an Arsenal side who are currently fourth in the table.

It’s an away game against one of the bigger clubs in the division and in over two and a half years in the Premier League we’ve failed to win any of these games and have been beaten on both our previous league visits to the Emirates.

But we are capable of getting results. We’ve twice drawn at Manchester City, drew at Chelsea just under two years ago and earlier this season our solitary away point to date came at Old Trafford against Manchester United.

It seems the match previews can now be split into two. For home games there is lots of confidence with us having secured more home wins in a top flight season since 1974/75 but away from home, with eight defeats in nine games, it is one of little expectancy.

I think if anyone had told me that by 21st January we would only have one point on the road I would have expected us to be doomed to an almost certain relegation, but it’s anything but that and surely we can go with some confidence tomorrow no matter how difficult a game it is likely to be.

I was listening to former West Brom and Reading manager Steve Clarke this week. He was asked about the difference between our home and away form and he said we defend deep, as you would expect, on the road and leave our forward players isolated. He then went on to suggest that in our position we could not perhaps afford to gamble a bit when we play away from Turf Moor.

When we left the London Stadium last month after the 1-0 defeat against West Ham, our discussions led to us believing that the away points were getting closer. The only problem was that the next three away games were at Tottenham, Manchester City and Arsenal. We’ve lost two of those already but undoubtedly the performances have been better and I am convinced that first away win is not too far away.

Midfielder Jeff Hendrick, who missed the Sunderland Premier League game through suspension has been an influence in our recent good home results and better away performances. He said: “I feel I’m playing with a lot of confidence. It is a great thing to have.”

He’s settled in well at Burnley since signing on the last day of the summer transfer window, and added: “I’m loving playing here with this group of lads and for the staff. I’ve enjoyed the games I’ve played in and I think I’m getting better as the games go on.”

He’s scored a couple of goals too, including the spectacular opener against Bournemouth which has led to us winning four successive home games in the league. “We’ve got to kick on and keep putting in those performance and getting as many points as we can,” he said.

“We’ve worked so hard to get into the position we’re in and we’ve got to keep going. I don’t think there’s anyone in that group will take their foot off the gas, which is a brilliant thing. We’ll keep fighting and working hard every day. We’ve set goals this year and we’ve got to make sure we achieve them.”

Since getting his first start at Leicester, he’s been in the side for every league game apart from the one against Sunderland and he’s played the full ninety minutes in all but one of those games, being replaced by Ashley Barnes who came on to score the winner against Crystal Palace.

It would be a big surprise if he weren’t to play tomorrow with Sean Dyche likely to have Johann Berg Gudmundsson back from injury along with Dean Marney and Barnes who were both ruled out of the cup win this week. Scott Arfield, however, is likely to remain out after suffering a hamstring injury in the first cup game at Sunderland.

I don’t think there will be many changes from the side that played against Southampton last week and if Marney and Barnes are fit it could be the same eleven who start. If so, we will line up: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, Ashley Barnes, Andre Gray. Subs from: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, Tendayi Darikwa, James Tarkowski, Joey Barton, Michael Kightly, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Sam Vokes.

It’s a typical Arsenal season again. They are right up there knowing a win against us will take them second but right now Chelsea sit eight points clear of them and they face Hull tomorrow.

This season it looks as though it could be any four from six for the Champions League places. It’s almost a case of Arsenal always being there as they’ve been for years but that’s not been good enough for some of their supporters who are somewhat concerned that the title has not gone their way since 2004 back when they were at Highbury.

But there is no doubt they will provide very tough opposition tomorrow. Their home form is good with no defeats in the last nine. They have lost at home this season on the opening weekend against Liverpool but since then only Middlesbrough and Tottenham have taken a point from the Emirates.

Only Liverpool have scored more goals than the 48 Arsenal have scored and the 22 they have conceded is only bettered by Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United. Their main goal threat this season has come from Alexis Sanchez with 14 in the Premier League and behind him are Theo Walcott with eight and Olivier Giroud with seven.

They’ve had a boost too with the injury situation with manager Arsène Wenger reporting that Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin and Kieran Gibbs are all back with the group and will be available for selection. Giroud is also back in training.

Per Mertersacker has begun training but he’s still a few weeks away while Walcott will not be available.

With those players back there could be changes from their last game, last week’s 4-0 win at Swansea. Then their team was: Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Gabriel, Nacho Monreal, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud. Subs: David Ospina, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lucas Perez, Rob Holding, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Danny Welbeck.

 

LAST TIME WE WERE THERE

 

The Clarets were in a more difficult position than we are now last time we faced Arsenal at the Emirates in the Premier League. It was the 10th game of the 2014/15 season and we were still searching for our first win having drawn four and lost five of the previous games.

Sean Dyche made two changes from the team that had been beaten at home by Everton. Dean Marney returned from injury to partner David Jones in midfield with Scott Arfield displacing Michael Kightly on the left hand side.

That one wasn’t a surprise; Marvin Sordell coming in for Lukas Jutkiewicz probably was as Dyche went for a system with Danny Ings dropping deep and Sordell playing as a lone striker.

Without ever being on top, we did well in the first half other than getting away with a handball in the box that, had it been given, would have seen George Boyd get a second yellow card. Things didn’t change to much for some 25 minutes or so in the second half, that was until Arsenal finally broke the deadlock.

Alexis Sanchez scored the goal and two minutes later Calum Chambers made it 2-0. The game was up for us then and Tom Heaton, who until that time had enjoyed a quiet afternoon, kept the score down with a series of saves, particularly denying Lukas Podolski who had come on as a late sub.

Just when we thought 2-0 was going to be it, Sanchez, who was superb, scored his second and Arsenal’s third and the defeat left us bottom of the league.

The teams were;

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny, Calum Chambers, Per Mertersacker, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs, Mikel Arteta (Aaron Ramsey 63), Mathieu Flamini, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Theo Walcott 80), Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Danny Welbeck (Lukas Podolski 80). Subs not used:  Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Tomas Rosicky, Yaya Sanogo.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Stephen Ward, George Boyd, Dean Marney (Nathaniel Chalobah 80), David Jones, Scott Arfield, Danny Ings, Marvin Sordell (Lukas Jutkiewicz 68). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Ross Wallace, Michael Kightly.

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