Arsenal have gone from favourites for the title to fighting for fourth place once again and questions continue to be raised about Arsene Wenger’s future. They need a win this weekend, and a convincing one at that, to relieve any doubts that people have about them being able to qualify for the Champions League. The visitors on Saturday need points desperately as they fight for survival. Since they last played, both Sunderland and Newcastle are building momentum and Norwich need a positive result this weekend to keep up with the pace. It will be a tense affair, especially if Arsenal start slowly and the negative atmosphere could play into Norwich’s hands.
Its been another disappointing campaign for Arsenal after it promised so much before Christmas. They have been average at best since the turn of the year and the drop in both intensity and quality has hurt them. If Manchester United win their game in hand, they will go just two points behind the Gunners and Arsenal will know the importance of winning this weekend to increase the pressure on United before their match against Champions-elect Leicester City. The return of Jack Wilshere was a huge positive from the match at Sunderland and they will be hoping he gets more minutes this weekend.
Norwich are in a three-way battle for survival with Sunderland and Newcastle. They dropped into the relegation zone after Sunderland took a point from Arsenal and the Canaries will be hoping for a similar result this weekend. They are level on points with Sunderland with a worse goal difference and are one point ahead of Newcastle with a game in hand over the Magpies. They will be confident about their chances of survival but they are the team with the worst form and need to quickly correct that.
In their previous meeting this season, the two sides drew 1-1 with Lewis Grabban scoring for the hosts in reply to an earlier Mesut Ozil goal. In the corresponding fixture from the last time Norwich were in the top flight, Arsenal ran out 4-1 winners. Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil (2) scored the goals for the Gunners, while Jonny Howson netted for Norwich.
Arsenal are unbeaten in seven league matches, but four of them have been draws, suggesting that they aren’t doing well at killing matches off.
Norwich have only scored seven goals in their last ten matches. This will need to improve if they are to stay up.
Mesut Ozil will want to finish the season strongly to cement his place in the German national side and show just why he should have been included in the PFA team of the year. The midfielder has had the greatest creative season since stats were first recorded, and that is an impressive feat. His number of assists has dropped since Christmas and his personal form reflects Arsenal’s form as a team, which only goes to highlight how important the German is to his club’s success. He has 6 goals and 18 assists so far this season and he will be eager to reach the 20 mark for the latter. Ozil has a touch of class in attack and his ability to break down defences is incredible. He is entering into the peak years of his career and Arsenal will be hoping to keep hold of him for the foreseeable future, especially if he continues to produce figures like that in the final third. Norwich have a poor defence and Ozil will be a huge threat this weekend.
Robbie Brady has been a great signing for Norwich and is going to play a huge part if they are to stay in the top flight. He has experience in relegation fights with Hull and although he wasn’t successful with them, he will be used to playing with the pressure. He also has the Euros on the horizon with Ireland and he needs to be in good form going into that. Incredibly he is only 24, and has a lot of potential to grow in coming seasons. This season he has been a constant threat in the final third and if he played with better players, his assists tally would certainly be higher. He has three goals and two assists, but his performances have deserved more. The winger is capable of beating full backs, while his crossing is his most impressive asset.
Jack Wilshere could be set for his first start of the season this weekend after making his comeback last weekend. Olivier Giroud was recalled to the line up against Sunderland, but he disappointed once more and could be dropped for Danny Welbeck.
Timm Klose and Andre Wisdom are likely to miss out, which leaves Norwich’s defence severely weakened. Alex Tettey is also unavailable due to an ankle injury. Nathan Redmond is pushing for a start after an impressive cameo against Sunderland in the club’s last fuxture.
I expect Arsenal to win this match and if Manchester United fail to beat Leicester, this will all but confirm Champions League qualification. Alexis Sanchez is in great form and I think he will continue that and grab at least one goal. The frustration in the Arsenal camp is at an all time high, which could be a bad thing for Norwich as they will want to take that out on someone. If Arsenal get a big win like I expect, it could have a devastating effect on Norwich and their survival hopes.
Arsenal 4-0 Norwich City