The final weekend of Premier League football is finally upon us and before the excitement of an impending World Cup summer fully takes over, Norwich host Arsenal at Carrow Road with relegation all but confirmed.
After metaphorically being shot in the kneecap, Neil Adams’ effect on the team finally turned into points as his Norwich side held Chelsea to a goalless draw. Unfortunately, Sunderland’s brilliant resurgence in the last month meant a point at Stamford Bridge wasn’t good enough for Norwich’s survival bid. The draw did however ruin a run of 5 straight defeats that had seen Norwich fall into the bottom 3 for only the second time, but at the crucial stage of the season. Still not technically relegated, West Brom’s vastly superior goal difference, a difference of 18 goals, means that everyone surrounding the club are already consigned and preparing for Championship football next season.
Arsenal will be looking forward to their first FA Cup final since 2005 – the last trophy they’ve won – after securing their Champions League qualification last weekend. The slump in February and March, run of 2 wins in 10 matches, ultimately cost them the Premier League title, but the return from injury of Ramsey and Ozil has seen Arsenal returning to the heights they had hit earlier in the season. The North London club have won 4 matches in a row since the FA Cup semi-final against Wigan and scored 10 goals while only conceding the one.
A player who doesn’t grab headlines often, Alex Tettey quietly goes about his job in midfield and was greatly missed in the 3 matches that preceded last weekend’s match against Chelsea.
A good shield in front of the back four, Tettey has won 31 tackles, 61 ground duels and possesses a calmness on the ball that has often been missed in the Norwich midfield – the Norwegian international has the best passing accuracy of any Norwich player (88%). To reproduce one of these performances again would be pivotal if Norwich are to end their Premier League stay on a positive note.
With Arsene Wenger likely to rest players ahead of the cup final making it hard to predict, one that could possibly start is Santi Cazorla who has again had another decent season for Arsenal.
Cazorla has made more attacking passes than any Arsenal player this season – 1313 in the opposition half, 785 in the final third, and 278 passes into the final third – showing his influence during the Gunners’ attacks as he floats around the final third waiting to produce a defence splitting pass. This movement and the former Malaga playmaker’s quick feet will be atest for Norwich defenders who will have reproduce their solid defensive performance of last week.
Norwich are set for their lowest ever goal tally, with Norwich scoring 28 this season, unless they score 8 against Arsenal – an incredible ratio of a goal every 118.93 minutes.
The Norfolk club have only won once in 10 matches and obtained 14 points in 2014 – the lowest total of any club in the top flight.
Before last weekend’s draw at Stamford Bridge, Norwich had lost 8 consecutive away matches.
Arsenal’s only defeat against Norwich at Carrow Road in the Premier League era was last season when the Canaries beat them 1-0.
With Arsenal set to finish 4th in the league this year their record matches this – number of wins, goals scored and goal difference all being 4th best, whilst conceding and losing the 4th least.
Norwich have no new injury concerns, but will be without Yobo and Pilkington through injury.
Apart from the players that will be rested ahead next week’s final, Arsenal will be missing Walcott, Miyaichi, Oxlade-Chamberlain are all set to miss out against Norwich. While both Wilshere and Gnabry will have a fitness test ahead Sunday’s match.
With both having contrasting thoughts on their minds – one of an FA Cup final and the other of Championship football – any outcome is likely. Whoever gets the first goal will set the tone of the match; if it is Norwich then the match will be a competitive one, if Arsenal score first then it could be a matter of how many depending on the reaction of the Norwich players. Most likely is a low scoring game where no one really wants to be there.