Friday, 18 October 2013

Arsenal v Norwich City Preview

It's back to Premier League action after yet another international break for Arsenal as they play at home to Norwich. They went into the break on top of the league after recovering brilliantly from their opening day defeat to Aston Villa. Five consecutive wins and a draw has seen them ahead of Liverpool by virtue of the amount of goals they have scored.

It looks like all of the Arsenal players have come through unscathed although there is a slight worry over a knock Mesut Ozil picked up in Germany's 5-3 win away to Sweden. It does appear that he will be fit to play though and there could be a few other players returning from injury too. Tomas Rosicky will be available again while both Santi Cazorla and Bacary Sagna will probably be in the squad but more than likely on the bench.

Arsenal fans have being waiting for a month and a half now to see Ozil and Cazorla play together, but it appears the wait will have to go on a little longer. If Cazorla does make it to the bench the chances are he will get a run for the final 15 or 20 minutes and my money would be on him replacing Ozil as long as the situation in the game allows it. There's a possibility of them both playing against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night, but that game might still be a bit soon for Cazorla to start.

Norwich haven't started the season too well and find themselves in the bottom three with only seven points and five goals in seven games. In their three away games so far they have only scored one goal, but they have only conceded three goals in those games. In fact Norwich have only conceded nine goals in their seven games and that's only one more than Arsenal. The difference between the teams is the 14 goals Arsenal have scored.

On paper it's a run of the mill game for Arsenal and should be three easy points, but Norwich have proved far from easy for Arsenal to beat since their return to the Premier League. The worst thing Arsenal can do is take Norwich for granted and expect them to just roll over and hand up the three points. Like every other team in the league Norwich will fight for every single point available to them and will make a real game of it if they are given the slightest chance.

Norwich are quite disciplined in defence and won't be easy to break down, but Arsenal have the players who are capable of doing just that. If they go about the game as they were doing up until the international break then they should prove to be too strong for Norwich. They might have to be patient but I think the goals will come.

The team will probably be very similar to the one that played against West Brom two weeks ago. I can't see any changes happening in the defence and I expect Carl Jenkinson to keep his place with Sagna given the chance to be fully recovered for the game on Tuesday night. Jenkinson didn't have the greatest game against West Brom but he has plenty of promise and I expect him to bounce back.

In midfield there's a choice for Arsene Wenger to make as to what system he plays and whether he deploys both Mathieu Flamini and Mikael Arteta in the team. I thought the team lost some of it's attacking impetus with both of them playing against West Brom and maybe there's a need for only one holding player in front of the back four in a lot of Premier League games. It might just have been tiredness after two games a week since the start of the season, but that's what Arsenal face for the next three weeks as well. The team needs a bit of rotation and thankfully the returning players will offer the boss the chance to do just that. 

If the boss decides to go with only one defensive midfielder then I think Serge Gnabry might get another start wide in the right. He looked very promising in the couple of games he played a few weeks ago and it's a good opportunity for him to possibly show what he can do again. I wouldn't be surprised to see Rosicky and Jack Wilshere in the team too with Wilshere possibly playing wide on the left again. 

In the game against West Brom Wilshere had an awful first half but he came back after the break to score the equalising goal and put in an excellent display. He's had a tough couple of years with injury and it will take a while for him to get back to where he was before those injuries kicked in. There is no doubt that he has genuine quality and will be a real star for Arsenal in years to come.

I haven't even mentioned Aaron Ramsey or Ozil and they have already found a fantastic understanding in their few short weeks in the team together. They are both in fantastic form and will be a real handful for Norwich who must be genuinely worried about what both of them can do. The prospect of both of them in a team with Cazorla is one to make my mouth water and it's coming very soon I hope.

Olivier Giroud got a couple of good goals on international duty and played very well in the games leading up to it for Arsenal. Maybe the reemergence of Nicklas Bendtner might be the impetus Giroud needed to make him just a little worried about his place in the team. Bendtner didn't do too badly either with a couple of good headed goals for Denmark against Italy.

Things are looking very good for Arsenal at the moment but it could all go wrong very quickly with seven games in the next three weeks. Some of those games are going to be really tough and how Arsenal perform in those games will tell a lot about how their season might progress. I think they might just have what it takes to come through those games in a good place and go on to make a real go of it this season. If they are to do so they have to beat Norwich and I think they will do so by a couple of goals. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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