Scouting Report: Arsenal must stop Burnley’s second ball to secure Emirates victory
Arsenal only managed one away clean sheet in the entire 38 game campaign last season and troubles on the road were the biggest problem that derailed a possible a top-four finish.
Therefore, it would have been a great sight to behold that this season Arsenal were able to get an away clean sheet on matchday one at the stadium Jose Mourinho notoriously never won at – St. James’ Park.
The next test for Arsenal sees a return to the Emirates and a Burnley team that are flying high after an unprecedented 3-0 win against Southampton at Turf Moor.
In this new series, we will analyse Arsenal’s opponents, how they will look to hurt us and a possible way we could look to counter that.
Burnley’s art of the second ball
Sean Dyche’s team is a well-drilled unit that favour either a 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1 and will look to the likes of Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood to cause unrest in the Arsenal backline.
Against Southampton, Burnley used this to great effect and their strike force’s ability to win aerial duels and find teammates in close proximity allowed them to bypass the entire midfield battle but still create opportunities to score.
Cut off the supply
The likely candidates at centre-back for Arsenal (Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz or Mustafi) will likely lack the height and power to consistently dominate Wood or Barnes in the air but that may not matter.
Burnley’s ability to win the first ball only hurts Arsenal if they can then win the second ball – a possible idea to combat this would be to pin their wide midfielders back with our advanced wingbacks.
Away at the Emirates, there’s no way Burnley would risk allowing our wingers and wingbacks to get 2 vs 1 situations against the likes of Lowton or Pieters and because of that it’s likely that Guðmundsson and McNeil will be tasked with tracking Monreal and Maitland-Niles‘ forward runs.
Pinning their wide midfielders in their half gives Wood and Barnes little options for flick-ons and should mean we sweep up most of the first balls they win.
Creating space between the lines
Burnley defends in two banks of four and looks to keep them close enough together to stop spaces appearing between the lines that could hurt them.
They will attempt to make it so when we do attempt to pass the ball centrally they’ll have enough players around the ball to have a numerical advantage and try to win the ball back.
The midfield becomes congested and Burnley focus on forcing their opposition into wide areas where they can either win the ball back or force it backwards with a three-man press that cuts of lateral passing angles or forces crosses into the box where the likes of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski are more than comfortable dealing with aerial balls.
To combat this Arsenal will have to pull Burnley out of shape with either quick combination play or clever dribbling – the likes of Reiss Nelson and record signing Nicolas Pepe could potentially hurt Burnley with their pace and if they can take one or two Burnley players out of the game it will cause panic and hopefully create spaces for Arsenal to take advantage.
If Mesut Özil in included that could be a big plus, too as the German’s ability to hold a game in the opposition’s final third is unparalleled and a real feature of his repertoire – especially in home games.
Burnley’s main man – Ashley Barnes
It won’t be of any big surprise that Barnes will be their dangerman on Saturday and they’ll look to him to reproduce the kind of goal threat that saw him score twice in the 3-0 opening day win against Southampton and Arsenal will need to cut the supply lines into Barnes to stop him hurting us in the same way.
Barnes’ goal tally in the Premier League has steadily improved over the last three seasons – rising from six goals in 2016/17 to nine goals in 2017/18 and 12 goals in 2018/19 and with two goals already to his name he’ll be hungry to keep on improving.
Score prediction: 3-1 to The Arsenal
I believe that at home this new-look Arsenal squad will have what it takes for a convincing victory – the win against Newcastle showed a team that was able to pin a team back into their half for long periods, something that was a criticism of Emery’s team last season.
Another flaw in Arsenal last season was allowing opponents to constantly fire long balls into the space behind our advanced wing-backs but against Newcastle, our counter-press was good enough for that not to be a problem.
Winning this match has become more important as six points from our opening two games would give us some breathing room for the upcoming visit to Anfield against Liverpool before welcoming Spurs to The Emirates.