Arsenal’s mission to become only the second team to win the FA Cup in three successive years continues with a fourth round tie at home to Championship high-fliers Burnley this weekend (3pm Saturday).
Arsenal missed the chance to return to the top of the Premier League table by falling to a 1-0 defeat at home to London rivals Chelsea in their last encounter. That loss made it three games without a win in the top flight. A return of just two points from the last nine available is a disappointing one for a side who are looking to claim their first title since 2004. With Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and leaders Leicester City also in contention for the crown, Arsenal have a real fight on their hands to become champions of England for the 14th time in their history.
The Premier League remains Arsenal’s priority this year, but Arsene Wenger and the club’s supporters will also be desperate to add another FA Cup to the trophy cabinet. Despite falling behind in their third round clash with Sunderland earlier this month, Arsenal came back to win 3-1 thanks to goals from Joel Campbell, Aaron Ramsey (pictured) and Olivier Giroud. The Gunners’ strength in depth allowed Wenger the opportunity to rotate his side during that match, with the Frenchman likely to do the same on Saturday in the knowledge that he will still be able to field an excellent starting XI.
Burnley will not be easy opponents, however, with Sean Dyche’s side aiming for promotion back to the Premier League following their one-season stay last time out. The Clarets are fourth in the Championship following their terrific 4-1 thrashing of Derby Country on Monday night, with Burnley now having collected 13 points from the last 15 on offer. They are now just five points adrift of Hull City at the summit of the standings, with Middlesbrough four ahead in the second and final automatic promotion spot.
Dyche’s side are well-coached and well-organised, much as they were in the Premier League in 2014/15. They play with energy and dynamism and will not be daunted by Arsenal or the Emirates Stadium, although suffering defeat to the north Londoners twice (1-0 at Turf Moor and 3-0 in the capital) in the top tier with a stronger team last season would suggest that the Gunners will not find it too difficult to record another victory on Saturday afternoon.
Arsenal are still without midfielders Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere and striker Danny Welbeck, with Per Mertesacker also sidelined for this encounter after being sent off in the defeat to Chelsea. Tomas Rosicky and Francis Coquelin could both make an appearance on Saturday, though, with both men now training again after their respective knee injuries.
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Alexis Sanchez returned to the fold as a substitute last weekend and is in line to be handed his first start since the 1-1 draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road in November. Gabriel, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide are among the fringe players hoping to be included in Wenger’s XI.
Burnley, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon the services of Ashley Barnes, Matt Gilks and Lukas Jutkiewicz, who are all out injured. In other news, former Leeds United, Tottenham and England goalkeeper Paul Robinson could make his debut for the Clarets after signing for the club earlier this week.
Arsenal should prove too strong for their Championship opponents, although Burnley are good enough to punish Wenger’s side if they are excessively complacent. Having said that, it is difficult to envisage a situation where Arsenal do not triumph and advance to the fourth round of the competition that they have won more often than any other team.