Premier League Preview: Gameweek 27

Jason Shackell

Jason Shackell

In the Premier League, Burnley look to climb out of the relegation zone when they play Swansea, who come into the match fresh from a 2-1 victory over Manchester United. Arsenal must bounce back from a disappointing night in the Champions League against a slowly improving Everton side, who have conceded just 3 goals in their last 6 games.

Burnley v Swansea

At this stage of the season, Burnley supporters will feel a mixture of pride and frustration. When they played away to Manchester City and Chelsea, everybody expected them to leave empty handed, and yet they came from behind on both occassions to take a point. Although 2 points from 2 away games against the Premier League’s top 2 is a very impressive return, 3 points against one of their relegation rivals would have been a lot more valuable. For all the entertainment Burnley have provided, they have only had 2 wins against bottom half opponents, and that is a problem.

There is a sense of raw passion in this Burnley side, which cannot be said of many Premier League teams. It is noticeable that the Clarets always start games at a high tempo, only Chelsea and Tottenham have scored more goals in the first 15 minutes of matches than Burnley. Sean Dyche’s men have outrun their opponents in every single Premier League match this season, which shows that the players appreciate their chance to play in the top flight, and they do everything in their power to win.

However, sometimes you feel as though their players are so desperate to win, it affects the team’s level of discipline, composure and organization. They would be in a much stronger position if they had a player like Joleon Lescott, Ron Vlaar or John O’Shea: somebody with experience of playing in the Premier League who can offer leadership, and is also capable of dealing with crosses into the box. With 12 games left, Burnley need their captain, Jason Shackell, to start organizing those around him. The team’s will to win cannot be questioned, but players need to stop panicking when the opposition get the ball into dangerous areas.

Swansea came from behind to beat Manchester United last time out. They deserved to win that match for their level of organization, particularly in the 2nd half. Their opponents got into some dangerous positions, but it was Swansea’s strong-willed defending that forced them into wayward shooting. United manager Van Gaal said that they dominated the match and were unlucky not to win, but Garry Monk was right not to challenge those comments. Instead, he said that Van Gaal was entitled to his opinions on the match, and that shows a touch of class.

Jonjo Shelvey picked up 2 assists in last week’s win, albeit the 2nd was initially a shot, which came off Bafetimbi Gomis’s back and went in. Shelvey is most suited to an attacking midfield role where he is given the freedom to play impulsively and create for other players around him. When played alongside Ki in a deeper midfield role, he does not tend to perform quite as well due to his lack of positional discipline. However, this creates a dilemma for Garry Monk, because Gylfi Sigurdsson has been excellent for Swansea in the advanced midfield role that Shelvey likes to assume.

Jack Cork, who may return to his old stomping ground on Saturday, had a solid game against Manchester United. He is a much more disciplined midfielder than Jonjo Shelvey, and could be the perfect long-term replacement for Leon Britton, who is having a lot of injuries at the moment. The midfield partnership of Cork and Ki is the future for Swansea, and Shelvey and Sigurdsson will have to compete for the attacking role.

Both Swansea and Burnley tend to start games in a very attacking frame of mind, and that could set this match up to be a very open, entertaining contest at Turf Moor.

Arsenal v Everton

Arsenal were very disappointing against Monaco in midweek. Last month, they won 2-0 away to Manchester City, and that was the first time they had shown some true organization, teamwork and grit in a big game. You could have been forgiven for thinking that something had changed at Arsenal.

Instead, in the 2 key games the Gunners have played since then, against Tottenham and Monaco, they have regressed to the mean. When they played Spurs, they invited too much pressure onto themselves, and did not have the bravery to press and challenge for the ball at the right times. And, against Monaco, it was a very sluggish performance. Although Monaco perhaps deserved more credit than they were given, for Arsenal, it was the same old problems. They could not cope with quick, powerful attacks, and did not seem to have any kind of plan for when out of possession.

Arsenal have a very good squad, but what lets them down is their inability to fully prepare themselves when they face teams who possess players as talented as their own. When Arsenal play a weak team, most of the time they will win, simply because their individual quality will carry them through. However, they cannot rely on their individual quality against top teams, because their opponents will have players who are just as technically able. Therefore, the team that is more physical, hardworking and tactically astute will win. Very rarely can we say that that team is Arsenal, and that is why they are not ready to rival Europe’s best teams under Arsene Wenger.

This blog’s criticisms of the Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, would be along similar lines to those of Wenger. However, over the last few weeks, it looks as though Martinez has understood the importance of getting his Everton side to be well-organized. The Toffees have only conceded 3 goals in their last 6 Premier League games, and they did create plenty of chances in the draw with Leicester, but Lukaku missed a lot of them. Everton need a period of defensive stability, where every player goes back to the basics and does their jobs for the team. That may be starting to happen now.

However, one might question Martinez’s decision to put Tim Howard back in goal, when his performances in the first half of the season were atrocious. Joel Robles has done an excellent job in the last few weeks, and the defence has looked calmer with a more reliable stopper behind them. If Robles is given the chance to start against Arsenal, this blog predicts that Everton will hold on for a draw, but if Tim Howard plays, then Everton are always in danger of conceding.

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