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Now is the time for Saka, Auba, Pepe with our Skipper through the middle v Norwich

PL Project Restart has been an interesting one for us.

City away was always a tall order.

Brighton away should have been a win.

Southampton away was hard-fought and well won.

And at Sheffield United in the Cup, we rode our luck badly but then another game vs. City resulted.

Amidst this, we’re having our first home game in the restart, and this will be weird with just banners and no fans around.

 

plarsenalnorwichwk32

 

Top four and Champions League is beyond us, I feel. Even if City gets banned and fifth place is up for grabs, even getting fifth is a long-shot.

But then these points stand out for me in the preview for this Norwich game:

 

  • Lifeline

 

Norwich are currently bottom and need a lifeline. They are six points below 17th place, and every point they get is key.

Moreover, they’ve had some positive results this season, even beating Man City earlier on.

Even their opening defeat at Anfield saw them give Klopp and co. a fright.

Farke seems like a dedicated manager, and will have to have some kind of game plan to get a result.

In short, we cannot think “oh, it’s Norwich, we got this!”

Yes, we’re favourites. We’re at home and have better players than them.

But we’re also a vulnerable side – and the Quarter-final win showed that we can be got at via a still weak defence. I suspect Sheffield United thought that we could be got at in the second half, and that’s what happened. They got a warranted equaliser and who knows what would have happened had things gone to extra-time?

Farke will look at this, and whilst his style isn’t like Sheffield United’s, he will look to expose our channels, pass through midfield, and isolate our weak defenders.

So Norwich’s lifeline will make this difficult, no matter how stronger we are, seemingly.

 

davluiz

 

  • Defence

 

The defence can be exposed by Norwich but all defenders must be on point.

That said, individually at least we have been better. Mustafi has improved since Arteta has come in. Even Luiz, with his regular clangers, did pick up a bit when Arteta arrived.

Kieran Tierney has been impressive since he returned from injury. I believe we need to persist with him. Comparisons with Winterburn and Cole are premature, but we have had some strong left-backs in our modern history. Monreal too was strong and underrated outside of Arsenal – and Tierney seems like a very able replacement for Nacho.  In any event, he should start this game as we need his combined defensive/offensive output.

Bellerin has been OK at best, though there are still question marks over Kolasinac.

 

Mustafi-Sheffield-United-2020

 

All have their moments, though it’s the tendency for individual mishaps that Norwich will look to exploit.

A case in point is the Sheffield United equaliser – Holding arguably could have headed the ball away, and Kolasinac’s weak clearance perhaps wasn’t caught well enough.

Luiz, should he start, needs no City-esque calamities.

And Mustafi cannot revert to his old patterns.

If defensively we’re on point then all the good. But we need to ensure we’re concentrating fully as not to get caught out.

We’ve lost goals to City, Brighton and Sheffield United due to this, and Norwich will be looking for similar.

 

  • Attack

 

Whether Auba and Laca will start is moot.

However, I would play Auba over Laca.

Laca is working hard, but then isn’t scoring goals.

Moreover, with Saka doing well in an advanced position our attack can be fluid. Auba moves to the left whilst Laca plays in the middle though I’d favour Auba being in the middle for this game.

 

Bukayo-Saka

 

Pepe has been contributing well lately, but I feel he is too isolating on the right side. Opposing teams often gang up on him and whilst his dribbling and trickery can beat players, it’s harder to beat three or four players without little support.

I’d favour playing Auba, Saka and Pepe in interchanging positions, as Pepe’s dribbling and pace can cause issues around the final third. Auba too can occupy the half-spaces between defenders, and Saka is similar. Norwich are down on confidence, and we need to isolate them and make it difficult for them. Auba also has gone a while without scoring and the Golden Boot race is still on. Vardy hasn’t scored yet, and Salah, Mane, Ings, etc. will be looking to add more.

 

  • Three at the back or 433?

 

The back three has worked well enough in recent games. It’s afforded us more defensive stability to be fair.

But 433 for me would be our optimal formation.

Let’s see this below:

 

lineup-3

 

If Torreira is fit, then he should start over Xhaka.

Ceballos did score the winner in the Cup game, but I’m not his biggest fan in honesty.

In this shape, I’d Xhaka to continue his seemingly good form and connect defence and attack more. Guendouzi’s future is uncertain, but I like him a lot and he can both carry the ball and pass long.

Luiz picked up a knock at Brammall Lane but then I don’t think he should start again due to his re-occurring gaffes. Sokratis hasn’t featured much, and whilst he too can be error-prone, I believe it’s good to see how he can progress here.

I’d want Willock to drive forward and progress the ball, but we cannot allow Norwich to break on us in the middle. If our front three can press from the front and also over space in both the final and middle thirds, this can help nullify any potential breakaways.

 

skysports-fa-cup-pepe-nicolas 5024843

 

As for Mr. Ozil – I’m not sure if he is genuinely injured, or if the theory that he’s being excluded holds up or not.

Either way, I’d put him on the bench and bring him on if we’re comfortable later in the game.  I don’t believe Ozil as at the level any more, but it’s wrong to suggest he can contribute nothing. All the same, we need to be in a post-Ozil era now.

 

PREDICTION – Arsenal 2-0 Norwich City

 

They will have a game plan and look to frustrate and expose our weak channels and areas. But our attacking prowess should be enough to silence the Canaries (with our Arsenal mine shaft gasses….)

 

 

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