A week on from that stunning performance against Liverpool, the trip to Turf Moor this weekend poses a very different test.
The team couldn’t look more confident right now, and the squad is only getting stronger with players returning. The run since 2015 began has been much mentioned – since our loss at Southampton on 1st January we have won 10 of 11 Premier League games.
That run coincided with the return of key players Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud, with Aaron Ramsey close behind. And that’s not by chance:
“We took off in January, as we had nearly everybody available,” said Arsène Wenger in Thursday’s press conference.
The run has all but secured Champions League football for next season and we’ve moved above Manchester City into second place. Chelsea have a game in hand, and will have two games in hand by the time they play QPR on Sunday, but we could at least put a little more pressure on them – a win at Burnley would put us just four points behind.
A title charge is almost certainly too much to ask, but the signs are good ahead of next season.
The game against Burnley is a far tougher one than peoples seem to realise. Wenger certainly isn’t under any illusions:
“You have to be at their level of physical performance and then we want to produce our level of technical performance.”
As the manager suggests, we will have to earn the right to play on Saturday.
Burnley narrowly lost their home games against Chelsea and Liverpool this season, but also drew Manchester United back in September. Since then they have managed to leave Stamford Bridge with a point, and their last two home games have heralded a win and a draw against Manchester City and Tottenham respectively.
As widely reported, Tuesday night saw Mikel Arteta, Abou Diaby, Serge Gnabry and Jack Wilshere all feature at the Emirates Stadium for the u21 side in their 4-1 win over Stoke. Wenger confirmed that they all came through with no problems, and are available from now.
Mathieu Debuchy didn’t feature due to rules about fielding overage players, but is also ready to play. The Frenchman “is alright” but “lacks a bit of a competitive edge” – he’ll only get that by playing.
As of Thursday there was no clear indication whether Laurent Koscielny, who suffered an issue with his thigh and hip in the win over Liverpool, would be fit for the weekend. Wojciech Szczęsny missed that game, but could be fit again.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain still faces two weeks on the sidelines, but the squad is generally looking as healthy as it ever has.
Wenger will have to decide whether or not he’ll keep Aaron Ramsey out wide, or maybe bring in Danny Welbeck to move Ramsey inside in such a physical game.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Coquelin; Ramsey, Cazorla, Özil, Alexis; Giroud.
“Burnley are quite efficient at home, therefore we have to make sure we produce the expected performance.”
Burnley were somewhat unlucky not to follow up their win over Manchester City with one over Tottenham; Turf Moor is proving a difficult place to go for every side. They aren’t as bad as 19th suggests.
Six home games have ended in defeat for the Clarets so far this season, but half of those came before November.
Sean Dyche’s men will play a disciplined 4-4-2, but will by no means look to ‘park the bus’.
The game at Emirates Stadium in November saw us win 3-0, but the game was by no means straightforward.
The midfield four, like the back four, will largely keep their shape while strikers Danny Ings and Ashley Barnes/Sam Vokes look to put us under a lot of pressure. There won’t be any spaces between the lines at all – this is the sort of game we simply cannot afford to fall behind in.
Going forward Ings is the main threat. He has nine Premier League goals so far this season, adding to the 21 he scored in the Championship last term.
Vokes is very physical, while George Boyd and Ashley Barnes will join in from wide in the final third. Right-back Kieran Trippier has a dangerous delivery if given time and space.
After such a good draw last time out, Dyche will likely keep the same starting XI – he certainly isn’t one for chopping and changing.
Possible XI: Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Boyd, Arfield, Jones, Barnes; Vokes, Ings.
For just the 12th time in the history of the club, Arsenal have won seven consecutive Premier League games.
On a mere six occasions, that run has been extended to eight.
Still a very long way off the 14 consecutive wins which saw us clinch the title in 2001/02 (13 at the end of that season, with one to start 2002/03), but maybe that’s what the aim should be?
Winning the next seven would be a monumental task, but isn’t beyond us. We’re playing our best football in a long time and are very close to a fully fit squad.
Win at Burnley, make it eight, and keep that faint bit of hope alive.