Thank Bergkamp, club football is back! I haven’t endured such boredom over a period of two weeks in my entire life. Thank everything it’s over. We go into the weekend against Norwich looking to grab all three points with no trouble. There were certainly highs and lows for Arsenal players during the break, but as a whole, we’ve come out pretty much unscathed.
With all those poorly timed midweek matches behind us, we look forward to a tricky test away at Carrow Road. With Theo Walcott injured, look for a shift back to 4-2-3-1, due to our dearth of centre forwards past Giroud. Yes, Chamakh is a centre forward, but does anybody really want an out of form, miserable player on the pitch? No. This leaves Gervinho and Oxlade Chamberlain to duke it out over the starting position at right-wing. With Podolski on the left, Cazorla through the middle, and Arteta beside Coquelin behind all three, our lineup remains strong amidst quite a long injury list that seems to only have lengthened over the break, both in duration and quantity.
We’ll always have our injury problems, but look on the bright side: Jack Wilshere is back, and rumoured to make a short cameo in this weekend’s fixture. It goes without saying that we shouldn’t expect anything from Jack until at least the end of December, but I have a feeling we won’t need to wait that long. Arsène has said he’s 80% match fit, which means he could be back to top shape within the next three or so weeks. He’ll have his work cut out getting a starting spot in our packed midfield, especially Diaby nearing yet another return from injury. To me, it seemed as though Diaby would be very sorely missed, but Arteta has carried on playing without batting an eye. We do miss his physical presence at times, but our lineup has adapted well to having two more defensively focused central midfielders, which could be very important when facing a team like Norwich, whose formation suits a midfield onslaught.
Their man to watch is definitely Grant Holt. He’s always been a nuisance, yet a player I’ve enjoyed watching against other opposition. Perhaps it’s his strength, or his tenacity that has won me over. Either way, he will present problems to our back line, and will look to hold up play for midfielders running onto the ball. He’s the focal point of their attack, and as such, their biggest threat.
The good news is, Norwich will be a weaker side, with Robert Snodgrass out injured, and mercurial David Hoilett off form after a miserable 8-1 result for the Canadian National Team in Honduras. Norwich have never been a side to be lauded for their defensive strength, so key to winning the game is to get on the front foot early, and maintain our focus for the full 90 minutes. Should Norwich get the first goal, it could spell disaster. They are by no means a poor side, and them being at home will only make things tougher.
Our defense will have to be alert at all times, especially the central partnership. I feel we should continue with Per Mertesacker starting alongside Thomas Vermaelen, because their partnership is iron clad, and both are in decent form. Koscielny wasn’t up to his best during the week, giving up a penalty, and having to play alongside a sub-par Mathieu Debuchy. It’s best for everyone that Mertesacker starts in his place, allowing Laurent to clear his head and work hard for the next match.
Up front, Giroud shouldn’t find things too difficult, and is my pick to score 2 tomorrow, it’s just a funny feeling. Aside from that, Look for Gervinho to swap sides with Podolski frequently, so far it’s worked wonders against every side they’ve done it to.
• Norwich have lost their last 3 home matches, while Arsenal remain undefeated in their last 7 away.
• Of their last 6 matches, Norwich have lost and drawn 3 each.
3-1 Arsenal with Podolski (2) and Giroud the goalscorers.
Who’s pumped for Norwich?