Norwich preview: pick up where we left off

Hurrah, football is back. After the most interminable Interlull I can remember, we’ve finally got the real deal back again.

And if that wasn’t enough to get you going, how about the news that Jack Wilshere is, apparently, back in the squad for today’s game. It’s a bit of an odd one though. At his press conference Arsene Wenger spoke about the need to give Jack one more U21 outing before he made his comeback to the first team, but yesterday afternoon Wilshere’s agent took to Twitter to confirm that he’d be travelling to Norwich as part of the squad.

I’m not sure that Arsene Wenger will have been terribly pleased by that, preferring as he does to keep things under wraps as much as possible, and we can only hope it doesn’t have any effect on the decision. All the same, having Jack in the squad again is another step forward and while I don’t expect him to start, I don’t think the manager would include him in the squad just to make up the numbers. He must be considered fit enough to play some part, however small it might be.

The other team news from yesterday was that Laurent Koscielny was a victim of the Interlull which means there’s no decision for the manager to make in terms of his centre-half pairing. The only other choice he has to make is who plays on the right hand side of the forward three. After his goals against West Ham and Spain, Olivier Giroud has to start up front, so it’s a choice between Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. I just wonder if the travels and the delays of the England squad will have an impact on that.

So, I think we’ll line-up: Mannone – Jenkinson – Mertesacker – Vermaelen – Santos – Arteta – Ramsey – Cazorla – Podolski – Gervinho – Giroud

Our hosts today have not had a good start, taking only 3 points from their first 7 games, and they have yet to win a game this season. Nevertheless, Arsene Wenger is not taking anything for granted.

Norwich play positive football, and in the games we have seen, they are playing extremely well. They have not had luck in the games with moments where they could have won. We know that we will need the same performance we had at West Ham to have a chance to win the game.

Sometimes there is a post-Interlull hangover and there’s no doubt we’ve had more players away than Norwich, but I think this team is probably better equipped to deal with this kind of thing than in the recent past. There’s a maturity, for one thing, and a work ethic too which can be so important on days like this. It can take a game or two to regain fluency but the shortfall can be made up by players who are willing to put in a shift, and we’ve got those this season.

At left back today Andre Santos fills in for Kieran Gibbs, his first start of the season. The Brazilian says he’s happy (there’s a surprise!) despite being out of the side but wants to show what he can do. As I mentioned previously Gibbs’ form has been excellent but there’s no doubt he’s been helped by having Lukas Podolski ahead of him. If our left hand side was a weakness from a defensive point of view in seasons past, it had as much to do with the fact we didn’t have such a willing hard-worker there as it did with the quality of the left-back. From a defensive point of view Santos has to show he’s up to the task, but between him and Gibbs, if you had to put some money on one of them making a telling contribution in the final third it’d be the Cuddly Maverick.

Midfield will likely dictate the game and how Norwich decide to deal with the two Spaniards will be key. Chelsea showed that if you deny Arteta space and time then it does stop us getting into our rhythm, and it’d be a foolish team indeed that didn’t pay close attention to Santi Cazorla. Whether they have the quality and/or industry to really stop either, or both, remains to be seen.

The boss is right when he talks about West Ham, but forgotten in the enjoyment of that win is the fact that they had some very good chances to score. Grant Holt is no Andy Carroll, at least in terms of height, but he’s a big, hefty lump of a farmer who will cause Mertesacker and Vermaelen some problems. We can’t rely on teams missing good chances, we’ve got to tighten up defensively and make sure they don’t have them in the first place. If we do that today, we’ve got more than enough up the other end to really trouble Norwich and I think this is a trip from which we can return with the three points.

As always we’ll have full live blog coverage of the game later on. That means up to the second text updates which you can follow on your browser, tablet, phone etc. It’s newly optimised for mobile too, so check back here around 5pm for another post with all the information and team news, or simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.

If you fancy betting on the game, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.

And that’s about that for this morning. Here’s to a good performance and a good win (although I’ll happily take dodgy or lucky over good if needs to be), till later.

Come on you reds.


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