Mikel Arteta will not be able to call upon Granit Xhaka against Burnley on Saturday afternoon.
And that might just be an unexpected boost for Arsenal in an attempt to record back-to-back wins in the Premier League for the first time this season.
The midfielder misses the trip to Turf Moor as he is serving the second of his three-match suspension following his straight red card during the heavy 5-0 loss at the hands of Manchester City last month.
But Xhaka could be relieved at not having to face Burnley given what happened to him in both games last season.
In the reverse fixture, the Clarets emerged 1-0 winners at the Emirates Stadium thanks to an own-goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Although, the game turned on its head when Xhaka was sent off for grabbing Ashley Westwood by the throat and, in Arteta‘s own words, “cost” Arsenal at least a point in a fixture they needed to win.
“He’s made a mistake, clearly, that has cost us,” the Spaniard admitted. “We were prepared, knowing this was a game we clearly had to win, but with 10 men it makes it much more difficult.
“You give the opponent a chance and you end up losing on a set-piece.
“I think being unacceptable doing that action is because the players are in a moment where they are so willing to do more, to fight more, to show how committed they are, to be alive in the games, that on this occasion Granit has overstepped the line.”
To his credit, upon returning to the Arsenal XI for the Boxing Day win over London rivals Chelsea, Xhaka’s improved form coincided with the side’s rise up the table over the festive period.
However, disaster struck once again when facing Burnley away from home.
Whilst it wasn’t a red card this time, Xhaka effectively cost Arsenal all three points with a moment that he would have wanted to forget in a hurry.
Despite taking the lead at Turf Moor thanks to Aubameyang atoning for his error at the Emirates with a sixth-minute goal, the visitors couldn’t score an all-important second and were punished for it.
Burnley’s equaliser came about in bizarre fashion when Xhaka received the ball from Bernd Leno in his own penalty box and attempted to switch the ball out to his right-hand side in the direction of David Luiz.
But the Swiss midfielder did not get enough pace on his attempted pass and could only watch on in horror as the ball cannoned against Chris Wood’s hip and into the back of the net.
As expected, in the immediate aftermath of the mistake there was plenty of ex-pros and pundits siding with or blaming Xhaka, whilst one of Arteta’s assistants in Albert Stuivenberg was far from happy given his reaction in the dugout.
With that said, Arteta refused to openly blame Xhaka.
“It can happen in football. We did it using Bernd [Leno] and trying to use the holding midfielder in that situation. We scored a goal from Auba [Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang] all the way from Bernd Leno,” Arteta said. “We conceded one chance and that comes from Bernd Leno deciding to kick the ball long and we could not control the second ball with an open structure.
“It’s what it is, it’s the way we play, it’s the way I want to play and we just have to know the risk and the rules that we have in certain areas and the types of balls we have to play.
“But it is what it is.”
What was interesting about Xhaka’s struggles against Burnley last season was the reaction of Arteta after both games as the Spaniard was more upset about the red card than the mistake that lead to the goal.
Luckily, there won’t be any questions about the 28-year-old come full-time on Saturday.
Whether Arsenal can take advantage of Xhaka’s absence to win at Turf Moor for the first time in three visits remains to be seen.