What a Saturday that turned out to be. Liverpool beaten and there were draws for Manchester United, Manchester City, and the neighbours from Middlesex. I only watched two matches, at Stoke and the Emptihad, and in both matches massive penalty shouts were denied by officials who must surely have seen them. Enough of that, other than to say my well-known view on the standard of refereeing in the Premier League has not improved today.
All of which means we have an outstanding opportunity to reclaim second place in the Premier League with a home win against Burnley in the second of three Sunday fixtures. To do so may require a better first-half than we have produced for a while now. Our slow starting threatens to take root, and this is not the Burnley team that went straight back down to the Championship two seasons ago.
The Clarets were in the top half of the table until today, mainly thanks to their excellent home form. Only Swansea on the opening day of the season and ourselves a couple of months later have claimed all three points at Turf Moor. On the road they have been consistent too, but in the opposite way. One draw and just three goals scored suggests a degree of travel sickness. Those three goals came at Southampton, Tottenham, and Manchester City, interestingly. The draw was at Old Trafford. Let’s not be complacent.
For the visitors Marney, Barnes and Gudmundsson could be available after missing their midweek FA Cup win through injury, but Arfield looks likely to miss a third successive game with a hamstring problem. It’s also likely that recent re-signing, the odious Barton, will feature at some point. Referee Jon Moss was quick to send Granit Xhaka off for a stupid but trivial trip against Swansea, and makes his first return to the Grove since that day. His application of the laws will be under great scrutiny, particularly where the malicious Barton is involved.
The Arsenal welcome Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs, and Francis Coquelin back into the squad. The former is likely to reclaim his place from Gabriel and his attacking threat will be welcome against what is likely to be massed and organised defence from Burnley. Olivier Giroud has recovered from his ankle knock last week and given his current record, eleven goals in his last nine starts, it is hard to see any change from the midfield pairing and attacking quartet that ended up winning convincingly at Swansea.
The bench is starting to provide lots of quality options too if we need to break down a stubborn opponent. Lucas and Danny Welbeck provide striking alternatives, and the availability of the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs to inject some late pace, if needed, is an attractive prospect.
The ‘holic pound
Burnley’s away form and an attack that includes Giroud and Alexis would suggest a big home win. However our inability to get going from the off of late has me erring on the side of caution. The bookies have a 2-0 home win as favourite and I am not inclined to go against them. Grab the 13/2 at Paddy Power while it lasts as most others are going 11/2.
A win would put us in second place just five points behind Chelsea, if only briefly. The bus stop in Fulham plays host to relegation-threatened Hull City in the final match of the day. I’m not expecting that we will be the only winners in the top six this weekend, but we do have to take full advantage of others misfortune today.
So that’s it. There are a couple of birthday celebrations going on tomorrow as well, so it could be a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Have a great one, ‘holics.
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