Date: 15th December 2009 at 10:31am
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The Clarets face one of their toughest games of the season with high-flying third place Arsenal the visitors on Wednesday night. The Gunners are currently enjoying a good spell and will be buoyed by their defeat of Liverpool at Anfield last Sunday.

There is no doubt Arsene Wenger`s men will be confident of three points against Burnley and we have to hope that this is translated into over-confidence and that it will be their undoing. With the best will in the world looking at our current performances even on home soil, it is difficult to see the Clarets getting anything from this game and we will have to find that special Fortress Turf Moor factor and dig deep if victory is to be ours. We certainly won`t be climbing up the table if we play like we did against Fulham on Saturday and we need something special from somewhere to turn in a performance on the scale of the Manchester United match back in August . We also need a special effort from the Clarets fans; the atmosphere of late has been subdued and we need a sell-out crowd tonight in good voice cheering on the lads.

A victory would be absolutely stunning and see us on 21 points, putting us in excellent shape with Christmas coming up (traditionally a bad time for the Clarets) but all we can hope for is that we play out of our skins and can achieve another miracle.

Come on you Clarets!

Predicted Team Sheet

News is circulating that Martin Paterson (torn cartilage) and Jay Rodriguez (broken ankle) are both close to a full recovery and could be ready to play in the game against the Gunners giving Coyle a major selection headache up front.

Speaking about the good news over the weekend he said:

‘Come Monday I will have a few selection headaches but that’s what I want because I have got the quality to be able to make those decisions and we will address that for Wednesday.’

I suspect Arsenal will be a game too soon for Pato and Jay Rod with the smart betting suggesting that a return against Wolves or Bolton looks more on the cards. You never know though and Coyle might be tempted to put one of them on the bench for a little bit of psychology.

Too many players were under par against Fulham at Turf Moor this Saturday and I really do think it is time for Coyle to wring the changes. I am afraid Robbie Blake has not been up to scratch, certainly in the last couple of games and I think a spell on the bench will do him good. We can use him as an impact player if need be but it is time surely for Kevin McDonald to get his chance with a regular starting eleven place. Andre Bikey is another player who has looked lost in the last couple of games but that`s maybe because we have been swapping him about between the back four and midfield. On balance he probably deserves one more chance and I would prefer Blake to be dropped over Bikey should McDonald be given a start. McDonald was easily the Man of the Match against Pompey at Fratton Park and in my opinion should have started against Fulham. Kev will also be up for this one, remembering of course the brace he scored against the Young Gunners in our victory over Arsenal in the Carling Cup Quarter Final last season.

Another dilemma for Owen Coyle could be in attack putting aside whether Paterson and Rodriguez will be available. It is clear to me if you put Fletcher up front he needs some support and an option of playing two up in attack should be considered. I think it is time to see both Nugent and Fletcher in the starting eleven supported by Eagles and Elliott on the flanks. If he does play 4-1-3-2 then Bikey is the obvious one to drop

I suspect Coyle might err on the cautious side and not make too many changes to the side that drew against Fulham but I would like to see the following line up if possible:

Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Fletcher, Nugent

Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Gudjonsson, Bikey, Blake, Guerrero, Thompson (or Paterson)

Burnley Team News:

There are no suspensions or news of any further injury concerns. Paterson and Rodriguez look close to a return and could be ready in time for the Arsenal match. Chris McCann is also making a remarkable recovery from his medial and cruciate ligament injuries and he has targeted a return against Manchester United at Old Trafford on January 16th in the New Year.

Stephen Caldwell is set to make his 100th appearance for Burnley and if Alexander gets on the score sheet it will be his 100th goal of his league career.

Player to watch: Brian Jensen

Jensen, you may recall played a blinder in our last game against Arsenal at Turf Moor in the Carling Cup game last season. Our 2-0 victory was mainly down to the brace from McDonald of course but the Beast made some fantastic saves to keep the Young Gunners at bay throughout the match. He will need to be on top form yet again. Our number one keeper has come under criticism recently for some errors of judgement and some dodgy punches and indecision. There will be no margin of error allowed against Arsenal and we will need Jensen and the back four to be totally alert to the dangers.

Arsenal Team News:

I suppose it is good news for Burnley`s hopes of achieving victory that the Gunners have a number of injuries and doubts for this clash but even then they have such depth of quality in the squad that it might not make any odds.

Fabregas with 9 goals (6 in the league) and Van Persie with 8 goals (7 in the league) are the Gunners top scorers this season. Van Persie is of course out of contention (Phew!) with a long-term injury. The 26 year old striker suffered ankle ligament damage in a friendly for Holland against Italy on 14 November and is expected to be out until April next year at the earliest.

There are also doubts over Fabregas who is suffering with a back injury after the game at Anfield.

Arsenal will also be without Gael Clichy (back), Kieran Gibbs (foot), Emmanuel Eboue (hamstring) Bendtner (hernia), Djourou (knee) and Rosicky (groin). If that`s not bad enough they also have a list of players suffering knocks who could be doubtful. Andrey Arshavin, William Gallas, Theo Walcott and Armand Traore all picked up knocks against Liverpool on Sunday and will face late fitness tests ahead of Wednesday’s clash.

Player to watch: Bacary Sagna

With all the high-profile players in Arsenals` squad, it would be easy for me to cop out and say we need to watch all of them. One player that has impressed me though in recent times is 26 year old French international right back, Bacary Sagna. You watch how many moves that ultimately lead to Arsenal goals have involved Sagan at some stage of the build-up. We will need to break down his defensive qualities on Wednesday night and stop him charging down the flank.

Back to the Future

We recently covered our games against Arsenal in the 1975-76 season, the last time we played the Gunners in the top flight in our regular ‘Back to the Future` series on Vital Burnley. ( LINK: Back to the Future Part One-1975-76, Arsenal & All That!)

That season of course we were relegated never to return for another 33 years but the first game we played in 1975-6 was against Arsenal at Turf Moor on the Saturday 16th August 1975 in front of a crowd of 18,831 fans and we got a point in a 0-0 draw. We lost the return game at Highbury 1-0 on the 20th December that year and were then destined to never to play Arsenal again in a league game for the next 34 years.

The Clarets did not even play them in a Cup competition until an FA Cup clash at Turf Moor on the 6th January 2008 just two months into the reign of new manager, Owen Coyle. We went down 2-0 in the end in a match remembered more for the antics of former Clarets striker and winger, Kyle Lafferty. Lafferty came close to opening the scoring after his header hit the bar early in the game before Eduardo put Arsenal ahead after 6 minutes. On the hour mark though Lafferty was dubiously sent off for a challenge on Gilberto and the game was beyond our reach when Bendtner scored Arsenal`s second on 75 minutes.

Having not played Arsenal in 33 years until that game we then played them twice again in just over a year. We have already mentioned the Carling Cup quarter final match at Turf Moor when we defeated the Young Gunners 2-0 thanks to a brace of goals from Kevin McDonald after 6 and 57 minutes back in December 2008. We only then drew them again in the FA Cup a few months later. This time though the clash was at the Emirates and we were simply outclassed and outplayed by a strong Arsenal team and went down 3-0 in March this year.

Ref Watch:

It`s Wirral referee Mike Dean again!

Match Prediction:

Well of course the stats are all against us

We have not won a match now in five games although we have had three creditable draws at home to Aston Villa and Fulham plus the one away to Manchester City. Arsenal have won their last five matches against promoted clubs but that is a poor record compared to the one Manchester United brought to Turf Moor!

Never has there been such a heart over mind battle. I just can`t see us winning this or even getting a point based on current form and Arsenal`s incredible depth in quality so I am going for a Clarets 1-0 victory because I`m nuts!

Next Match

We travel to Molineux to face Wolves on Sunday 20th December in an early kick-off match which starts at 1:30pm. This is now looking more and more like a six pointer with Wolves currently in 17th place on 16 points just two behind the Clarets. At least Wolves are playing Manchester United at Old Trafford tonight (Tuesday 15th Dec) so surely they won`t be able to repeat their stunning away win they got at White Hart Lane over the weekend!