Last updated & checked: 10/08/2021
Saturday lunchtime’s game brings together two sides who got their Premier League seasons off to a winning start last week, with Burnley arriving at the Emirates off the back of a 3-0 trouncing of Southampton. The Clarets are rewarded for sticking with boss Sean Dyche after a more troubled start to the 2018/19 season – they ended up comfortably avoiding relegation and have strengthened intelligently this summer.
Their hosts this weekend were thought to have had a budget in the £40million region for reinforcements, but this soon proved to be wide of the mark when they spent almost twice that on Lille attacker, and took their spending into the £100million+ category by adding Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney and Chelsea’s marauding centre-half David Luiz. Pepe is likely to make a full debut here, but with Tierney injured, and in light of a solid defensive performance from their existing back four last week, the Frenchman may be the only new face to start.
Arsenal vs Burnley Prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley
Looking at this game from a detached perspective, it would be easy to say that Burnley are just the type of side that Arsenal will have trouble with. The Clarets’ rough-housing, hard-working approach against the fancy, aesthetic but ultimately fragile approach of the London side? Surely a Gunners fan’s worst nightmare. However, the clubs have played ten times in the Premier League, and Burnley have taken just one point from the possible thirty – and that was in 2009. For sure, they’ll give their opponents a game here, but let’s not get drawn in by what the cliches tell us should happen: Arsenal, at home, should have enough to win this one.
Our recommended tip: Ashley Barnes to score
Regardless of whether Burnley can pick up a point or more here, the opening weekend of the Premier League brought some long overdue credit for their striker Ashley Barnes. The Clarets forward scored twice and gave the Southampton rearguard not a moment of peace, and Dyche will give him licence to do precisely the same against Arsenal. With Betfair rating his chances of notching at 7/2, it’s worth having a punt on Barnes to score at any point in the game, given his capacity to battle defenders for the full 90 minutes.
As noted above, the tale of the tape between these sides is surprisingly imbalanced in favour of Arsenal, who have won all six meetings since Burnley returned to the top flight in 2016. Last season, both matches ended 3-1 to the Gunners, with the Emirates meeting coming just before Christmas. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored on 14 and then 48 minutes, before Barnes pulled one back on 63. In time added on, Alex Iwobi sealed the win.
At Turf Moor on the final day of the season, the game followed an eerily similar pattern – Aubameyang firing the visitors into a 2-0 lead (52 and 63) before Barnes (65) narrowed the gap. This time, Arsenal youngster Eddie Nketiah (90+4) applied the late coup de grace.
Top 3 Premier League Bookies
Players to watch: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang & Ashley Barnes
When Arsenal paid the transfer fee to bring Gabonese international forward Aubameyang to London, it came with heavy caveats from pundits. The received wisdom was that he might score goals, but he’d bring a bad attitude and go missing in games too often. So far, in 66 games for the club, “Auba” has scored 42 goals and shown little sign of that perceived negative influence across his eighteen months at the Emirates. In tandem with fellow striker Alex Lacazzette and now Pepe, the striker is a big threat in the final third, as underlined by his winning goal at Newcastle last week.
While undoubtedly a different type of striker to Aubameyang, Ashley Barnes is every bit as essential to his side, and also an unfairly maligned player. Often, to read his write-ups, you’d assume that the former Plymouth man was an uncomplicated battering-ram, little more than a forehead on a stick. His two goals against Southampton – one a calm finish after a defensive error, the other a first-time volley – demonstrate that he’s much more than that (while also, admittedly, being able to give defenders a hard time physically).