Saturday, 19 October 2013

Arsenal vs Norwich: Match Preview



Football is back.

After what seems like a decade, we finally see our team in action as we face a pretty straightforward matchup against Norwich at the Emirates. And while on paper there seems to be only one winner, results aren't declared on paper alone.

The good news is that Cazorla, Sagna and Ozil are fit which should mean that we have depth and choices to give the manager food for thought. The bad news? Er, um.... top of the league on goals scored?

Such are the good times going on at North London that there's hardly any bad news to talk about. I don't think that it was a coincidence that Jack's smoking issue was publicized to such a large extent by the media. It was simply because they couldn't find anything else that was wrong with the club. No contract sagas, no title hiccups, no Champions League slip-ups and no "Spend some f*cking money" crap. I love how much the media hates us this moment.

Which means that the press will surely jump on us should we fail to defeat Norwich City at our home. That said, they might have a point as this game should be nothing more than a walk in the park for a team like us in scintillating form. Even if the manager decides to rest Santi, Ozil and Sagna, (which would be the right decision, considering we play Dortmund on Tuesday) asking this team to beat a team in the relegation spot in our own backyard isn't asking much.

Wenger, as always, said that he wouldn't underestimate the opponents, saying:

“Norwich are much more dangerous than last season because they have Elmander and van Wolfswinkel. Also they are technically very good in the centre. They showed that against Chelsea in the last game and it is always a potentially dangerous game to play Norwich because they are a team with a good dynamic."

Having said so, it would be a huge disappointment if this Arsenal side came out of this fixture with anything other than 3 points, and possibly losing our lead. With Liverpool, Chelsea, Man City and the Spuds facing relatively easy opposition this weekend, we cannot afford to drop points against such teams, even if it is early days. We are on top of the table, and I'm proud of that, but the next and more difficult challenge is to maintain that lead.

I feel that this should be taken as a good opportunity by Wenger to rotate his squad and keep the key players ready and raring for the important game against Borussia Dortmund. While I think that he will keep the back five of Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs unchanged, I feel it would be better if he brings Viviano and Vermaelen for some game time. It would at least give them a chance to prove their worth and give the others a run for their money to keep their place in the starting lineup. 

Midfield might be a problem, but it is the kind of problem that every manager would love to have. I expect Wenger to play Flamini and Arteta in central midfield, Ozil in the attacking midfield slot and Ramsey and Serge Gnabry on the wings, with Wilshere possibly rested. While I would've played Rosicky and rested Ozil for the game, I feel that Wenger's man management 'skills' would make him overplay Ozil and injure him eventually. It's a bad, pessimistic prediction, but I have a feeling that's what's going to happen if Ozil starts today. 

Santi Cazorla seems set to be on the bench, such was the hint in the manager's quotes:

"Cazorla is available in training but he is not match-fit. It is just about competitiveness with him. There is a possibility both (Cazorla and Sagna) are in the squad for Saturday. I have not decided whether they will start or not."

It's good to see Wenger playing it safe with Santi, because he is an important member of the squad and needs the special attention to get back into the game. I like Santi, and I can't wait to see the lethal partnership that he, Ozil and Flamini will form once they link up. Our midfield, though weedy, looks talented, strong and determined. Which is why Wenger should carefully play his cards as to which recently fit player should start the game, and who should be benched.

Olivier Giroud seems set to start the game, and while I might've suggested Bendtner to start instead (no injuries welcome in the striker area), he simply is too bad, even to play a game against the Canaries. As of now, we have no choice but to play Giroud in every possible game, and hope that he won't pick up a knock. I know many people have kept hopes that if Giroud would stay fit until Jan, then Wenger would get a striker to support him, but that sounds like bollocks to me. I know Wenger too well that I would actually be surprised if he bought a quality striker in the winter transfer window, because why would he buy a striker if he didn't get one in the past 2 transfer windows?

Anyways, that's quite another story. For now, let's just focus on consolidating our lead at the top of the table by defeating a pretty easy team. Here's to maintaining our lead, no more injuries, and an easy victory.

Come on Arsenal.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )