Chances for redemption come thick and fast in the Premier League – especially during the flurry of fixtures that make up the winter schedule.
Arsenal’s last league outing saw them fall 3-2 to a West Brom outfit benefitting from Tony Pulis’s defensive input and a huge slice of luck.
The Premier League being the most competitive in Europe however, has seen the Gunners lose little ground in their hunt for the Premiership summit. With Leicester City and Manchester United drawing 1-1 yesterday and Manchester City suffering the wrath of Klopp last weekend, Arsene Wenger will make his men more than aware what impact three points will have on the league standings.
Norwich gaffer Alex Neil sees his side just two points above the drop zone at the start of the day, but recent displays belie their lowly position. For their previous game, they lost to a solitary goal against champions Chelsea and before that, the Canaries defeated Swansea City.
If Neil has any hope of denting an Arsenal rearguard that has found its steel this campaign then they will look to Dieumerci Mbokani, their top scorer. Ably backed up by Howson, Brady and Hoolahan, Mbokani will carry the chief threat to Arsenal’s defence. They will also be boosted by the return of club Captain Russell Martin.
Arsene Wenger is slowly regaining members of his squad which will make a huge difference as the fixture list grows more congested. Last week saw Spanish starlet Hector Bellerin return to the side and the midweek win over Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League welcomed back vital Welshman Aaron Ramsey.
This match may just see a cameo from fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who resumed full training before the Zagreb victory but he was deemed too much of a risk. This match looks ready made for a substitute appearance from the young England international. Theo Walcott is also on the mend but is still a couple of weeks away from a first team appearance.
In terms of team selection, Alexis Sanchez has been said to be suffering from fatigue after a ridiculously heavy schedule over the last calendar year but his showing in Europe in their 3-0 win rubbished any theories that the Chilean should be rested. He ran the show and the whole gamut of tricks and flicks were on show. If Sanchez has even the smallest amounts of gas in the tank, you would have to presume he would be in the side.
Aaron Ramsey may start this game rather than come off the bench like he did in midweek, and that will come at the expense of Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican has done an efficient job on the right of midfield since slotting in after the injuries to Ramsey and Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Welshman – who is no fan of playing out wide – adds a greater awareness and excellent link up play with Giroud.
Arsene Wenger will look forward to having a squad that is finally putting some meat back on its bones, but sorely missed – perhaps above the majority – will be Francis Coquelin, who will be out until at least January. Mathieu Flamini is a wily campaigner and will gamely fill in, but when games are being played every three days, can the veteran Frenchman stand up to these rigours?
If you take any meaning from stats, then it doesn’t make good reading for Canaries fans. They have only kept one clean sheet in their last thirteen games and have only won once against Arsenal in the last twenty six games. Throw into the mix Olivier Giroud has scored in his last four away games and Arsenal are joint top away scorers ( along with Leicester City ), and you have dark clouds gathering over Carrow Road.
Their is one positive for Alex Neil to clasp onto though – November is by far Arsene Wenger’s least productive month, with an average of 1.6 points earned under his tenure.
Big stakes for both teams, but for vastly contrasting reasons.
Prediction? I have no idea, but a repeat of Jack Wilshere’s beautiful team goal from two seasons ago would be quite something.