An in-form Arsenal side take on bottom-placed Norwich City on Boxing Day, as Mikel Arteta aims to keep a stronghold on the fourth spot.
Norwich City’s tally of ten points after 18 rounds of matches sees them placed at the bottom of the league table. Losing their last three fixtures has also piled on the slump that Dean Smith’s side currently find themselves in. And the visit from Arsenal on Boxing Day is surely not a welcome distraction.
The Canaries are badly hit with Covid and injury-related problems and remain winless in five Premier League fixtures. In their last game, Smith saw Norwich lose to his former side Aston Villa, which further dented their confidence ahead of the clash with the north London side.
Despite some resurgence in form when Smith arrived, Norwich have gone back to old habits where they cannot create chances or score goals. They have a paltry eight goals to show so far this season, which is the lowest of all teams, while their defensive game has been in shambles. Only Leeds United and Newcastle United have conceded more than the Canaries’ 34 goals this term.
While Norwich’s struggle to find the net continues, Arsenal have been in solid goalscoring form of late. The Gunners have won three consecutive games in the Premier League ahead of their to Carrow Road, scoring nine goals and conceding just once. Mikel Arteta’s second-string side scored five times against Sunderland in their League Cup quarterfinal win in midweek.
Arteta’s men are in supreme form, having dispatched Southampton, West Ham United and Leeds United in the space of two weeks. Their results have taken them into the fourth spot on the table, which they will keep heading out of Boxing day irrespective of their outcome at Carrow Road.
However, Arteta will be keen to keep the record clean and secure a thumping victory over strugglers Norwich to keep themselves well ahead in the top four race. They have West Ham United, Manchester United and Tottenham lurking behind, with Spurs, in particular, having three games in hand over the Gunners.
Team News & Tactics
Smith will have to deal with a long list of absentees ahead of the Arsenal clash. As many as eleven players could be out of contention due to injuries and a Covid outbreak. Tim Krul became the latest name to test positive for the virus.
Pierre Lees-Melou, Lukas Rupp, Josh Sargent and Christos Tzolis have reportedly recovered from the virus and could be available for selection. Meanwhile, Ozan Kabak is a big doubt for the home side and could be deemed ready to play if he passes the late fitness test.
However, Mathias Normann will require surgery for his injury and will be absent. Christoph Zimmermann, Grant Hanley, Andrew Omobamidele and Milot Rashica are also unavailable for selection. Meanwhile, Smith is yet to disclose players who have tested positive in the latest rounds, although he did confirm there were a few.
Smith could go with a 4-3-3 formation and hope his team clicks with this attacking formation. Angus Gunn could come in goal to replace Krul in goal, while Ben Gibson and Kabak could slot in central defence. A midfield trio of James McLean, Rupp and Billy Gilmour could be favoured.
Max Aarons and Brandon Williams are expected to provide attacking support from the full-back roles, with Teemu Pukki leading the line and having Todd Cantwell and Przemyslaw Placheta on either side of him.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Gunn; Aarons, Kabak, Gibson, Williams; Gilmour, Rupp, McLean; Placheta, Pukki, Cantwell
Arteta has minimal problems with his squad compared to Norwich City. However, Arsenal have been sweating on the fitness of right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu, who was taken off against Leeds after suffering a knock. While the club haven’t mentioned his name on the list of absentees, the Japan international is expected to undergo a late test to determine his participation.
💪 Preparing for Sunday
🎅 Pumped for tomorrow
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 24, 2021
Calum Chambers tested positive for Covid in the latest round of testing and joins Albert Sambi Lokonga and Pablo Mari on the list of absentees due to the virus. Sead Kolasinac is the only player missing through injury as he recovers from an ankle problem suffered during the last international break.
If Tomiyasu is fit, Arteta is unlikely to make any changes, meaning the same team will have started for five consecutive Premier League fixtures. After scoring nine goals in three league games, the manager will likely retain the same players in midfield and the final third.
Emile Smith Rowe, who came off the bench to score in consecutive games, will likely find himself among the substitutes. It’s hard to see Arteta dropping the in-form Gabriel Martinelli from the lineup, who will have Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka as partners in the front three.
Martin Odegaard is set to keep his place in the No. 10 role behind Lacazette. Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka will resume their partnership in central midfield. Kieran Tierney set to keep his place at left-back ahead of Nuno Tavares.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ramsdale; Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Lacazette
- Norwich have scored just eight goals this season, which is the joint fewest by any side between the start of the season and Christmas in the history of the English top-flight.
- Norwich have conceded 34 goals this season, with only Leeds United (36) and Newcastle United (41) leaking more.
- Arsenal are unbeaten against Norwich in their last nine encounters, winning seven of those.
- Arsenal have just one victory from their last four visits to Carrow Road.
- Arsenal have scored at least two goals in five of their last six matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch
The Brazilian youngster has come out of the blocks in recent games and given Arteta a real selection headache. Martinelli has six goal involvements in as many games and is expected to continue his terrific run when the Gunners visit Norwich.
Martinelli has to prove he could be a consistent force in the attacking third, and the recent performances are no flash in the pan. Against the Canaries, he has a great chance to exploit their weak defence and improve on his goal tally, particular during a period when there’s a vacancy in the attacking third due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s absence.
Norwich City 0-3 Arsenal
The Canaries’ leaky defence is set for a test when a rampant Arsenal side come visiting, and the Gunners are expected to put a few past them at Carrow Road. Norwich have scored the fewest goals in the Premier League so far, and they are unlikely to score against this Arsenal backline.
The Gunners are coming together in the attacking third with lethal effect on the other end. The pace, preciseness and sharpness of Arsenal’s attackers will be too hot to handle for Norwich defenders. The Hard Tackle predicts a 0-3 scoreline, although if the Gunners are ruthless in this clash, they could score even more.