After a draw with Sunderland last weekend, this Saturday’s fixture against Norwich has become a very important one with Champions League football on the line.
Arsenal have Manchester City left to play in their final away game, so winning the home matches against Norwich and Aston Villa will be crucial with Manchester United hot on our tails.
Fans are planning a protest against anything and everything they aren’t fond of at the club at the moment and another uninspired performance will only fuel the fire – the team can’t really afford to let that happen.
Arsène Wenger’s press conference on Friday certainly suggested that the pressure is starting to show a little bit. The manager talked up the character of his side before moving on to the scrutiny of pundits and fans.
“There are some groups of people who try to manipulate our fans and they do that well,” the manager said, and he seems to think they’ve achieved what they set out to do.
“We played sometimes at home in a very difficult climate.”
Home form hasn’t been good enough this season, especially in games Arsenal are expected to win. Just like Saturday. The boss did not go anywhere near as far as blaming the fans, as some would like you to believe, for the dropped points this campaign.
Wenger has called for more unity amongst fans and the club but that seems unlikely, the rifts are pretty wide right now and it would take something spectacular to shut them.
Still, Saturday’s game will be Wenger’s 750th in the Premier League and he will want to mark the milestone with three more points.
Everyone is fit! At least there’s that.
Santi Cazorla could be in the squad for the first time since the reverse fixture in November and Jack Wilshere should be on the bench again at the very least.
Decisions will have to be made on the starting XI after Wenger shook things up against West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland: Ramsey or Coquelin? Mertesacker or Gabriel? Giroud or Welbeck?
Maybe Theo Walcott will even get a chance to start. Maybe.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Elneny, Ramsey; Alexis, Özil, Iwobi; Welbeck.
Fighting for Premier League survival, Norwich will be absolutely desperate to make the most of an unsettled atmosphere at the Emirates Stadium.
After crawling their way towards safety defeats to Crystal Palace and Sunderland have left the Canaries deep in trouble again and Wenger wants an early goal to settle the game down.
“Norwich are a team who plays more so we have to stop them from combining well,” said the Arsenal manager. “For us, it is important for us to score early if possible to put them under pressure and play at a high pace.”
An early goal would put Arsenal in a commanding position but wouldn’t guarantee anything: a better performance than last weekend is needed.
Positive news for us is the absence of Timm Klose, but Norwich are otherwise pretty close to full strength.
Predicted XI: Ruddy; Martin, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson; Redmond, O’Neil, Howson, Brady; Naismith; Mbokani.
Arsenal fans are well within their rights to protest and are set to make their feelings heard on Saturday. Supporters are at odds with the club they love, totally lacking faith in the manager and the majority shareholder.
That’s fine. I, personally, just hope those attending the game also manage to get behind the team while the game is going on.