Friday, 19 October 2012

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Norwich City Previewed.

Arsenal play away to Norwich in the evening kick off today. The players have come back from the latest international break with their real jobs of club football to concentrate on for the next few months. There are some annoying midweek international friendlies to come, but no more two week breaks before next March.

On the injury front only Theo Walcott fell victim to the curse of playing for his country when the San Marino goalkeeper thought he was playing for Germany against France in the 1982 World Cup. He has bruising to his lungs and he will be out until it has healed.

Unfortunately nine of the other injured players will be for enough to return against Norwich. Wojceich Szczesny is apparently two weeks away from coming back, but that's an Arsenal two weeks which can be a very long time. It means Vito Mannone will continue in goal for the foreseeable future.

The other option in goal might have been Lukasz Fabianski but he got injured in training and will need surgery on an ankle injury. It means he will be out for three months at the least and you have to feel sorry for him.

Kieran Gibbs hasn't recovered from the thigh strain which saw him withdrawn in Arsenal's last match. As a result Andre Santos will fill in at left back which should see Lukas Podolski having to track back a lot more than he is used to. I wouldn't be surprised to see Santos getting his name on the scoresheet at some time in the game.

Arsene Wenger has said there is a chance of Gibbs being fit for the midweek Champions League game at home to Schalke 04. If not he looks likely to be ready to return to the squad for next week's game at home to QPR. If Santos plays well enough he might just force his way back into the team permanently.

The official word on both Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby is they will be be out for up to three weeks, but again that's a timescale which means very little. There is of course the question of both Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna who both played in a behind closed doors game against Chelsea during the week. They are both very close to a return but I would be surprised to see them play today.

It looks like the Capital One Cup tie against Reading in a week and a half could see them both return to first team duty. After 14 months out Wilshere will take some time to get back to the level he was at before the injury. Sagna will take a while to get back to his best too after recovering from breaking his leg twice last season.

Sagna won't find it too easy to get back into the team though with the current form of Carl Jenkinson. Such had been the form of Jenkinson that Sagna's absence has been hardly noticed so far this season. As the senior professional in the position I expect Sagna to take his place back, but it's good to know how good his deputy is.

For me the biggest choice Wenger has to make is his central defensive partnership. In my opinion Per Mertesacker has to start and the choice is who to play with him. As captain Thomas Vermaelen is bound to get the nod to accompany him.

It could mean a spell on the sidelines for Laurent Koscielny but I can't see what other option the manager has. Any combination involving Mertesacker is the best one in my opinion and hopefully he sees it that way too. Koscielny will get a chance before too long due to an injury probably and he's good enough to take any chance that comes his way.

I can't see a midfield any different from the one which started against West Ham. Santi Cazorla and Mikael Artera are absolute certainties at the moment and Aaron Ramsey is the obvious choice to accompany them.

After playing so well against West Ham Olivier Giroud just has to keep his place. I really think he has a very bright future at Arsenal and he needs to start more often to show exactly what he can do. He will hopefully get plenty of chances and add to the goal he scored against West Ham.

That should leave Gervinho and Podolski to play in the two wide roles. There is always the chance of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Francis Coquelin playing, but I think they will be on the bench.

Norwich have conceded nine goals in their last two games against both Liverpool and Chelsea. They have defensive problems but they are capable of scoring against any team in the Premier League. They created plenty of chances in both of those games and score two against Liverpool and one away to a Chelsea team with the best defensive record in the league so far this season.

Sometimes I feel some Arsenal fans think the team should never allow so called "lesser" teams any chances in a game. I have no doubt Norwich will get chances no matter how well Arsenal play, but I am sure Arsenal will get more chances. If Arsenal can take enough of those chances the game is there for them to win.

Only Chelsea have conceded less goals than Arsenal so far despite Arsenal's apparent weakness from set pieces. Norwich will have to be the first team to dismantle that defence if they are going to get anything from the game.

I think the Arsenal midfield will be too good for Norwich and they will control possession yet again. The chances will come and hopefully Giroud can add to his midweek goal for France against World champions Spain. I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal, but it could be more if they have their shooting boots on.

They have to approach the game in the right manner though if they are going to win the right to play their football. They did that against West Ham and they continued to do so after going behind too. The strength the team has shown so far is very encouraging and it augers well for the rest of the season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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