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Arsenal versus Norwich: the Champions League battle just keeps on getting tighter.

By Phil Gregory

Arsenal host Norwich on Saturday in our final home match of the season, with the battle for the guaranteed Champions League spot of third place getting interesting with Newcastle in almost unstoppable form of late. I don’t doubt I wasn’t the only person who expected them to drop points versus Chelsea, and their shock 4-0 defeat against Wigan is the only thing keeping them from inhabiting third place at the moment. Thomas Vermaelen’s last minute winner against the Toon a few weeks ago may just prove to be very, very important.

With the Premier League hotting up as the title race, the contest for the Champions League places and the relegation battle all look like going down to the wire, it is strange that the talk has largely been dominated by international football. Alas, England can do that given our nation’s outstanding ability to expect far too much from our motley selection of internationals. Given the late appointment of the manager and the limited nature of the players available, England will be lucky to get out of their group; the most I hope for is Hodgson instilling a little bit of pride back in the jersey. A good start would be shipping out the fading stars who won’t be able to cut it come 2014, and putting an emphasis on team spirit and togetherness over individual ability. Anybody who has coached a side will know that a united squad is much greater than the sum of its part, and if a united squad requires getting rid of some of the egos and general idiots, then so much the better.

For Arsenal however, the situation is fairly rosy. Podolski’s signing is certainly an interesting one: after Van Persie, our striking options are limited, so I’m anticipating Lukas to battle for the left sided berth and provide cover for Van Persie in the central berth. Such a plan would surely see the likes of Bendtner and Chamakh shipped out… I suspect Park will stick around as a third choice squad player. The South Korean arrived in that role and unfortunately for him never got a real shot due to Van Persie’s form and fitness.

Looking ahead to the Norwich game, Diaby has suffered a calf injury and has been ruled out of the last two games of this season. This match will come too soon for Theo Walcott, though Johan Djourou returns to offer a little depth at centreback.

Szcznesy

Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen Santos

Song Ramsey

Rosicky

Benayoun Van Persie Gervinho

With no injuries from the Stoke game – not for want of their trying – it seems probable we’ll see a very similar line-up. The only possible change I can see is if Wenger opts for two penetrating attackers on the flanks and plays Chamberlain instead of Benayoun. That said, the Israeli has not been short of attacking potency in recent weeks, so that change seems fairly unlikely. I did however go for Santos at left back: I can’t see much between Gibbs and Santos, and Wenger seems to use them interchangeably. Santos is dangerous on the attack so perhaps we’ll bring him in to support our pursuit of the three points.

I certainly hope we pick up the three points in a comfortable manner, not least because this early kick off is timetabled to be my break from the library and wall to wall exam preparation. Alas, results don’t always follow what we want, and the league table usually provides a slightly more accurate indicator. Norwich’s recent fairytale debut top flight season has tapered off somewhat, and the Canaries now sit 14th. That should suggest a fairly comfortable home win, but despite a modest league position they have managed to pick up five wins on the road this season. That and the fact that only a Robin double got us the three points at their place earlier in the season after falling behind suggests sounding a note of caution may be wise. Injuries too – while not as bad as they have been – have robbed us of Arteta and Walcott, two reliable performers this season.

Certainly, should have enough to secure the win at home. Spurs clawed back some of the goal difference in their recent 4-1 win, so knocking a few past Norwich certainly wouldn’t go amiss. After a cheeky preview of the yet to be published RefWatch for this article I know that we don’t have to suffer the likes of Dean for this game, so I’ll go for 2-0 to the Arsenal.

 

28 comments to Arsenal versus Norwich: the Champions League battle just keeps on getting tighter.

  • RedGooner

    I think 2-0 sounds about right with the vocal home support behind the team.
    Off subject I thought this was a great read and wondered considering the racial abuse on twiter recently of a few players and the arrests afterwards.
    Why has this prat not been arrested also ?

    http://nigelbidmead.com/?p=143

  • Stuart

    Isn’t it somewhat fishy where Arsenal are the only early kick off. One could be forgiven for thinking this was all a plan so the refs could be briefed of the desired outcome of the games that follow.

  • Gord

    @Phil

    You mention that you’ve seen an early version of the RefWatch, but waiting about an hour, nothing is coming. Do you think DogFace knows that Sian Massey is running one of the lines? Is the fact we are having a female referee’s assistant messing up DogFace’s analysis? 🙂

  • John

    Fingers cross 2 wins secure 3rd spot and CL footy for next season built of what you have learnt this season.

    Which is get rid of anyone not contributing and bring in competition for places not just have numbers.The competition for spots should ensure veeryone gives 100 or they are dropped simply.

    A major cull needs to happen in the summer but its a balancing act with getting the best price possible for a particular player. But you also need to factor in the wages ( i know loan wages are covered sometimes not all by the way) these players are being paid. Ex let Squllaci go on a free if he cosents to contract being terminated.

    OUT

    Alunmia, Squallaci, Hoyte, Arshivan, Bendther, Denilson these have been given chances and not taken them. TOTAL 6

    Add to that the unlucky players who are not needed Vela, Chamakh, Park, Landsbury and Watt. TOTAL 5

    Also I dont think Mertersacker (way to slow yes he can read the game) and Gervinho are working out just my opinion.

    Total Out 13 players and 13 wage packets.

    BRING IN

    Hoilett Blackburn on a free. I’m thinking Podolski will play left.

    Dempsey Fulham PL proven can play as striker with V Persie behind or back up for Van Persie. Gives real options up front he is proven in PL and we cant forget Robin has had his injuries but I hope they are long gone.

    Vertonghen Ajax provide competition for centre back also Vermanlen can switch to LB if needed.

    Thats 3 wages v 13 gone I wont go into possible savings or possible transfer surplus but its a plus to the accounts.

    I’m thinking Wilshere will play behind striker just by opinion be can beat a man and make things happen.

    —————–(Fabinski)————-
    —————–Scezensey————–

    ———-(Djourou)———(Vertonghen)—–
    ————Kozzer————-Vermanlen————

    –(Jenkinson)——————————-(Santos)—
    —Sagna————————————-Gibbs

    ——–(Coqulein/Frimpong)—(Ramse/Diaby)————
    ————Song—————-Arteta—————-

    —(Oxlade)————————————(Hoilett)
    —Walcott————————————-Podolski—-

    ——————-(Rosicky/Benayon)—————-
    ———————–Wilshere———————

    ———————-(Demspey)————————
    ———————–V Persie————————–

  • nabby

    Some of what you’ve written makes sense, John, but it strikes me that you’re the kind of fan who would have written off Pires and Henry after 1 season of not setting the league alight.
    I’d love to see Dempsey at Arsenal though.

  • Stuart

    John, did you also work that team out keeping in mind the home grown quota etc?

  • Esrom

    I’d like to see Papiss Cisse at Arsenal :)!

  • Laundryender

    @John

    Whats the point?

    PS @Esrom
    I would like to see Wayne Rooney, best player in the EPL. Just as likely.

  • ak47

    bens bin pretty close recently i think he’l score and its about time rambo and ricky got one a piece.

    4-0 will be very nice.

  • Mick

    John
    Are you confusing reality with computer games?

  • What the?!?! You peeked at my RefWatch!

    nyway – all finished now so take a look.

    🙂

  • Damien Luu

    @Mick: Yeah, he is, just like me (now and then) 😀

    How could some people still NOT see how good and important our Big German Defender is is beyond me, though.

    And Clint Dempsey, isn’t him being 30 already the next season?

  • sneaky I know… but a reliable source to cheek which clown is officiating the game. Can’t be making predictions and not knowing if Dean is in the mixer or not.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    How can we not retain a 1 goal difference lead with 10 minutes to play, omg.

    I feel theres been a collective responsibility from all the midfielders (especially song) to increase their creativity in the production of goals since cesc has left. This, as shown today leaves a big gap in our defensive midfeld areas as they do not track back or do it quickly enough (ramsey and song today) leaving the defenders exposed.

    I really beleive we need a better ATM to come into the team ahead of Rosicky to create and score goals. It was evident today that song had authority over rosicky to attack and was the most creative force in the team-therein lies half of the problem.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    oh, and a stonewall pen for VP circa 85 min (god dammit-frustration overload)!

  • akasuna

    What a game!! Feel sorry for our team though, yet double incident clear cut penalty not given. Should be a hattrick for Robin. Whatever happens at the end of the season our team has been fantastic. Just another game to go..COYG!!

  • fred

    We now face the real possibility of no European football if we are behind spurs and Newcastle and chelsea win the euro Cup. We will lose Van Persie definately and maybe others?

  • Jacobite Gunner

    @fred, wheeshed ur AAA pipehole unless you have anything constructive to say.

  • Jason

    @jaconshite why is he a aaa ? cos he says the truth?can’t beat a poxy norwich side at home and u have the audacity to suggest we should be in the champions LG. get a grip on reality our defense is relegation standard. look at the stats.

  • iniez

    Jashun, he’s an aaa because like you he only comes out when we don’t win, pathetic

  • fred

    being a fan for 37 years I have had plenty of opportunity to come out when we dont win. I merely put an utterance down about my fear for Arsenal and mostly my fear for wenger.
    His back up for his arguement about success is saying how we always qualify for the champions league = success. what will happen if we dont even qualify for Europe?

    Arsenal Abides!

  • jayjay

    Soooo Frustrating! the tracking back was awful, we didn’t close down fast enough and Szczesny was poor today by his standards- thought he was going to come out and claim the ball for their third. Ah well just one of those many days were the ref f*cks us over again – 85 minute, was also surprised TV got booked, hard but fair tackle, isn’t that what people-AAA say Arsenal lacks? if it all evens out we should beat brom by at least 10, doubt it, though do feel well win.
    In Arsene we trust.
    St. Totteringhams day – 13/05/2012
    COYG!
    one last question how many penalties does it make that we’ve had at home?? 1,2??

  • DeeDee

    Horrible play today and I can’t wait to see the ref review of the game. Worst ref display this season, must be. Couple of penalties missed, kicking is ok, maybe even couple of red cards missed (for second yellow). How is it possible that Holt wasn’t booked all game? And Johnson’s stamp, it looks deliberate to me. Maybe I’m just still disappointed.

  • Jason

    pathetic comments just like the manager. abo diaby to look forward to next season

  • Jacobite Gunner

    @jason

    wow, very constructive 🙂

  • Paul

    Jason, Tottenham lost against that same Norwich side at home, do you think they’re champions league standard then?

  • goonergerry

    Unable to beat Norwich at home in a must win game- of course its OK- it must be the ref- just as it was against Blackburn, Wigan, Swansea, Fulham, QPR- all top teams. Don’t blame the manager- he only chooses the squad, picks the players, determines the tactics. He’s obviously got it all sorted-there are no improvements that can be made- after all Arsene knows- losing to these footballing giants is all down to bad luck and those nasty referees- obviously- and anyone who says otherwise is the AAA and the real reason for these results. You are so right.

  • Mihir

    @Yes and beating Milan, Spuds, Man City, Chelsea does not count at all.No of course that is expected. We should beat each and every team in the world and yet we’ll find people who’ll complain. Yesterday was a shambolic defensive display but the fight shown to get back was something that was consistently shown and could be called our team’s hallmark this season.Once again we did not get the rub of the green or else we would have had this in the bag with 4-3 but what the hell, we can always complain! 🙂
    Now let’s focus