Burnley v Arsenal: Auba to fire Gunners to victory
Arsenal have been steadily improving under Mikel Arteta, and Kevin Hatchard reckons that improvement will continue with a win at Burnley.
Burnley v Arsenal Sunday 02 February, 14:00 Live on Sky Sports
Burnley have boosted survival hopes
Every time you think Burnley's ability to defy the odds has faded, Sean Dyche's warriors find a response. They rode their luck in a 2-1 win over Leicester City (Nick Pope saved a Jamie Vardy penalty with the score at 1-1) but then followed that up with an excellent 2-0 victory at Manchester United. Jay Rodriguez scored a stunning goal in that success against the Red Devils, and his work alongside Chris Wood has mitigated the effects of the loss of star striker Ashley Barnes to injury.
Those eye-catching victories have eased the pressure on the Clarets in what is an incredibly competitive race for survival. As they head into the weekend, Burnley are seven points clear of the bottom three, and ten points adrift of the magic 40-point barrier. They are out to 14.50 in the Relegation market.
However, Dyche must know that his team continues to underperform on home soil, with Turf Moor in danger of losing its "tough place to go" tag. Burnley have lost four of their last six Premier League home games, and their record against Arsenal at this level is atrocious.
Opta tell us that Burnley have lost their last 11 games in all competitions against the Gunners, a sequence that stretches back to March 2010. Dyche's record of losing all nine of his PL clashes with Arsenal is only matched by Eddie Howe's record against Manchester City, and Gary Megson's body of work against Liverpool.
New signing Josh Brownhill hopes to start in midfield after joining from Bristol City, but a sub's role is thought to be more likely. Barnes is still sidelined, but defender Phil Bardsley has returned from a back problem.
Arteta slowly having an effect
Trying to toughen up Arsenal and make them more consistent is a task that even Hercules might have skipped, but Mikel Arteta is subtly altering the dynamic at the Emirates. A six-match unbeaten run is evidence that the Spaniard's message is getting across, and the winter signing of excellent Spanish defender Pablo Mari is a sign that Arteta knows where the weaknesses lie.
The key now is to turn draws into wins, and the return from suspension of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should help in that regard. The Gabon striker has 16 goals in all competitions, including goals in three of his last four outings. Barcelona were sniffing around in their pursuit of a striker, but Arsenal refused to countenance a switch.
Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six Premier League away matches, and while five of those games have been draws, Gunners fans will tell you that such a stoic run on the road is evidence that things are looking up. There's also optimism to be found from some of the club's teenage talent - Bukayo Saka has racked up seven assists in all competitions, while forward Gabriel Martinelli has ten goals, a tally only bettered at the club by Aubameyang.
Aubameyang and David Luiz are back from bans, while Pablo Mari and fellow new recruit Cedric will have their fitness assessed. Sead Kolasinac and Shkodran Mustadi are fighting to be fit.
Gunners a little short, but worth backing anyway
Given that they haven't been consistently winning on their travels, I'd have liked Arsenal to go off at a bit bigger than 2.04 in the Match Odds market, but I'll back them anyway. Their record against Burnley is immaculate, the hosts are losing plenty of games at home, and Arsenal will be boosted by Aubameyang's return.
Burnley haven't drawn a home game in the Premier League for nearly a year, and I think they'll lose this one. I'll back Arsenal to win at 2.04.
Goals call is a tight one
I can understand why the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market is split here. Five of Burnley's last eight league games have featured fewer than three goals, and that's the same ratio across Arsenal's last eight top-flight outings.
Despite Arteta's tactical tweaks, the Gunners do still leak a few goals, so I guess my temptation would be to back Over 2.5 Goals at a higher price of 2.04, but it's not a wager I'd make with much confidence.
Auba to return with a bang
Opta tell us that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored seven goals in four Premier League appearances against Burnley, averaging a goal every 51 minutes. He'll be well rested and raring to go, and I'll back him to score here at 2.00.