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Talking Tactics

Arsenal must be wary of influential McNeil

Adrian Clarke 30 Jan 2020
Dwight McNeil

Adrian Clarke explains the importance of Burnley's left winger and his combination with Charlie Taylor to their upturn in form

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points ahead of Matchweek 25.

In their quest to deliver an 11th successive Premier League victory against Burnley, Mikel Arteta's Arsenal must work hard to contain the home side's threat from the left flank.

Charlie Taylor and Dwight McNeil have been excellent in hard-fought wins against Leicester City and Manchester United.

Full of industry without the ball and brimming with confidence in possession, the left-sided pairing will be looking to shine again when the Gunners visit Turf Moor.

Heavily involved 

Last time out at Old Trafford, no Burnley players touched the ball more often than left-back Taylor, who had 63 touches, and winger McNeil, who had 57.

Always offering an outlet, they were flooded with service every time Sean Dyche's side looked to break.

An incredible 62.1 per cent of their attacks stemmed from the left, compared with only 14 per cent from the right.

Performing with real composure and regularly carrying the ball up the pitch to relieve pressure, they did an outstanding job for the team.

Bellerin challenge

Hector Bellerin has played well in his last two appearances, against Chelsea in the Premier League and at AFC Bournemouth in the FA Cup, but the right-back is still feeling his way back from a long-term knee injury.

Trying to keep a tight grip on the exciting McNeil will be a challenge for the Spaniard this weekend.

Burnley rarely dominate possession but, when they counter, McNeil is a very important player for them.

Quick, direct and always keen to take on defenders, he brings dynamism to their attacking play.

With his excellent left foot, he is also capable of delivering the type of crosses that leading scorer Chris Wood loves to attack.

Three of the New Zealander's 10 goals this term have come from McNeil crosses.

So if Bellerin does not get tight enough to block deliveries from that side of the pitch, the Gunners may find it difficult to keep a clean sheet.

Breaking Burnley down 

Leicester and Man Utd made a combined 1,184 passes between them across 180 minutes of action against Burnley, but collectively they scored only one goal.

Quick passing and clever movement are required to open up holes in the Clarets' well-organised rearguard, and the likes of Taylor and McNeil play a big part in that resilience.

Disciplined and hardworking within a compact 4-4-2 system, they retrieved possession 16 times between them against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

Highly impressive 20-year-old McNeil won four of five tackles in that 2-0 success.

2019/20 Burnley stats per 90 mins
Premier League Charlie Taylor Dwight McNeil
Dribbles completed 1.26 (2nd) 2.16 (1st)
Open-play crosses 3.79 (2nd) 4.27 (1st)
Chances created 0.78 (4th) 1.29 (2nd)
Possession won 5.64 (4th) 6.13 (2nd)

*team ranking in brackets 

If selected against Burnley, Bellerin and Nicolas Pepe are sure to be kept busy.

In the Clarets' 2-1 home win over Leicester, Taylor registered a team-high 92 touches.

Completing four successful dribbles and making two key passes, the left-back was also instrumental in the winning goal scored by Ashley Westwood.

On average, he and McNeil produced eight open-play crosses per 90 minutes between them.

They will need to be shackled if Arsenal are to extend their remarkable winning streak against Burnley.

Also in this series 

Part 2: Chelsea attack in need of more variety

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