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1819 burnley turf moor 04 1000x500Burnley will be playing Premier League football next season, and those are nine words I wasn’t confident I was going to be able to use to start my preview of the Arsenal game back at Christmas when we’d reached the half way stage of the season.

We thought things had been improving. We did well in games against Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal, without picking up a point wrapped around a much needed home win against Brighton. That was our pre-Christmas but the Everton defeat on Boxing Day shouted very loud and clear that we looked every bit a relegation outfit.

That performance was desperate and three days later it was a very different looking Burnley line up that played against and beat West Ham to lift the spirits ahead of the new year celebrations. We’ve hardly looked back since apart from a run of four defeats that started at Newcastle and that game was one of the very few where we’ve turned in a disappointing performance.

To be in such a mess at Christmas and to then go into the last three games of the season mathematically safe is some achievement. There have been some massive positives to come out of the second half of the season and none more so than the form of Ashley Westwood in midfield. Having lost his place to Steven Defour during the first half of the season, he’s been missing just once in the second half and that at Newcastle due to illness.

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Westwood said recently that he’d love to play at Burnley for the rest of his career and when interviewed this week, ahead of the Arsenal game, said: “It’s probably been the best season I’ve had since breaking into the team at Crewe. I think coming here I’ve found a real home and it suits my game. The gaffer has got me playing forward quicker and the front lads know my game inside out and I know theirs. I know what runs they’re making and it all fits at the minute, long may that continue.”

Speaking about the supporters, he added: “They support this team through thick and thin. They stuck with us when most fans wouldn’t and that shows the rapport we’ve got with the fans. It was Bournemouth away that really stuck out for me. The song they sang with my name; I’ve not had that since Crewe. Coming here I’ve found a real home and I thank them for that.”

What will the team be for the final game? Sean Dyche has confirmed an almost fully fit squad. Peter Crouch and Phil Bardsley are available as is Aaron Lennon, although Dyche admitted it would be unlikely Lennon would feature having had no game time since coming back. The one player who might not play is James Tarkowski whose partner has this week had a baby.

Arsenal will still have one more game to play after tomorrow when they travel to Baku to play Chelsea in the Europa League final, a competition we’ve long forgotten about.

In the league, they could still mathematically make the top four but it would be very unlikely. They would have tin win while Spurs lose and turn round an eight goal advantage Spurs have. They are currently fifth with a one point advantage over Manchester United and so could drop a place if they don’t win.

They are the only one of the top six clubs we haven’t beaten in the Premier League and we have to go back to the 1974/75 season for our last league win against them. That was a 1-0 win at Highbury with our goal scored by Peter Noble. The last home league win against them came in December 1973. We had to come back from behind after John Radford gave them an early lead before goals from Ray Hankin and Colin Waldron gave us a 2-1 win.

 

LAST TIME THEY WERE HERE

 

We didn’t think lightening could strike twice, or even three times, but that’s what happened when Arsenal visited the Turf last season. In the 2016/17 season we’d lost 1-0 to a controversial Laurent Koscielny goal in stoppage time at home and then the same player was allowed to win a penalty despite being offside in the return game at the Emirates which allowed them to score a late, late winner from the penalty spot.

Last season at home it was another stoppage time penalty that won it for the Gunners in a game where we’d been the better side. We dominated the first half and then came storming back in the second after Arsenal had initially enjoyed the upper hand.

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It was a soft penalty for an apparent push by James Tarkowski. Even Ian Wright, who is so very pro Arsenal, admitted: “Arsène wouldn’t have been happy if that had been given at the other end.” I’m absolutely certain it wouldn’t have been given at the other end.

And so another defeat, and our 1-1 home draw against them in 2009/10 remains the only Premier League point we’ve won against them.

The teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Matt Lowton, James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Steven Defour (Chris Wood 78), Jack Cork, Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Ashley Barnes. Subs not used: Anders Lindegaard, Phil Bardsley, Kevin Long, Ashley Westwood, Scott Arfield, Sam Vokes.

Arsenal: Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, Hector Bellerin, Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, Saed Kolasinac, Alexis Sánchez, Alexandre Lacazette (Danny Welbeck 79), Alex Iwobi (Jack Wilshere 67). Subs not used: David Ospina, Per Mertesacker, Francis Coquelin, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Olivier Giroud.

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