After an international break that threatened to drag on longer than one of Pat Nevin’s insights, the real stuff finally returns this weekend with two games against Norwich and Dortmund in a matter of days. Not that it wasn’t nice to see England qualify for certain humiliation in Rio, which let’s face it will be the case with old Roy at the helm, but International breaks at a point in the season when things were just getting tasty are far from welcome. I can only hope that the Arsenal players return with the same focus and quality that has been such a feature this season.
So to delve into the facts and fancies of both of these very different types of games, we have the usual motley crew onboard, chomping at the bit after a two-week absence and ready to light the touch paper on an exciting week for the Gunners.
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First up, I had a cheeky look at flights to Rio for the World Cup, and then had a bloody great laugh when I saw the prices. Supporting a team is never easy, but where they think the average fan will get the money to travel with Hodgson’s barmy army is beyond me. It’s not surprising the issue of prices were raised at your AGM yesterday (once again highlighting the divisions between the club and supporters). I’d have to give up drinking and probably even food to go and watch the Gunners every weekend! At least Arsenal fans have an avenue to vent their frustration though… I’m not sure those heading to Rio have much say in what they will pay.
Onto Norwich and we all know football games are never quite as easy as they appear so the visit of Norwich should be treated with as much caution as the tricky tie in Deutschland! You’ve every right to feel complacent – perched at the top of the table and with supreme talent returning from injury in the shape of Cazorla. A shock defeat to Norwich, however, would not be ideal preparation for Tuesday.
All that having being said, the Gunners couldn’t be better placed to dish out a thrashing here and if the first XI show their potential it could be one of those glorious days at the Emirates!
Well, BackPageBanter hit London cruise mode this weekend as the canaries fly into the Emirates with ex Spud Houghton marshaling his troops! After being brought back down to earth at the Hawthorns a few weeks back, the international break probably came at a good time for the Arsenal, who were starting to build an injury list longer than Dame Judi Dench’s CV!
2 weeks are a long time in football though and with players returning to the fold it’s the perfect opportunity to get back to winning ways! Mesut Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud (you have to see his goal) all proved their club form was no fluke. There was a noteworthy performance from Wojciech at Wembley and even big Nick (and no not me!) scored twice against the Italians, although that probably was fluke!
Team Player Tom
His subsequent booking for the celebration brought us all back to the boy we know, love and tried to sell for a couple million quid in the summer though!
As for Norwich’s danger men, Ricky van Wolfswinkel can be as troublesome as trying to pronounce his name after a drink or two! Meanwhile, with the energy of Snodgrass and Fer in midfield, Sergeant Flamini and co. will need to be at their best.
Taxi For Maxi
Let’s be fair, Norwich have established themselves well in the Premier League and Delia has cooked up a storm on the east coast. They will certainly travel with every intention of spoiling the party. As Nick says, despite a lack of goals Mr Van Wolfwhistle is more than capable of bagging a goal. Backed up with a solid midfield 5 and the ever-present John Elmander, Mr Hughton will be quietly confident his side could nick-a-draw here if they get the rub of the Emirates green!
All I know is that come Saturday afternoon I hope the team sheet is as strong as we know it can be and Wenger hasn’t chosen to rest some of the bigger names. That tactic has backfired already for the likes of Man `United, Chelsea and City and while players can be forgiven for having an eye on Tuesday night’s game, the Premier League can often be a far more gruelling challenge. Players, unlike us, do not have the luxury of looking ahead – not when the intensity in the League is such as it is and every point can make a difference come the end of the season.
For fans, the only preparation we need to do for a game is to check the aerial on the TV is working, or we have our ticket into the stadium, so I feel we are safe to cast our eye to Tuesday’s away game at Dortmund. Lads what do we think? A mouth-watering prospect, no?
Team Player Tom
Arsenal have made light work of the group of death thus far however the Dortmund ties are certain to offer the sternest test of the season. The flowing football on show against Napoli may well be stifled by a suffocating high press, possibly forcing Wenger playing on the counter and securing some set plays in and around the area. This could be a prudent approach and with the current Arsenal strong hold on the group, fans could be forgiven for looking for two points from the two games.
Then again, a tricky away day to Italy and another meeting with the dangerous Marseille, my mantra would be to make hay while the sun shines and attack the Germans from the first whistle. An attacking 4-3-3 would send a message straight down the barrels of the Germans. I’m not usually one for a cliché but it seems now is push the gunner boat out and see what we can reel in! Hopefully a big bad spot in the last 16!
I’m sure we will hear the usual, ‘this is a game for the neutral’, chat in the build up, but I’d happily snap your hand off for a performance akin to that in Bayern; where two goals against the run of play saw us win at one of the toughest grounds in the world. It wasn’t pretty that’s for sure, but it was highly effective. In fact, it was kind of like going to the disco with the ugly girl, only to end up scoring twice with the hot PE teacher monitoring the toilets. Memories eh lads!
Personally, I think we will win at home and lose away. That’s more points than two draws and might still see Arsenal top the group come the final round of games. You can list the Dortmund players, but mention Cazorla, Özil and Ramsey in the same breath and I think I know which strip I would rather be playing in on Tuesday!
Taxi For Maxi
Dortmund, as we all know are a different beast and despite a summer’s worth of transfer talk regarding Goetze and Lewandowski, they recruited brilliant in a certain Henrik Mkhittaryan, a target of Liverpool if you remember. We can’t forget the likes of Marco Reus and Max Hummels remain and Lewandowski continues to fire in the goals. A win here and you are virtually there though and there’s no reason why you won’t get it.
I’m going for an optimistic double with a 3-1 win vs Norwich and a 2-1 win vs Dortmund. The future is certainly bright. Let’s see if we’re saying that at full-time midweek!
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