Thursday 29 June 2017

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger backs Burnley to avoid Premier League drop

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Arsene Wenger believes Burnley will survive in the Premier League this season after admitting his Arsenal side were lucky to beat the Clarets earlier in the campaign.

The Gunners welcome Sean Dyche's outfit to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday afternoon as they look to keep within reasonable reach of the leaders in the fight for the title.

Burnley occupied 10th spot going into the weekend but have taken just one point away from Turf Moor so far this season - although that was a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Manchester United.

Wenger's men are just one of three sides to leave Burnley with maximum points after Laurent Koscielny bundled home an injury-time winner, with replays suggesting not only was the France international offside but that the ball went in off his elbow.

Until that point in the game Burnley had held their own against the Gunners and Wenger reckons he saw enough in October to suggest Dyche can prevent an instant return to the Championship for the first time in Burnley's Premier League history.

"It was the game where we have maybe been the most lucky because Koscielny touched the ball with his hand for the goal," said Wenger.

"I must say we were very close to drawing and maybe even losing the game because they had one or two chances from set-pieces with Sam Vokes.

"When we came out of the game I thought, 'They will not go down', because of their spirit and organisation. They have strong points there and they accept that they will give you the ball.

"Not many teams do that and keep their focus. They say, 'okay, from the start of the game you have the ball but we might try to kill you at some stage'. You need a special spirit to do that.

"Once you have 10 years in the Premier League, you have the pressure to do a bit more. In the first year, everybody accepts you will do that and that makes them dangerous because they are good at it and they accept it all together. That makes it efficient."

Wenger welcomes back Kieran Gibbs, Hector Bellerin and Francis Coquelin into his squad for the clash as the trio have recovered from recent injuries.

But captain Per Mertesacker is still some distance away from a return having not played this season following a serious knee injury, while Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Mathieu Debuchy also remain sidelined and Mohamed Elneny is at the African Nations Cup with Egypt.

Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick believes a change in fortune is well overdue for his side on their travels as they look to improve their dismal away record.

"We've come off the pitch away from home and even though we've been beaten we've had a good feeling because the performances have been better," the Republic of Ireland international said.

"The first thing we needed to do was to start playing more like ourselves when we're on the road, and we've definitely done that in the last few games, and the next step is to pick up the points."

The Clarets' performances in particular at Turf Moor are causing many to reconsider their pre-season status as relegation favourites and while Hendrick remains understandably cautious he insisted it was time to look ahead with optimism.

"I don't think you can look too far down now - we're 10th for a reason," he added.

"We've put in the performances and we've worked hard to get the points. Now we've got to kick on and keep putting in the performances and get as many points as we can."

Burnley boss Sean Dyche should be boosted by the return from injury of Ashley Barnes, Dean Marney and Johann Berg Gudmundsson for the trip to north London, although Scott Arfield is expected to miss out again due to a knee injury.

Press Association

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