Match Preview: Will It Be a Festive Boxing Day for Arsenal As They Face Norwich?
The festive period fixtures are well and truly upon us, as Arsenal resume their Premier League campaign with the Gunners heading to Carrow Road to take on Norwich. Back on 11 September, the Gunners rolled out 1-0 winners at the Emirates. Arsenal used the win to jump start their season and carry on a run of 10 unbeaten in all competitions.
The last outing significant changes to the side that we still see today. Namely, Mikel Arteta looking for a spark after three losses to open the season, opted to start Aaron Ramsdale over Bernd Leno. Additionally, he was able to get £50m signing Ben White to partner with Gabriel Maglhaes.
Arsenal will look to extend their improved form with their 4th win in a row if they can get a result versus the Canaries. The hosts are a side beset by injuries and a growing list of COVID-induced absentees. Still, the match is set to be played and for Arsenal could further solidify their place in the top 4.
About the Host Side
IN our scouting of Norwich, we clearly see a side that is in transition and getting used to the way their new coach wants them to play.
With the ball Norwich try to build utilizing a 4-2-4 formation. The real dangerman in their attacking set up is Pukki along with Todd Cantwell. However, Cantwell’s effectiveness seems limited as he continually gets pushed out wide with nothing to do.
While he can drift when being used optimally, this really takes away his most effective use – as the link through the midfield. This was really evident against Aston Villa where he and Buendia interchanged their positions between the central and wing positions.
Problems arise in their attack as their defensive-minded set up sells their attacking intent especially as their midfield tends to sit very horizontal and occupying the same line. Overall, they also suffer from a general lack of quality in the side which is evident as they try to build an attack with little to no off the ball movement.
Defensively, they typically set up on 4-1-4-1. Again, as with a team still searching for an identity, they have issues when set up. The first being setting themselves up to sit deep in a low block with really sets them up for sustained pressure.
When they are set up right, the low block works effectively for them. Ideally, they want to deny their opponents the ability to play through the central areas and force play out wide. We should expect a similar set up for us. However, with everything going on for them and their form (regardless of COVID and injuries) the real question is if they are good enough to trap us?
When watching them you see that leave some big gaps in wide areas frequently, as well as having an unhealthy overreliance on their fullbacks to clean up the lack of collective pressing.
Additionally, when sitting in their low block you see fundamental issues, like players facing their goal rather than paying attention to the developing attack with no one checking their man. With that general lack of in game awareness you might suspect that this would be a team that Arsenal could exploit their back line with off the shoulder movements and balls in behind.
Because of Norwich flat defensive formation, they look like they tend to follow the offside line instead of looking for runners.
This is to be blunt, a side still very much in disarray and any failure on Arsenal’s part to get anything but all must be down to poor preparation or an inability to break down their low block.
Arsenal Can’t go Easy
The road hasn’t been kind to Arsenal this season. However, last week, they ran rampant at Elland Road and will have to fancy themselves coming, especially with Norwich look like a very depleted side. That being said, Arsenal can neither underestimate this opponent nor take it easy on them.
A staple of this run of wins, has been a ruthless we’ve seen in Arsenal that wasn’t seen at all until the came back after the losses to Everton and United. This must continue even against a struggling side like Norwich.
Of course, the matches are coming fast and furious with the gunners having to turn around and play again 48 hours later, so it will be interesting to see if Arteta rotates for this game and the next.
It’s a game where further progress can be made and while some may disparage both the opponent and their current state, you can only play the teams on the schedule. So, play them at your fullest ability.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
Absolutely, I think they deserve much more from many, many games – in recent games as well. Under Dean [Smith] they deserve better results and they haven’t got them and we know at their place it will be a really difficult game, if the crowd is there as well you know how special it is on Boxing Day so we expect a tough match.
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (league only)
10W 2L 7D
Goals Scored (season average)
Arsenal (away) 1.11
Norwich (home) 0.56
Goals Conceded (season average)
Arsenal (away) 1.89
Norwich (home) 1.56
xG (via Wyscout)
Referee: Graham Scott
Assistants: Richard West, Derek Eaton
Fourth official: Dean Whitestone
VAR: Lee Mason
Assistant VAR: Simon Lons
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- Norwich City have won only one of the past 21 meetings in all competitions.
- Arsenal could do the Premier League double over the Canaries for only the third time.
- Arsenal are in the Premier League top four on Christmas Day for the first time since 2016. They were 15th this time last season.
- The Gunners have lost just two of their 23 Premier League games on Boxing Day (W14, D7).
- Fifty-two percent of their Premier League goals this season have been scored by players aged 21 or under.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored in both of his Boxing Day Premier League appearances.
- Aubameyang has never failed to score against Norwich in the Premier League, totalling five goals in three meetings.
- This game is two years to the day since Mikel Arteta’s first match in charge at Arsenal – a 1-1 Premier League draw at Bournemouth.
Editor note: Special thanks to Rasmus Pabst (@gamingpabst) who helped with the scouting of Norwich for this piece