Burnley might be sitting at the bottom of the Premier League without a victory, but that alone is unlikely to put Arsenal’s minds at ease about their own win total and a considerable gap between themselves and the top of the table.
A result when welcoming the Clarets to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday could help alleviate any growing anxiety for the Gunners, who could gain an added boost if Theo Walcott makes his season debut.
Manager Arsene Wenger, seeking back-to-back league wins for the first time this season, cautioned that the speedy winger isn’t guaranteed to see the field against Burnley (0-4-5), but the 25-year-old joined Arsenal (3-5-1) for last Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Sunderland so he’s almost certainly fit.
Alexis Sanchez provided both goals, and his last 10 starts across all competitions have produced eight. The Chilean has scored in all five of his starts at the Emirates since joining the club from Barcelona.
"He took advantage of the mistakes they made, but he’s also got a super quality – he’s quickly on your feet which is why he wins many balls that normal players don’t," Wenger said.
Walcott hasn’t played since rupturing his left ACL on Jan. 4 in a FA Cup match against Tottenham, and he might have debuted against Sunderland had Wenger not used two substitutions on injuries.
The prospect of deploying Walcott along side Danny Welbeck and Sanchez should be appealing, but the Gunners might still be focused on improving their defence. The clean sheet against Sunderland was their first in seven matches across all competitions.
Midfielder Jack Wilshere wasn’t a part of it because of yellow-card suspension, but he’ll be available against the Clarets.
Kieran Gibbs’ hip injury suffered against Sunderland makes issues on the back line trickier, adding to a list that already includes Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny.
"He is a doubt," Wenger told the club’s official website.
If there was ever a match for Gibbs to miss, it might be this one. While Arsenal supporters might be down on trailing Chelsea by nine points, Burnley is 10 points back of the Gunners’ 14. The Clarets’ five goals in nine matches ranks ahead of only Aston Villa’s four, while their minus-11 goal differential is the top flight’s worst.
Four of their five strikes have come in the last three matches with the latest coming from Danny Ings in Sunday’s 3-1 home loss to Everton. It was the first top-flight goal for the 22-year-old, who was named Championship Player of the Year with 21 league goals a season ago. No Burnley player has scored twice.
"I think we are finding it quite tough, but we are learning each week and getting stronger and stronger and hopefully those wins will come," Ings told the club’s official website. "The possession of other teams is the hardest part. We are a pressing team and it worked for us last year in the Championship, but teams in the Premier League play out so well."
The Clarets figure to have midfielder Dean Marney available for selection after missing the last four matches with a strained hamstring. The 30-year-old could bring some valuable experience after spending four seasons in the Premier League with Spurs and Hull City before his move to Burnley.
"He’s fit and he’s a good week with us so he comes back into the thoughts, quite obviously," manager Sean Dyche said.
The clubs last met during the 2009-10 Premier League campaign, playing to a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor before Arsenal won 3-1 at the Emirates. Walcott scored the winner.
Despite drawing their last three home matches, the Gunners hold the league’s longest home unbeaten streak of 22 straight since opening 2013-14 with a loss to Aston Villa.