Another Stumbling Block or Continued Progression as Arsenal Face Norwich – Match Preview
For his latest challenge, Mikel Arteta and his Arsenal side host bottom of the league Norwich City in a game that would ordinarily have been a foregone conclusion. This season, however, is different. The game represents another huge challenge for an Arsenal squad that is still trying to adapt to a third manager of the season and is still searching for an identity. Thus, this game has huge potential to provide another setback for the Gunners in their push for European places.
Norwich have played three games since the restart of English football. The Canaries are yet to pick up a point in their two league games (Defeats to Everton and Southampton), whilst they were also knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, despite heroics by goalkeeper Tim Krul. In fact, their last win in 90 minutes occurred as far back as February 28th, when they beat Leicester City 1-0. Of course, the restart has largely thrown the form out of the window, however, their results do not seem to have improved as a result of the break.
Arsenal, on the other hand, have a 50% win rate from their first four games, having lost away to Manchester City and Brighton before back-to-back victories at Southampton and most recently in the FA Cup against Sheffield United. After a tough start of four away games, the Gunners will be glad to play host for the first time since March in what they know is the easiest game left in their season.
The last game between the two sides finished 2-2, which was Freddie Ljungberg’s first in charge. A Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang brace cancelled out goals from Pukki and Todd Cantwell in what was a truly even game. Though improved under Arteta, it still promises to be a tough game for this group of players.
Daniel Farke’s Norwich squad will be severely tested after they played a torrid 120 minutes on Saturday evening. For forty minutes, they were down to ten men, which will only have increased their workload. Whilst they have had a day longer rest than Arsenal, therefore, they are likely to be just as tired.
The Canaries will be without key centre-back Tim Klose after his sending off at the weekend, while Christoph Zimmerman, Sam Byram, and Grant Hanley are all ruled out for the season, leaving Norwich worryingly depleted in central defence. Midfielder Alex Tettey filled in after Klose’s departure on Saturday and may find himself there from the beginning of Wednesday’s encounter. The biggest worry for Farke will be Todd Cantwell, who limped off against Manchester United and is surely a doubt for this fixture.
Arsenal remain equally short at centre-back, with Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers out with long-term injuries and David Luiz limping off in the FA Cup win, although Sokratis’ new availability will provide Arteta with some relief. Elsewhere on the pitch, it is good news for the Gunners, with Cedric Soares, Lucas Torreira, and Mesut Ozil all fit for their first involvements since the restart. They remain without Gabriel Martinelli and Bernd Leno for the rest of the season, but in Bukayo Saka and Emiliano Martinez have found fantastic options.
Key Matchup: Skhodran Mustafi vs Teemu Pukki
Arsenal have been notoriously poor defensively this season, conceding 41 goals, many of which were avoidable. A true poacher, Teemu Pukki has been one of few shining lights in an otherwise average Norwich side and has himself scored 11 of the team’s 25 league goals. Keeping the Finn quiet will fall to the previously error-prone Mustafi, and it is imperative that he maintains his concentration for the full 90 minutes if Arsenal are to get anything from the game. In their previous meeting, it was Mustafi’s deflection on Pukki’s shot that took the ball past Bernd Leno, and the German must be hoping to rectify this error with a commanding display in the reverse fixture.
To make this game the one-sided affair that the form suggests that it should be, it is crucial that Arsenal score early. Norwich are sure to defend in a low block and it will take all of the Gunners guile, skill, and vision to be able to break it down. As shown against Manchester United, the Canaries have the potential to provide a banana skin even for top sides, and they can look back to a 3-2 victory over Manchester City as a testament to this. If it is still 0-0 on the hour, expect it to be far more difficult for Arsenal to gain anything. If Arteta’s side can somehow find an early goal however, there is no reason that they cannot run out comfortable 3-0 winners.
What the Head Coach Says (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
A team that is fighting for relegation always has an extra edge. They know the difference between playing in the Championship and the Premier League, and they fought really hard to be where they are. I’m expecting a fully committed team and they are really brave with the way they play. They cause you problems and I’m expecting again a very honest team that is going to fight for their lives to try to give them a better chance to stay in the league.
I will show them (the players) what they are able to do when you give them time to play and it’s a very tricky team with the way they play. I will make sure that we recover first and we’re ready tomorrow to go again
Arsenal record vs Opponent (League only)
17P 8W 7D 2L
Average Goals Scored Per Game
Arsenal: 1.73 (home)
Norwich: 0.40 (away)
Average Goals Conceded Per Game
Arsenal: 1.33 (home)
Norwich: 1.73 (away)
Referee: Peter Bankes.
Assistants: Daniel Cook, Richard West.
Fourth official: Darren England.
Replacement official: Bhupinder Gill.
VAR: Mike Dean.
Assistant VAR: Ian Hussin.
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Arsenal are unbeaten in the past seven meetings with Norwich in league and cup (W5, D2).
- Norwich’s 1-0 home league win in October 2012 is their sole success against the Gunners in 19 contests (D8, L10).
- The Canaries’ last win at Arsenal was 4-2 in both clubs’ inaugural Premier League match in August 1992.
- Norwich have conceded 31 goals and kept only one clean sheet in the last 12 league encounters.
- Arsenal have won seven of their past 10 matches in all competitions, as many as in their previous 27.
- They are unbeaten in five home league games (W4, D1).
- Arsenal are on a 26-match run without defeat in home league fixtures against promoted sides (W22, D4).
- The Gunners have scored in all but one of their previous 33 home league games stretching back to August 2018.
- Arsenal have lost only two of 17 matches against bottom-half sides (W8, D7), both coming against Brighton.
- They have 43 points after 31 league matches, 20 fewer than they had at this stage of last season