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Match Preview: Arsenal v Norwich City; Premier League Match Day 8

After the mindnumbing 2 weeks of international play we’ve had to endure, we Arsenal supporters are salivating at the mouth at the return of Premier League action. It’s not only a chance to get back to watching Arsenal in the Premier League but a moment we’ve all been waiting for the likely pairing of Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla.

After the mindnumbing 2 weeks of international play we’ve had to endure, we Arsenal supporters are salivating at the mouth at the return of Premier League action. It’s not only a chance to get back to watching Arsenal in the Premier League but a moment we’ve all been waiting for the likely pairing of Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla.

Arsenal look to get back the Spainaird who has been out since the last international break where he picked up an ankle injury. Sure enough it delayed the prospect of two of the league’s more dynamic players getting the chance to play together.

Well, that delay is over and we’re hopeful that Santi and Mesut get the chance to run the full 90 minutes. The obvious thought about Cazorla and Özil, as well as the rest of the midfield is who sits and who starts. To be honest, I love having this problem. There are a plethora of riches that Arsenal have and can roll out either to rest a player or as opponents dictate. All of them in their own right, could start in this Arsenal squad.

But obviously the focus in this match is on 3 players and revolves around 2 questions:

1. How will the Cazorla – Özil partnership work?

Again, I love having this concern. The obvious part of this partnership is who sits in the space behind the striker? Both Özil and Cazorla are wonderful talents with the ball at their feet but why I’d put Özil there over Cazorla is the German’s knack for finding space, receiving the ball and creating chances. He isn’t the best assists maker in Europe for no reason. Additionally, while many argue that Cazorla shouldn’t play out wide, my good friend Dan at North London is Red, laid a great case for keeping him out there.

First, Santi’s low center of gravity, his guile on the ball, his quick feet, and his “footballing brain” means many a fullback are going to have issues containing the lively spainaird. Additionally, Santi is superb crossing the ball. Let’s be real, he is probably our best crosser. Cazorla likes to dictate play with the ball. And I personally think him feeding Özil is what is going to see us with a significant uptake in chances on goal.

But let’s remember something about our play and it’s something I can’t believe bears mentioning (repeatedly) – our midfield is fluid and players shift and move positions to respond to in game situations. Post-Napoli a few people remarked it was hard to identify who was playing where as the midfield just oozed and swerved all over the pitch. The fact that Özil scored from the left and assisted from the right is a simplistic analysis of our fluidity but it’s worth remembering just putting people in a position to identify our possible lineup hides the fact that the players will rotate on their own.

That leaves the following question to be answered?

2. Does Mikel Arteta or Jack Wilshere come into the squad?

It’s very hard to make a case to take out Aaron Ramsey. Save for resting him for upcoming matches, the Welshman’s form makes him hard to take out of the lineup. Assuming he stays on, and Santi plays out left, who comes in. For me it’s Arteta. I’ve been amazed at how quickly people have forgotten how effective Arteta is simply because Flamini has come in and done a bang up job. But the two, while operating in similar roles can both be on the pitch.

Remember, Arteta was filling the deep lying role due to need not because it’s his natural position. His ability to adapt and his strong passing skills made Arteta quite effective in the role he occupied very well for Arsernal. He has an average passing succes rate of 91% and completes and average of 81 passes per game. He was outstanding in bring the ball up the field acting as the link between the back 4 and midfield.

But what people tend to forget is that his defensive stats are impressive too. His work breaking up plays was quite effective as he ended up with 99 interceptions last season. Additionally, his tackle success rate was 69% only 2% lower than Michael Carrick whom pundits have decided is the best deep lying midfielder in the league.  Finally, Arteta only made 2 defensive errors that led to goals all season last year.

In other words the general feeling that somehow because Flamini has suddenly come on, Arteta stinks, is unfounded and basically unsubstantiated.  The fact is having Arteta in the midfield with Flamini will allow Arteta and his passing skill to move a little more forward. However, if it’s needed having both Arteta and Flamini sitting deep can clog up and hopefully break down and opposition attack.

Of course more questions will have to be asked once the likes of Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski and Theo come back. And barring any further injuries, a squad that looked barren could head into the key November time frame with a wealth of choices for its first XI.

Of course all of this points to the hear and now. What Arsenal did wrong early last season was take opponents lightly. As the club got stronger that wasn’t the case and the impressive run they’ve been on is evidence that this a stronger Arsenal squad in many aspects than started the past season. The hope is they maintain the form and that there are no affects from the interlull.

How the match should play out:

Norwich enter the match on the heals of a valiant loss to Chelsea. For most of the match they held on and asked some serious questions of  Chelsea. In the end Mourinho’s boys proved too much. Away from home look for Norwich to lineup with just van Wolfswinkel up top. They will try and clog the midfield in an effort to close down the channels for Arsenal’s passing game.  The back 4 will likely take a very high in an effort to The real problem will be in the midfield where Norwich will look to close out space. Additionally, the defensive line of Norwich is resolute and will likely look to play a very high line to negate Olivier Giroud. If that’s the case then the ability for Arsenal to move the ball effectively and try and create space between the Norwich midfield and back line are where Arsenal need to play. They need to pull a tight and solid midfield wide to allow space to open up and move the ball within the 18 and force the Norwich defense back.

Players to watch:
Arsenal. Santi Cazorla. The diminutive maestro can hopefully provide the necessary thrills in  partner with MÖ11 we’ve been anticipating ever since Arsenal announced the signing of Mesut Özil.

Norwich. Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Okay, it’s only because I love the name.

Projected Lineups:

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal:  Diaby (knee),  Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) Podolski (hamstring), Walcott (stomach)

Norwich: Bennett (knee), Pilkington (late fitness test – hamstring)

Last Meeting (EPL):
Arsenal: 3

Norwich: 1

Leading Scorer:
Arsenal: Giroud 4, Ramsey 4

Nowich: 5 players with 1

Arsenal: Özil 3

Nowich:  4 players with 1

Last 5:
Arsenal: WWWWD

Norwich: WLLWL

Goals For:
Arsenal (home): 1.7

Norwich (away): .3

Goals Against:
Arsenal (home): 1.3

Norwich (away) : 1

Goal Differential:
Arsenal: 6

Norwich: -4

Match Official:
Referee: Lee Probert (Matches: 3. R1 Y11)
Assistants: Ganfield, Scholes
Fourth Official: Hill

Broadcast Information:
US: NBCS Live Extra (online streaming): 10:00 AM

UK: MOTD 1 (Highlights only)

GAMEDAY CHAT (IS BACK!!!!!! – but it’s in BETA)
To participate in our new GameDay chat – click here. We’re still working out some kinks but the framework is there. The rules are simple:

1. Profanity is allowed however, respect for your fellow chatters is a must or you will be banned
2. No sharing of streams

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Norwich: 0

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