Arsenal vs. Norwich Preview: Time to Return to Winning Ways
The Gunners have been at the summit of the Premier League before the international break and they will be keen to remain at the top as Norwich City visit the Emirates. Arsene Wenger would have half an eye on the crucial Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund but if he doesn’t fix his focus on today’s game, it could be a potential banana skin.
The Gunners haven’t tasted defeat since their opening day debacle against Aston Villa but they have only managed three clean sheets in their last 14 League games at the Emirates, which is a record that needs to be improved. Norwich on the other hand, are third from bottom with two wins all season, lost three of their last four league matches and have failed to score in seven of their last 11 away trips. However, their last away game did yield a crucial 1-0 win at Stoke.
The last time the Canaries managed a victory over the Gunners was as far back as the opening day of the newly-formed Premier League in 1992. The Canaries fought back from 2-0 down with 21 minutes to go to win 4-2. Since their promotion in 2011, Norwich have since visited Arsenal five times in the league without a win (D2, L3). The Gunners have also scored 15 goals in the last four home league meetings with Norwich.
The Canaries have scored just three goals in their last six Premier League games but Norwich have kept more clean sheets than Arsenal in the league this season (two, compared to Arsenal’s one). This is also Norwich’s eighth league match of the season. Last season they had to wait until their eighth league match for a win – that was a 1-0 victory over Arsenal.
This summer, Norwich invested heavily in bringing in some new talent in several positions in the forms of Leroy Fer, Javier Garrido, Gary Hooper, Martin Olsson, Nathan Redmond, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander but the side has not yet gelled.
With Chris Hughton employing a tactical 4-5-1 setup, Norwich has a strong engine in midfield with Alex Tettey doing the dirty work with newbie, Leroy Fer, that makes his presence known with his combative outings in the middle of the park. Jonny Howson isn’t a name that would make you soil your pants but the midfielder is very technically-proficient and his distribution is top-notch.
On the wings, Norwich adopts a system no different from Bayern Munich with their wingers,
Franck Ribery Nathan Redmond and Arjen Robben Robert Snodgrass cutting in from the flanks. Redmond scored a goal against Stoke in this fashion when he cut in from the left flank before firing a shot that went past Asmir Begovic in goal.
Norwich’s real weakness is up front. Club record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel started his Norwich career with a fine headed goal on his debut against Everton, but in his six subsequent starts, the Dutchman has managed just one shot on target. He’s also committed more fouls than any other Premier League player this season.
To Injury-related news, Mesut Ozil suffered a knock in midweek but the manager has stated that he would be fit for the game. Santi Cazorla has return to full training but this game would be too soon for him so he would be content with a place on the bench. Bacary Sagna faces a fitness test while Tomas Rosicky has returned to the squad as well.
Theo Walcott is a coupled of weeks away but Yaya Sanogo (back), Lukas Podolski (hamstring), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Abou Diaby (Diabytes) still remain long-term absentees. Norwich will be without Pilkington (doubt – hamstring), E Bennett (knee).
To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal following an inspired performance for Poland in Wembley. Wenger has stated that the big Pole can get better with more experience under his belt but in all honesty, Wenger has to explain why he acquired the services of Emiliano Viviano, because his signing is becoming as puzzling as Park Chu-Young.
In defense, I would have hoped for the captain to get a run out after his whining but Wenger has stated that it’s going to be tough changing center backs, which means that it would take some time before Vermaelen gets some game time but the Capital One Cup fourth round clash against Chelsea remains a likely target. Nacho Monreal recently spoke about his time on the bench as well, but he hopes to get his chance soon.
The midfield conundrum would continue again as the manager would be forced to make a decision on the Mikel Arteta – Mathieu Flamini defensive double pivot but with so many unfit players in the squad, I may expect to see the same midfield that struggled against West Brom with Ozil in the middle while Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere would play on both flanks. Giroud is odds on to spearhead the attack.
I’d expect the starting lineups to look like this,
With Newcastle and fellow table toppers, Liverpool, starting the contest, the Gunners would know what they are up against ahead of their 3.00pm clash with Norwich. The draw against West Brom brought an amazing 10-game winning streak to an end, it’s time to get back to winning ways.
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