Arsenal v. Burnley Preview; Pesky Bees Want to Sting Arsenal Again

I've only got one thing on my mind

I've only got one thing on my mind

Arsenal are privileged to host a Burnley side who have harassed and kicked their way past Chelsea, Fulham, West Brom, Tottenham and (as we already know) Arsenal in cup ties this season. Burnley is a club that plays traditional English football which means that they takes cup runs very, very seriously play solid at the back, tackle hard, take their chances efficiently, and harass the midfield. Arsenal will need some steel to pry this match from their cold Lancashire hands.

When the Bees hosted a mostly first team Chelsea back in November, tempers flared and boiled to the point that Drogba lost his mind (it’s a small thing so it’s easy to lose) and not only gave Burnley supporters the finger, but even tossed a coin back into the crowd. It was a moment of madness, obviously, but indicative of how Burnley frustrate their opponents. Arsenal’s midfield will need to show composure and maturity if they are going to get past this club.

Against Chelsea, the Burnley defense weathered 22 shots while their offense managed just 4, but 4 was all they needed as they converted those few shots into the one goal that got them into extra time. Similarly against Arsenal in December, Burnley allowed Arsenal the lion’s share of possession and when presented with 7 chances converted them into 2 goals.

Compact, efficient, harassing, these will be some pesky bees indeed.

In December, Wenger had the excuse of playing children but he’ll have no such luxury this time out. Apart from first choice players Fabregas, Toure, and Adebayor, Arsenal have to be considered to have a full compliment of players. Wenger has already indicated that he will do some rotating; Fabianski will come in for Almunia and possibly seeking revenge for the 2-0 drubbing he took back in December. Arshavin is gaining match fitness and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t start since he is ineligible to play against Roma when Arsenal continue their Champions League campaign on Wednesday in Rome. Walcott is back and raring to go, look for him to come on in the 60th minute, possibly for Arshavin. Eduardo too has recovered from his hamstring injury but given Burnley’s style of play I’d be surprised if he gets a start — memories of the Taylor tackle will still be raw for the Crozillian and seeing the Burnley bullies bearing down on him might be too much. Wenger has to be aware of this and will more likely bring him on for van Persie if we need a goal late.

Of course that’s all guess work and one of the things that’s been “fun” about this season is waking up and seeing who Wenger will include in the lineup. I fully expect all of my logic to be upended and see some nutty lineup tomorrow.

Either way, Burnley are ready, with their boss Owen Coyle already plotting the post match handshake.

As hurtful as it would have been for him to lose in the Carling Cup Arsene Wenger was very complimentary and wished us well. I don’t think he will be wishing us well before the game on Sunday but I hope he is wishing us well after it. We are well aware Arsenal will have the bulk of possession and put us under pressure but I’m confident we can stand up to that. It is a different game on Sunday in that we are at the Emirates and they will have 55,000 behind them and we will have 5,000 but what a marvellous occasion to go and show you can play a bit.

I’m hoping that Arsenal show that they can play a bit as well.

Right, 6:30am (PST) kickoff and I’m going to be starting the live blog at 6:15am, so stop on by. See you tomorrow.

Let's get stuck in!

Beckham has a question for the teacher

Oh man, I love the Friday pre-match presser. Arsene Wenger, naked, in front of dozens of sports reporters who ask pointed questions… about other teams players… like Ronaldo

Fine, this is really two related issues: hard play and diving.¬† As for hard play I’ve talked about this before, every Arsenal blogger talked about this issue at one point or another, owing to the fact that Arsenal have probably suffered more than any at the hands of this English cultural phenomena. My argument, in essence, is that we need some hard play, but that some teams, like Bolton, when outclassed by their opponent are told by their managers and the fans to go out and “get stuck in:” intentionally tackle hard in order to disrupt play and make their opponent think twice about dribbling in to their area. Further, it’s a fact that when two teams of disparate quality come together the English referees manage the game differently. The clod-hoppers are allowed to challenge a little harder than the butterflies. After all, it’s expected that Sheffield United will come and kick Arsenal off the pitch but when we do it, it’s clearly intentional and retributive.

From grade school to the Premier League, English players are taught to play like this, English coaches coach like this, and English referees ref like this. Wenger has been on a 5 year mission to change this fact about English football and by all accounts has failed miserably. Yes, the game is a bit less rough than when he came in 12 years ago. But I could argue that that’s down to the fact that the Arsenal herself got less rough! Old heads know what I’m talking about: Patrick Vieira was no butterfly. Actually, what it’s down to is a bit of clamping down on the more cynical tactics that most defenders used to employ in order to try to align the Premier League more with the continent.

But this is Wenger’s thing right now, he wants every team to play beautiful technical football, and if asked about it will launch into a huge tirade. I think he needs to abandon this principle and bring in a Vieira type because after 5 years of trying this new, more technical football, Arsenal haven’t won shite. The reality is that you need some gritty players, guys who are going to go out and employ the dark arts. Not all the time, but when the time comes, you’ll know it. Like whenever Kevin Davies is on the pitch: one good tackle and that fucking clod-hopper will be put in his place.

The other thing, the comment about Ronaldo and how he invites hard play because he’s such a ponce, well, yeah. DUH. It’s true. I wrote about this¬† issue after the Hleb/Murty incident. And again, the essence of the argument goes like this: I hate to see players “make a meal” of contact. When 140 lb Hleb “struck” Murty he fell to the ground like he had been hit by Mike Tyson. When Cesc was brushed by Arteta’s elbow he went to ground as if he’d had his eye socket collapsed. etc. etc. You all know what I’m talking about and it’s one of the most infuriating aspects of modern football. Can you imagine Tony Adams pulling a Murty? Hell no, he’d be more likely to bide his time, wait for the perfect moment and take Hleb out with a well timed slide tackle. Then stand over him and say “keep your hands to yourself, son.”

Given his history of histrionics and admission that “when I feel contact I go down” Ronaldo is the poster child for this type of feigning injury douche baggery and Wenger points that out. Yes, Taylor’s arm struck Ronaldo on the shoulder, and that should have been a yellow, or maybe a retroactive red. But watching Ronaldo slumped over by the hoardings, grasping his face as if he’d been kicked in the face is a disgrace on the modern game.

He’s play acting, he’s faking, HE’S CHEATING.

I don’t know how you stamp this sort of thing out, maybe have after match reviews and fine players who are clearly feigning injury for bringing the game into disrepute (Eb*ue).

Or… maybe we just let the hard tacklers have at them and call it a wash?

Anyway, Burnley on Sunday and it’s a 6:30am kickoff, live on Fox Soccer Channel, which means sausages and skivvy’s and liveblogging for me, you have to tune in for that.

Match preview tomorrow, if you’re in to that sort of thing. See you then!