Burnley v Arsenal: Are Mikel Arteta's side learning from mistakes? This game will reveal all...
If Arsenal are going to show they are improving under Mikel Arteta, the match against Burnley is a good time to start. Ethan Van Ristell explores why the Gunners have such a poor record against Sean Dyche’s side and how they could set up differently to combat their threat. Arsenal ended their losing streak against Norwich last weekend, while Burnley have collected just one point this campaign.
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta talks to Takehiro Tomiyasu during a training session
For Arsenal fans, it has been a week of relief. The Gunners’ 1-0 victory over Norwich last Saturday saw Mikel Arteta’s side secure their first Premier League points of the season, and it also meant that the north London club were no longer staring down the barrel at the foot of the table.
The butterflies may now be settling in once again, however, as the Gunners make the trip up to Lancashire to face off against a Burnley side that could be categorised a ‘bogey’ team of sorts in recent years for Arsenal.
The stats do not make for good reading. Arsenal have not won against the Clarets in their last three meetings - all of which have been whilst Arteta has been manager. Two draws, and one defeat, with just the one goal scored
To add some more context, when Burnley defeated Arsenal 1-0 at the Emirates in December 2020, Sean Dyche’s side won fifteen more aerial duels than their opponents. It is no surprise that Arteta believes Turf Moor is “one of the toughest places to go in the Premier League.”
“Obviously it is going to be a completely different game than when we played against Norwich because of their qualities and the game they propose,” Arteta said in his pre-match press conference.
So how can Arsenal learn from previous mistakes against a side that likes to be direct, win aerial duels, and sit behind the ball in their 4-4-2 shape? One thing for certain is it will have to be a better performance from Arsenal than we saw against Brentford.
That day, Arteta’s side were extremely below par defensively in the air. Thomas Frank identified it as one way to gain a stronghold in the game beforehand, and his plan worked.
Brentford’s second goal highlighted it - the ball was delivered into the box via a long throw from Mads Sorensen, which was allowed to bounce freely over everyone before midfielder Christian Norgaard put away an easy free header at the back post.
BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Ben White of Arsenal challenges Ivan Toney of Brentford during the Premier League match between Brentford and Arsenal at Brentford Community Stadium on August 13, 2021 in Brentford, England. (Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arse
Image credit: Eurosport
Question marks about £50 million man Ben White’s aerial ability started to arise, and now it is up to Arteta to decide whether he wants to put him up against Chris Wood, who can be a handful.
If White is not selected, Takehiro Tomiyasu could be the key player that Arsenal are looking for here, especially considering his versatility.
The 22-year-old had a great debut against Norwich, winning the most aerial duels on the pitch, with seven. That is impressive, considering he was deployed as an inverted full-back for the majority of his time on the pitch, and has not had much time to adapt to how his new side play.
To counter Burnley’s aerial prowess, selecting the Japan international to play on the right side of central defence - where he is also capable of filling in - could be a viable option.
Another sticking point is the choice of formation Arteta could go with. Against Norwich, the Arsenal manager made a tactical tweak just after the hour, shifting from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 shape. It worked - the Gunners broke the deadlock four minutes later through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The switch saw the Gunners look more accomplished in the final third, and it could be the way to break down a Burnley side who often opt for a low-block out of possession. Regardless of the tactical choices that Arteta decides to make, the most important point here is that Arsenal have to show in this game that they are progressing on the pitch.
If not, the exit door could be looming for Arteta.