Arsenal resume Premier League responsibilities this weekend with a trip to Carrow Road to play Norwich City. The Gunners will be aware of the seven point gap that has already opened between themselves and early leaders Chelsea and will be keen to keep the Blues within sight.
The Canaries, meanwhile, are struggling under new manager Chris Hughton. The club has shipped ten goals in their last three league games and have yet to record a Premier League victory this season. Based on resent form, it is hard to see how Arsene Wenger's side can fail to pick up all three points in this fixture.
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The Gunners recorded a strong 3-1 win over West Ham United in the last game they played before the international break, fighting back from a goal for the Hammers (Mohamed Diame scored after 21 minutes) to record a third win in four games.
The highlight of the game was undoubtedly the goal for new signing Olivier Giroud. The 25 year old French international has been under pressure since he transferred from French champions Montpellier, for not scoring goals. He went some way to silencing his critics with a first league goal for Arsenal when he equalised against West Ham and Goals from Theo Walcott and Santi Cazorla, in the final 13 minutes, to take all three points.
Wenger will be hoping for a 90 minutes with the same fluidity and intensity his side showed in the second half of the game against West Ham and more goals from Giroud and fellow new signings Lukas Podolski and Cazorla.
Norwich, on the other hand, will be desperate for improvement... any kind. The Canaries have been abysmal all season long and a fifth defeat in eight games is likely to sit poorly with the club's fans. The 1-4 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge before the international break was another illustration of the lack of Premier League-level talent in Hughton's side and with the array of attacking talent at Wenger's disposal for this game, the Englishman will probably be happy to get away with a controlled defeat.
The hosts for Saturday's game made a disastrous start to the league, losing 0-5 at home to Fulham on the opening day, and followed that with a 2-5 defeat to Liverpool and the 1-4 loss to Chelsea.
"It's a great opportunity for us. We're playing at home in front of a packed crowd and in what will be a great atmosphere. We need to make sure that we stay in the game and are also a threat. It's a home game for us and these are the type of games you need to look forward to, and I know my players are. We have to get back to where we were two games ago performance-wise," Hughton explained to the club's official Web site.
The good news for the home side is the last time these sides met they shared the points. In fact, the Gunners went into the break in that game (at the Emirates) trailing 1-2, despite Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun scoring in the second minute. A late brace from Dutch striker Robin van Persie (72nd and 80th) should have secured all three points for Wenger but a moment of ball-watching allowed Steve Morison to salvage a draw.
The bad news is the Canaries have not beaten Arsenal at home since 1992... and that is unlikely to change.
- Last Five (Most Recent First): L L W L D
- Last Match: Chelsea 4 - 1 Norwich City
- Last Five (Most Recent First): W W L W D
- Last Match: West Ham 1 - 3 Arsenal
Norwich City: The club will see defenders Steven Whittaker and Simon Lappin return to training but neither player is expected to make the matchday squad. Forward Robert Snodgrass may be available but it remains touch-and-go on that count. On-loan striker Harry Kane (from Tottenham) is still nursing a metatarsal fracture and is unlikely to be available before November. Meanwhile, new recruit Jacob Butterfield is working his way back from injuries and has played games for the club's U21 side but may not be ready for this game.
Last season's second highest English goal scorer in the league, Grant Holt, will be key to the Canaries' hopes in this game and if the 31 year old can use his aerial ability and strength to disturb the Arsenal defence (which was tested by on-loan Liverpool striker Andy Carroll in the game against West Ham), then Hughton could look forward to something from the game.
Probable Line-Up: Ruddy; Martin, Bassong, Barnett, Garrido; Johnson, Howson; Bennett, Hoolahan, Surman; Holt
Arsenal: Wenger will be without England international Theo Walcott, after his injury in a World Cup qualifier against San Marino. Left back Kieran Gibbs's thigh injury against West Ham means he too will be unavailable and Brazilian Andre Santos is likely to fill in.
French international midfielder Abou Diaby could return this game but Wenger may decide against rushing back someone so critical and risk a serious relapse. And that will probably be the case with 20 year old Englishman Jack Wilshere as well.
The biggest concern for the Emirates club is the continued injury crisis to its goalkeepers. The Polish duo of Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski are still unavailable, meaning Italian Vito Mannone will start again. The club continues to battle other injury problems as well, with Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky also unavailable.
On field, Spaniards Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla and the Franco-German pair of Giroud and Podolski will be key to Arsenal picking up all three points.
Probable Line-Up: Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Ramsey, Arteta, Cazorla; Gervinho, Giroud, Podolski