Arsenal returns to the Emirates Stadium pitch at 3pm on Saturday to take on Norwich after the two-week international break with Lee Probert scheduled to referee the game. The Gunners go into the match as co-leaders of the Premier League with 16 points from five wins, a draw and a loss. They share the position with Liverpool, but can claim top spot due to more goals scored. Norwich heads into the match in 18th place with seven points from two wins, a draw and four defeats.
Manager Arsene Wenger is hoping to have German international midfielder Mesut Ozil in the lineup. The creative playmaker suffered a mild knee injury while on duty with the German squad during the week in a 5-3 victory over Sweden. Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla may also make his return after missing the past few games with an ankle injury and defender Bacary Sagna, who has been sidelined with a hamstring problem, also has a chance of dressing.
The bad news though is that forwards Theo Walcott, Yaya Sanogo and Lukas Podolski are still recovering from various injuries as are midfielders Abou Diaby and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Everybody else seems to be healthy at the moment.
For Norwich manager Chris Hughton, it looks like forward Anthony Pilkington may miss the contest. He injured a hamstring while playing with the Republic of Ireland during the break, but Hughton won’t know his status until game time. Elliott Bennett will definitely miss the game as he’s out with a long-term injury.
Cazorla has been out since September 1, but Wenger is undecided if he’ll play. The manager said, “Cazorla is available in training, but he is not match-fit. It is just about competitiveness with him. There is a possibility he is in the squad for Saturday. I have not decided whether he will start or not.”
The Gunners have played well this season, but they’ve kept just one clean sheet in league play. This will give Norwich a bit of hope as they plan on taking advantage of Arsenal’s defensive shortcomings. However, they’ve managed just five goals in seven games this season even though they’ve made numerous changes to the squad over the summer.
No Norwich player has scored more than once this term for Hughton and that has to be a concern for him. His players put on good performances against Stoke and Chelsea in the past two matches, but scoring goals has been difficult for them. However, these two teams usually combine for some goals when playing in London as there have been 21 of them scored in their last four meetings here.
Overall, the two sides have met 48 times with Arsenal winning 21 of them, losing nine and drawing the other 18. They’ve outscored their East Anglian opponents 86 to 49 over those matches. At home, the Gunners have 14 wins, a pair of losses and eight draws and have outscored the Canaries by a margin of 51 to 22. The last time Norwich beat Arsenal away was back in 1992.
Norwich won’t be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination. They beat the Gunners 1-0 at home last season and dropped the return match 3-1 at the Emirates. They’re heading into the game with a pair of wins and three losses in their last five matches while Wenger’s squad has four wins and a draw in their past five and are riding an 11-game unbeaten string in all competitions.
Arsenal has to take all three points here if they hope to keep their spot on top of the table. They can’t afford to drop any points at all to clubs in the lower half of the table if they’re going to be a threat to take the title this season.