Arsenal make the relatively short trip to Norwich for the early kick off on Saturday on the back of a good run of form in the Premier League. They have won their last four league games in a row for the first time since March 2010, and their slow start to the season is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
On the face of it Arsenal are in great form, but their confidence is still a little brittle in my opinion. Three of their four wins have been at home, but the other one was the sensational 5-3 victory away to Chelsea. Arsenal's defending on that day was far from ideal, but they attacked with a pace and purpose which has not been seen often enough this season.
The latest injury news from Arsenal would seem to indicate that Carl Jenkinson has picked up a back injury and will be unavailable for a couple of weeks. He has been a little unfortunate so far in his Arsenal career between injuries and suspension, and he won't be happy at missing out on another opportunity to play in the first team. With Bacary Sagna also injured the chances are that Arsene Wenger will pick Johan Djourou at right back, but I would like to see how Laurent Koscielny performs in that position.
If Koscielny was to be chosen at right back it would ease the headache Wenger has in his choice of a central defensive pairing, but i think Djourou will get the nod. It means that Wenger has to decide between Koscielny and Per Mertesacker to partner Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of the defence, and I would again prefer to see Koscielny chosen. I'm not too sure that he will play though, and I have a feeling that Koscielny and Mertesacker will be rotated.
There was also some news from the club that Kieran Gibbs has undergone a procedure which means that Andre Santos is the only fit left back at the moment. Santos has looked good going forward so far, but his defending has left a little to be desired at times. Hopefully the sustained run he will get in the team will help to improve his fitness and get him a little more accustomed to the defensive duties in the Premier League.
I would imagine that the rest of the team will be as it was in the 3-0 victory over West Brom just before the international break. The team were quite impressive in that victory, and the midfield and attacking players on show that day are currently the best options available to the team. As long as Robin Van Persie remains fit it's hard to see any of the other strikers getting more than a few minutes at a time.
That has led to speculation over the future of Marouane Chamakh with the January transfer window rapidly approaching. Chamakh started last season very well when he filled in for the injured RVP and Nicklas Bendtner, but his chances have been limited for almost a year now and he has struggled when he has played. Arsenal got him on a free transfer almost 18 months ago, and they might just be prepared to listen to offers for him.
If Chamakh is sold it should open up the way for Park Ju Young to get more opportunities in the first team, and hopefully he can take those chances if they come his way. Arsenal legend Thierry Henry is training with the club at the moment, as his season in America has finished. I'm sure that every single one of Arsenal's attacking players could learn a thing or two by just watching what Henry does in training.
When asked about the possibility of Arsenal signing Henry in the January transfer window Wenger said the thought had not even crossed his mind. I can't see Arsenal wanting to sign Henry, as his best years are behind him and surely he wouldn't be happy with a place on the bench or in the reserves. That might change of course if RVP was to pick up an injury, but that's something that doesn't bear thinking about.
The game with Norwich is definitely one which Arsenal can win, and they need to win it to keep up the pressure on the six teams above them. Four of those teams are playing against each other this weekend, and it will give Arsenal an opportunity to make up ground in their fight for a top four place. I think they will find it hard to catch the two Manchester teams, but the other four teams are well within their reach.
Norwich have been very impressive so far this season since their promotion, and they were unlucky to lose away to both Chelsea and Manchester United. They managed a very good 1-1 at Liverpool a few weeks ago, and Arsenal will underestimate them at their peril. Their biggest problem would seem to be their inability to keep a clean sheet in any of their 11 Premier League games so far.
There are no real stars in the Norwich team, but they have a great work ethic and they all play together as a team. Arsenal will have to work just as hard as Norwich to ensure that they take all three points from this game. If Arsenal can win this game they have the possibility of going on a great run with their next three Premier League games quite winnable too.
I expect Norwich to come at Arsenal knowing that their defence is suspect, and they have conceded more away goals than any other team in the league so far. If Arsenal can hold tight at the back they will get chances against a Norwich team that have only lost at home once so far, and they need to take those chances when they come along. That's where RVP comes in, as he is the leading scorer in the league with 11 goals in 10 starts.
After a slightly slow start to the season he has been nothing short of sensational in recent weeks, and there have been suggestions that he is carrying the team on his own. It has to be remembered that the rest of the Arsenal team have scored only two goals less than the whole Liverpool team between them without RVP. After Arsenal's slow start to the season they have really stepped up their goalscoring pace, and RVP is bound to score most of those goals as the focal point of their attack.
I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal, as it seems foolish to predict a clean sheet for them in any game this season. Their defence has changed on an almost weekly basis due to injuries, and I expect it to improve when the best defenders are all playing together. That should bring the stability that any defence needs, and hopefully it will arrive early in the new year when Sagna returns from his broken leg.
Arsenal will always be a little suspect at the back though, as they play an attacking brand of football, and I would hate to see it any other way. I wouldn't sacrifice trophies for attacking football, but Wenger and Arsenal have shown in the past that the two are not ultimately exclusive. As long as Arsenal continue to play attractive and attacking football and challenge for trophies I believe the majority of their fans will be happy.
It's been a while since I wrote about Arsenal because of a week long trip to Las Vegas, and I can only say that it is a truly magnificent place to visit. Thankfully my trip coincided with an international break, and I didn't miss a single minute of Arsenal action. If I can afford to make the trip again in the future I will have to make sure it's not just by luck that Arsenal don't play while I'm away.
I'll be back on Sunday or possibly even Saturday evening with my usual report on the game against Norwich. After that game the build up to Wednesday night's crucial Champions League game at home to Borussia Dortmund will begin in earnest. If Arsenal can win that game they will have qualified for the last 16 with a game in hand, and they won't have to go to Greece needing a result in their last game.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at a very good 4-1 win by Arsenal against Norwich a few seasons ago. It includes a hat-trick from a brilliant Arsenal striker, and Arsenal conceding a goal after failing to deal with a set-piece.
See You Tomorrow.