The talk on some of the bigger Arsenal blogs and indeed on the lips of Arsene Wenger himself, has been of respect going into this tricky FA Cup tie.
On paper, it’s a no brainer. Arsenal should walk in in Turf Moor, smash Burnley and drive home to get ready to face Tottenham. But football isn’t won on paper, and it isn’t based on theory.
So Arsenal can expect to find a tough physical challenge when they kick off at 2:00PM on Sunday. Fear not, readers, I’m not saying that Arsenal will go there and get beat.
Burnley are in the middle of a crisis on the field. They are without a win since December 8th, when they beat Wolves away from home in a thrilling 3-2 win. Astonishingly, you have to go all the way back to October to find Burnley’s last home win. That was a 2-1 win over Norwich, when they were 2-0 up after 5 minutes, and spent the majority of the game under pressure.
Arsenal, however, have won all but one of their home games this season. Manchester United claimed a point in a 2-2 draw. Chelsea and Tottenham are just two of the most recent teams to fall short at The Grove. However, what we need to look at more is Arsenal’s away form.
The Gunners have won 2 of their last 3 away games. A 10 man, second string Arsenal team saw off Blackburn’s first team 3-2 in the Carling Cup. A 0-0 draw at Portsmouth followed before The Arsenal smashed Everton 4-1. Ok, 4-1 was harsh, but it sounds good.
Arsene Wenger will field Kolo Toure and Manu Eboue for the last time for around 2 months. The two jet off for the ACN tomorrow, with the tournament lasting 6 weeks, but Arsene will give them both time off to recover when they return.
Burnley manager Owen Coyle believes that there could be no better game for Burnley to bounce back from a dissapointing period than a game against Arsenal: ‘It’s important we bounce back and bounce back quickly,’ Coyle told Burnley’s official website.
‘Whether the 11th game in five weeks at Blackpool was one game too many I don’t really know.
‘I think the players knew, individually and collectively that we had let everyone down, and that’s not a particularly nice feeling.
‘But chances to bounce back don’t really come any better than Arsenal in the cup.
‘We’ve now got the opportunity to give them something to shout about against a team that are arguably the best in Europe.
‘That would be a great tonic for everybody. They don’t come any tougher, but it’s live to the nation and we want to go and show that we are a good team with good players that can hurt Arsenal if they play to their maximum.
‘Equally, they have a few who can cause us problems, so we need to make sure we’re totally concentrated and look to give of our best.’
As I said before, Respect is a word Arsene Wenger used in his pre-match press confrence. The Arsenal manager always respects his opponesnts, and he certainly respects the FA Cup. This is what the Arsenal manager had to say about the match: ‘We have to respect Burnley,.
‘The side we take up will have to play at their best because if you give them a chance they certainly have enough quality to take it.
‘They have Ade Akinbiyi, David Unsworth, Jon Harley and Graham Alexander. That’s many good Premier League players with experience.’
‘It’s not in conflict too much with the Premier League but more the Champions League.
‘That’s because of the number of replays positioned every time just in front of the Champions League games.
‘But we want to do well in the competition and we have a common desire to do well in every single competition we play in.
In fact, if you look at it, in the last 10 years nobody outside the top four has won this competition. And we are highly motivated to win it again.
‘So please, don’t expect us to sacrifice the FA Cup.”
Burnley Team News:
New loan signing Stanislav Varga could get his first start after joining from relegation troubled Sunderland. The 35 year old has had little plart to play under Roy Keane, and looks set to finish his career away from Sunderland.
FA Cup winner David Unsworth will be missing for the home side.
Former Gooner John Spicer returns after serving a ban, along with Joey Gudjohnson.
However, Alan Mahon and Clarke Carlisle are both likely to miss out through injury.
Player to watch: Andy Gray
The 31-year-old, 6’1′ striker has netted 13 goals in the first half of the season. He’s a very physical presence up front. I’ll find it interesting to see how Toure and Gallas deal with him.
Arsenal Team News:
Adebayor is rested/injured, while Clichy, Fabregas and Hleb will all be given the weekend off after a tough Festive schedule.
Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann could be playing his last game for Arsenal when he starts between the sticks. If it does turn out to be his last match, I’d like to thank jens for all his outstnading performances in an Arsenal shirt, and all the great memories we’ve enjoyed during his time here.
Back to the match… Bendtner returns for Arsenal after serving a one-match ban. He’s almost certin to start alongside Eduardo, who has impressed in recent weeks.
There is still a doubt over the fitness of Theo Walcott. Arsene Wenger will want the Englishman fit with Eboue away for 2 months, so he might not be risked.
Player to watch: Jens Lehmann
With this possibly his last game, he’ll want to go out with a bang. Hopefully, that bang wont come from a shotgun he’s hidden in his shorts.
He’s been a loyal servant for Arsenal, and will be as professional as ever.
I’m going for a comfortable Arsenal win. Burnley will give 110% for as long as they can, but Arsenal’s supreme fitness will be telling. 5-0 to The Arsenal.
Bendtner (2), Eduardo (2) and Denilson.