Saturday, 10 May 2014

Arsenal's Trip To Norwich Previewed

Arsenal play their final league game of the season away to Norwich on Sunday afternoon. It's a game with very little significance for either club with Arsenal secure in fourth place and Norwich all but relegated. Their is still a mathematical chance of Arsenal overtaking Chelsea for third place and Norwich have just as much chance of clawing back the gap between them and West Brom to stay up. 

In fact Norwich's task is slightly easier than Arsenal's as they only have to make up three points and a 17 goal advantage in goal difference. Arsenal also have to make up a three point gap and need to overcome Chelsea's goal difference which is 18 better than theirs. In reality neither of those things can happen though and Arsenal will have to settle for fourth place while Norwich will be relegated.

Arsenal have a far more important game the following week when they play Hull in the FA Cup final. With that game in mind it's hard to imagine Arsene Wenger will put his strongest side out in a game where the outcome will change nothing. A few of the most important players are bound to be rested ahead of the cup final and one or two fringe players might get the chance to impress.

I don't know if a decision on the cup final goalkeeper has been made yet, but I think Wojciech Szczesny should get the nod. I know Lukasz Fabianski has played in all the other rounds so far, but he is leaving this summer and Szczesny should play as the club's first choice keeper. For me he is the best keeper at the club and the best team has to be picked in the final regardless of any sentiment. I can understand Fabianski wanting to leave to play first team football, but the needs of the team have to be of paramount importance in the final rather than a sense of loyalty to a player who will not be an Arsenal player next season.

If Szczesny plays against Norwich I can't see him playing in the final and I hope we see Fabianski in goal for that final league game. In defence I wouldn't be surprised to see Thomas Vermaelen play what could possibly be his last game for the club if he decides he wants first team football next season too. There's every chance of Carl Jenkinson getting a game too but it's hard to know who will play at left back with Kieran Gibbs returning to the squad.

In midfield both Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere will be available again but I'm not so sure if either of them will play. I don't know if Ramsey will be risked ahead of the cup final and I think it's too soon for Wilshere to start a game after his injury. There are plenty of other options available to the boss out of players who probably won't start in the final. I wouldn't be surprised to see Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini, Abou Diaby and Kim Kallstrom all playing from the start.

I think Yaya Sanogo will possibly lead the line, but it's not so easy to know who the other player might be in a wide role. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is still injured and it looks like he could miss the final too which would be a big loss. He has the genuine pace which could make a big difference on the Wembley pitch and which Arsenal lack when Theo Walcott is injured.

I suppose there's a posfibility of some of the younger players getting a run out but I suspect a couple of the cup final team will be risked. I could have it all wrong with my opinions on the team selection and the boss might put a strong team out to make sure Arsenal finish their league campaign on a high and go into the cup final on the back of five consecutive wins. 

A win would see Arsenal finish the season on 79 points and that's a very healthy return for any team. It would be Arsenal's highest tally since 2005 when they were runners up in the league and of course they won the FA Cup too. Maybe they should have finished on more points but that can't be changed now and it can be gone into in more depth when the season is over. 

Norwich's approach could have a significant bearing on the game and it's not easy to know what it will be. With relegation a certainty they might see the chance to at least go out on a high with a win over one of the big teams. They could well think Arsenal's minds will be elsewhere and could see this as a chance to finish their season on a relative high.

Since Chris Hughton was sacked five games ago Norwich have only taken one point and that decision was the one which sealed their fate. They have found goals very hard to come by all season long but they have a good defensive record at home. They managed a 1-0 win in this fixture last season and would love to replicate that performance on Sunday.

To be honest it's a bit of a dead rubber of a match and those games are very difficult to predict. It could go either way or end up being a 0-0 draw or maybe even a high scoring thriller. As always I want Arsenal to win but the most important thing is that they don't lose any of their most important players for the cup final. Hopefully it will be a thriller and Arsenal can finish their league campaign on a high.

With just two games left to play this season Arsenal have scored 94 goals in all competitions. It's hardly a huge return from an attacking minded team and they are a long way behind both City and Loverpool in goal scoring terms in the league this season. City have already scored 100 goals and Liverpool are only one goal behind them. City have a better defensive record than Arsenal, but Liverpool have conceded more goals than them.

I'd love to see the team make the 100 goals for the season and I think they will win their last two games if they manage to do so. The thoughts of a trophy, fourth place and 100 goals are quite nice and are certainly ones I could live with. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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