Three Selection Choices Arteta Should Make For Arsenal Match Versus Norwich
Arsenal, fresh from their FA cup progression at Sheffield United’s expense, now turn their attentions back to Premier League action as they host bottom of the league Norwich City. Having taken just 3 of a possible 9 points since the competition resumed, Mikel Arteta and Arsenal will be desperate to take all three points and strengthen their claim to a Europa League place. This article will outline three players surely under consideration by Arteta as he seeks to make up for the lost ground on those above Arsenal.
Young striker Eddie Nketiah has endured a very mixed season. Being loaned to Leeds for the first half of the season, he was rarely used by coach Marco Bielsa, who preferred the skills of Patrick Bamford to the England youth international.
Fast Forward six months and, now back at parent club Arsenal, Nketiah has started in two of the three league games since the restart in the place of the far more experienced Alexandre Lacazette. It seems clear that Arteta sees a great deal of potential in the youngster, who made his domestic debut against Norwich in the Carabao Cup in 2017, a game in which he netted twice to turn the tie around and see the Gunners through.
It is not simply youth that Nketiah has on his side. He seems much more mobile than fellow forward Lacazette, and whilst he arguably offers less with regards to hold-up play, his threat in behind defences is one which cannot be ignored by either Arteta or opposition defenders. His preference to run in behind is in stark contrast to Lacazette, whose first instinct is now to receive the ball with his back to goal. In a game in which Arsenal will need to stretch a compact Norwich defence as much as possible, starting Nketiah is a no-brainer.
Could we finally see the Portuguese international in an Arsenal match-day shirt? The January loanee joined the club carrying an injury and has since received a further injury in training, raising questions as to why Arsenal signed the 28-year-old to a four-year deal. However, he is now back in training as normal. Generally speaking, it would be unusual to see a player just returning to injury thrown into the starting eleven, but it is likely for two reasons.
Firstly, the reason players tend not to go from injured to starting is due to the nature of their injury, which more often than not affects their match-fitness. Cedric received a facial injury, which does not necessarily impair his ability to be match-fit.
In addition to this, Arsenal are suffering at right-back at present. Hector Bellerin looks a shadow of his pre-injury former self, which is to be expected due to the length of his layoff. Perhaps of more concern is the lack of connection that he appears to have with record signing Nicolas Pepe, who is often left isolated against three or four defenders. Getting the best out of Pepe is crucial to any future hopes of success that Arsenal have.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles deputised for Bellerin exceptionally against Sheffield United, but has time and time again expressed that he sees his best position elsewhere, either in central midfield or on the wing. He linked up more with Pepe, but the thrust of any Arsenal attack remained down the left-hand side, which has been consistent throughout Arteta’s reign. Cedric, therefore, has a golden opportunity to cement his place in this Arsenal side for the near future, which would give Arteta far more tactical freedom than he has had to date.
Here we go again. There is no denying that this is the worst version of Mesut Ozil ever to play professional football, the German World Cup winner having produced just three goal contributions across the entire season. Even worse, he has created just one “big chance” for team-mates, despite having made 18 appearances. However, he remains Arsenal’s lone creative spark in midfield, even if that spark is all but fizzled out.
Norwich will almost certainly look to dig-in and walk away from the Emirates with a point, perhaps snatching all three if they are lucky and clinical. Their FA Cup defeat to Manchester United shows how difficult the East Anglia outfit can be to break down, and it will take moments of quality to achieve this. For all of his flaws, Ozil remains one of few in the Arsenal squad capable of these moments.
Equally, this is a game that plays to the 31-year-old’s strengths. Arsenal are likely to dominate possession and thus unlikely to need to do a great deal of pressing out of possession. Whilst Ozil offers significant compromises to an Arsenal side attempting to be progressive under Arteta, his quality is such that he may well be needed against Norwich.
A game against the side at the foot of the Premier League table used to be one taken for granted as three points. Alas, this is no longer the case with this Arsenal side, and it will likely be a close game where Arsenal will need all of their quality to break down this stubborn Norwich side. Each of these three players can significantly increase their chance of doing this, as they offer Arsenal added dimensions which will be crucial.