Burnley vs Arsenal Preview: Tough season-ending trip for Gunners
Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles goes down under a challenge from Burnley's Charlie Taylor during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Burnley FC at Emirates Stadium on December 22, 2018 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by David Shipman - CameraSport via Getty Images )

Burnley vs Arsenal Preview: Tough season-ending trip for Gunners

Arsenal, needing remarkable turn of events to finish fourth, may have already begun to focus on Europa League final 

dave-comerford
David Comerford

Arsenal are in need of a quite miraculous final-day turnaround if they are to snatch fourth place from their local rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

A draw at home to Brighton & Hove Albion last time out, following a run of three successive defeats, has left the Gunners in need of an eight-goal swing to ensure qualification for the Champions League.

In the likely event that this does not materialise, a place in Europe’s premier club competition will once again be up for grabs when they meet Chelsea in the Europa League Final at the end of the month.

They may already have one eye on that meeting in Baku, and perhaps that will present an opportunity for Burnley, who themselves have little to fight for except a shock three points.

Their recent draw at Stamford Bridge and the scare they gave league leaders Manchester City should serve as warnings to Unai Emery’s men.

Recent meetings

Arsenal ran out 3-1 victors when the two sides met at The Emirates in the final round of fixtures before Christmas.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double put the hosts in command, only for Ashley Barnes to make them sweat by clawing one back shortly after the hour mark. Alex Iwobi proceeded to make sure of the points in stoppage time.

There was a dramatic finish on the Londoners’ last visit to Turf Moor in November 2017 as Alexis Sanchez struck a 92nd-minute winner from the penalty spot.

Arsenal have won their last nine games against the Clarets, with Burnley last coming out on top in a League Cup clash in December 2008.

They might, however, take encouragement from Arsenal’s disappointing away form this season. They have won on only six of their 18 trips, drawing four and losing a further eight.

In all, Burnley have earned 23 points on their own patch, a point more than Arsenal have won on the road.

Players to watch

Arsenal’s main danger-man, as ever, is Aubameyang, who netted in a sizzling hat-trick in what many called his best performance for the club in the midweek win against Valencia.

The Gabonese forward goes into this one eyeing the Golden Boot. He is currently joint-second in the rankings, two behind Mohamed Salah, who may not start against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

One man who could prove a handful for Arsenal, as he did in December, is Barnes. He is Burnley’s top scorer this season with 11 goals and his physicality may prove a problem for a brittle defence.

They will also have to keep an eye on the exciting youngster Dwight McNeil, who will be looking to finish his breakthrough season with a flourish.

Team news

Hector Bellerin (knee), Rob Holding (ACL) and Denis Suarez (groin) remain absent for Arsenal, while Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) and Danny Welbeck (ankle) have played their last game for the club. Sead Kolasinac is a doubt after picking up a knock.

Burnley are without Aaron Lennon (knee) and Steven Defour (calf), while James Tarkowski could potentially a big miss in the heart of defence. He has missed recent training sessions following the birth of his daughter.

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