Saturday, 13 April 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Game With Norwich Previewed

Arsenal have closed the gap to fourth placed Spurs to two points and they have a game in hand too. It means they have their fate in their own hands with only seven games left to play. The way the fixtures work out Arsenal will get to play three times before Spurs get to play again.

The first of those games is probably the easiest of them at home to Norwich today. That's not to say that I am taking Norwich lightly, but the home game against Everton and the away game against Fulham will be tougher tasks for Arsenal than today's game. The best case scenario for Arsenal is for them to be seven points ahead of Spurs when Spurs travel to City next week.

To do that Arsenal will need to win their three games and that will be no easy task. I'll look at the games against Everton and Fulham closer to the time, but for today it's Norwich who have to be considered.

Arsenal haven't found it easy to beat Norwich since their return to the top flight last season. The trip to Carrow Road earlier this season was one of the worst performances I've seen from Arsenal in a very long time. Norwich won that game 1-0 and went on a 10 game unbeaten run which looked to have secured their Premier League survival for another season.

Since that run has ended Norwich have only won once in 15 games and are now only four points above the drop zone. They need  few more points to make their position safe and they will be hoping for one of them today. I have no doubt they will defend in depth and look to hit Arsenal on the break.

They defended very well in the win at Carrow Road and they also came to Arsenal at the end of last season and got a deserved 3-3 draw. Arsenal were very poor in that game too and it seems they don't find it easy to play against Norwich. That's something they have to get over today, as three points are absolutely vital to their chances of a top four finish.

If Arsenal win today they go third in the table ahead of both Spurs and Chelsea although Chelsea will have a game in hand. Points on the board are very important at this time of the season as they put pressure on the other teams. Arsenal have won six of their last seven games and the pressure is definitely telling on Spurs in particular.

As I said when Arsenal played Reading a couple of weeks ago it's a matter of Arsenal having a better team and needing to show that on the day. Norwich have only won once in 16 away games and only scored 12 goals away from home. Arsenal have won nine of their 15 home games and scored 39 goals in those games. Only United have scored more home goals than Arsenal and they have played a game more at this stage.

All the statistics point to an Arsenal win, but it's never that easy. The players need to go out and give it their all from first minute until last to earn the right to win the game. If they work as hard as Norwich they will make enough chances to win the game and hopefully take a few of them too.

In team news both Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere return to the Arsenal squad while Per Mertesacker is suspended after his red card in the 2-1 win at West Brom last week. It looks like Tomas Rosicky will miss out too after picking up a slight hamstring injury last Saturday. His time at Arsenal has been blighted by injuries and it's a shame he won't get to play this week after scoring both goals last week.

Thomas Vermaelen will come in for Mertesacker and hopefully he can rediscover some form. He hasn't played well in  while now and the team has defended better as a unit with Laurent Koscielny in the centre of defence instead of Vermaelen.

With Rosicky more than likely missing out the boss has a big decision to make in his midfield. Does he put Wilshere straight in for Rosicky after he has missed a month through injury or does he drop Santi Cazorla back into a more central role. If Cazorla drops back it will open the way to bring another player into the attacking trio.

Both Walcott and Lukas Podolski will be hoping to start nd so will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain I would imagine. I think Gervinho has to keep his place in the team after offering so much in the last few games and the chances are he will play on the left with Walcott possibly coming back on the right. If Walcott does play with Gervinho it would mean someone else has to miss out in midfield.

It would be unfair on Aaron Ramsey to leave him out of the team, but it is a very real possibility. It's great to have two current England internationals returning to the squad and the strength on the bench today will be very impressive. No matter what players play Arsenal will have some very good options on the bench should they need to call on them to try to change the game.

I think Arsenal owe Norwich a bit of a beating and I'm hoping they give it to them today, Grant Holt got away with another very bad foul last week and Norwich have been fond of leaving the boot in against Arsenal when they have played. Arsenal need to be up to any physical challenge offered by Norwich as well as playing their football.

I think Arsenal have done enough in recent weeks to show they have the confidence and ability to finish the season in style. It would be great if they could put a few goals past Norwich and send out a message to Spurs, Chelsea and of course Everton too before a very big game on Tuesday night. I'll take a win of any sort to make it 21 points out of 24 in the business end of the season.

I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal and a very healthy look to the Premier League table tonight.

Here's the highlights from the 3-3 draw last season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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