Win at Turf Moor this afternoon and the job is properly done. Add three points to those from the north London derby and one hand is on the Fourth Place Trophy.
The only problem with that theory is November. We never win in the eleventh month of the year is the received wisdom – a bit like Harry Kane never scoring in August. Maybe we should rechristen it ‘Lovember’? Chortle.
With only Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla on the injured list, there’s no reason to change last weekend’s line-up:
Cech; Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Bellerin, Ramsey, Xhaka, Kolasinac; Sanchez, Özil; Lacazette
Unless of course, Wenger suspects the level of intensity displayed will drop. I expect it to; Burnley, god bless ’em, don’t stir the same level of animosity as Tottenham but we need to internalise that and raise them to that level.
At some point, I will patronise the Clarets for their performances thus far; I might as well get it out of the way early doors. They sit higher in the table now they expected to be and with just two defeats, it’s a position they deserve to occupy. No ifs or buts, that’s just how it is.
Three wins, three draws and one defeat in all competitions at Turf Moor – I’m being generous since Leeds was technically a defeat but it was on penalties, and I feel like being generous – is not dissimilar to the form which kept them up last year. Away from home is where the vast improvement is seen and for that reason, I don’t think we can take them lightly. Mix it together, and Burnley are in decent form. One defeat since mid-August underlines that.
But we’re the Arsenal. We only had to turn up in Cologne and the fruits of success were ours to taste. Except we didn’t turn up. I’d argue that shouldn’t impact today; the XI will be eleven different players. However, I expected some ‘bounce’ from beating Tottenham. It never came so I’m a bit wary of saying that losing on Thursday to a team everyone else is beating, won’t impact.
Tales of the Unexpected
Arsène is well aware that Burnley pose a different problem from Tottenham.
“Every game gives you a different problem to sort out, for you to find a strategic solution to be efficient. Against Burnley, that will be different. They are a team who maybe play a bit deeper than Tottenham because they have a strong defensive efficiency.
“You have to keep your nerve, even if you have the ball, to be calm and accurate. You have to be defensively strong as well because they are very efficient going forward.
“Burnley are the most unexpected team to be there with 22 points. You cannot deny that, of course. But if you analyse our games physically, we have been strong physically since the start of the season.”
Sean Dyche, the Phoenix Nights bouncer with a Gruffalo voicebox, has yet to be mentioned as a successor to Arsène but it’s only a matter of time. He should beware; when that happens, managerial careers tend to drop off the edge of a cliff. It’s Wenger’s equivalent of Aaron Ramsey’s killing off celebrities.
It sounds as if Arsène is expecting us to be the home side. Last year’s dull performance, scraping a controversial winner, sounds a klaxon loudly in my head. We were crap, there’s no other way to put it.
But we won and that is the Arsenal conundrum; we demand to win and play well, an impossibly high bar unless you are challenging for the title.
Hits or Myths
We aren’t, and are some way off doing that. The myth of Wengerball feeds the demand as well. We win with style, playing football the ‘right’ way. It’s very much an opinion-based demand since I’d argue we’re too direct to play Wengerball nowadays.
And lack the ‘technician’ in the midfield fulcrum to do so. Our driving force isn’t the mazy runs of Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere but the pairing of Ramsey and Xhaka. The only dribbles which are natural to the Welshman are those of his son. It’s not his game and nor should it be expected of him.
Over at Dad’s Jukebox, there’s a new post ready to go with the Records of the Past Few Weeks about to hit the airwaves. Check that out after mid-day and pass a pleasant hour or so in the build-up to this afternoon’s game.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.