Or will they set up to stop Arsenal’s attack?
On the back of disappointment at West Bromwich Albion and the loss of our midfield anchor-man, Francis Coquelin–and his back-up, Mikel Arteta–how does Arsenal regroup and respond?
Will a 3-nil romp in mid-week vs Dinamo Zagreb serve to re-grease the Arsenal machine or does it only add unneeded mileage to a vehicle in need of some time on the rack?
So many questions… And answers that can only be revealed on match day…
Doesn’t mean we can’t do a bit of guessing, now does it? 😀
Norwich City are back in the Premier League by way of winning the end-of-season playoffs between the 3rd and 6th place finishers in the Championship. To me, promoted teams, used to winning their matches in the previous season, always represent potential stumbling blocks for top teams hoping for easy points. If they’ve also shown the nerve and desire to come up by way of the playoffs, I become extra wary. The Canaries may sit only two points above the relegation places but we should make no mistake. If Arsenal visit Carrow Road and bring anything less than full effort and commitment, Norwich can punish us.
The names in their squad may not strike fear but they have sufficient quality to stop our attack if we’re lazy and take chances if they come their way. Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani are the men up front while guys like Nathan Redmond, Jonny Howson, Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady will be working hard to provide assists or score themselves.
We should also be aware of pacy fullbacks Andre Wisdom and Martin Olsson. Central defenders Sebastien Bassong, Ryan Bennett and Captain Russell Martin aren’t the biggest, but the first two (Martin missed the match but will be available for ours) and goalkeeper John Ruddy limited Chelsea to only a single goal a week ago. The Canaries managed a clean sheet in a 1-nil win vs Swansea in the league match before that one. Manchester City, we should remember, required a very late goal to take full points from Norwich three matches ago.
How then does Arsenal go about breaking the Canaries resistance? Unfortunately, in attack, our resources remain limited by injuries and fitness concerns. Things are looking up, however, with the return of Aaron Ramsey. Although he looked a bit rusty, he was able to come on and play almost a half an hour as a substitute. Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain should be the next body returning to fitness and will be available for this one. Will one of those two be used in Coquelin’s position at the rear of midfield?
Personally, I doubt it, and, instead, I believe Mathieu Flamini will continue in that spot. Ramsey, however, might take over on the right side of attack even though Joel Campbell had a solid outing vs Dinamo and made a lovely slide rule pass for one of Alexis Sanchez’ two goals. Alexis, supposedly, is carrying a slight hamstring strain and many were desperate to give him some time off during a lengthy barren spell for both club and country. Will he finally get some bench-time?
Manager Arsene Wenger recently compared Alexis to a lion on the hunt but will now have to decide if his predator deserves some time to digest his prey or if he’s hungry for more. I would be very surprised if he gets a rest considering we have nearly a full week before we play again vs Sunderland.
Then again, I was surprised we didn’t rotate a bit with the rear-guard for the mid-week match. Perhaps Wenger believed that we needed our absolute best group to help Flamini and, maybe, to try to mollify the home support who witnessed a more makeshift group lose an earlier Champions League match vs Olympiakos. Could he be thinking the Premier League is a chance to rotate?
My guess is no. In fact, the only change I predict from midweek would be Ramsey in for Campbell.
Bench: Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Campbell
It’s quite hard to discern exactly what Wenger is thinking. League matches against teams near the bottom are always must-win affairs but a slightly deeper group eager and ready to contribute seems essential with the busy Festive Season schedule only a few weeks off. What do my fellow Berkampesquers believe?
Regardless of the group Wenger sets out, we need the points. The table is very compressed and anything less than a win would be an opportunity missed. With Manchester United and Leicester City sharing points today we can go level with the latter club (and Manchester City) with a win.
Let’s do it, eh…