Scouting Report: Arsenal vs Norwich
Norwich are quite the story, securing a second Premier League season after being at the bottom of League One just about two years ago. That’s taking into account that the Canaries have had a tough run recently, only picking up one point in the last five games. They have been on the end of thrashings from Manchester City and Liverpool in the last month and many would expect them to face another at the Emirates this weekend. The last match between these two ended 2-1 to Arsenal with Robin Van Persie having to bail the team out after a poor defensive mistake allowed Norwich to score the opener. With Norwich’s counter attacking style, those mistakes need to be cut out completely.
While this match might not mean much to the visitors, it’s all important for Arsenal, who absolutely need three points to keep third on the table.
Paul Lambert has used a 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 this season, playing mostly on the counter against big teams. While this means they might throw a lot of men in defence, they will look to release their attack quickly too, leaving them vulnerable for our own counters. They have used the five man midfield against bigger opposition to give them more stability and to give them a better chance of retaining possession. It also offers support for their defence with an extra man tracking back.
Norwich played a mixed passing game with the five man midfield helping them slow down play and keep shorter passes. Their initial pass often comes from defence with the ball going out to the wings. They do try to play the ball in behind the defence so that’s another thing to be vary of. The Arsenal fullbacks will need to closely mark the Norwich wingers and make sure that the ball doesn’t get out to them.
Statistically speaking, most of their attacks come from the right wing but Anthony Pilkington is a big threat down the left and is far more likely to cause damage. You’ll find the striker playing with his back to goal often. This moves the focus of the attack onto the wingers who push forward past the striker, which is why it’s necessary to cut off access to the wings if we want to nullify their attack. It goes without saying that players like Grant Holt or Simeon Jackson need to be tightly marked from the resulting crosses as well.
As mentioned earlier, their defence usually plays the initial pass and they do it with some good accuracy. They also try playing the ball out of sticky situations and if Arsenal close down well, they should be able to force Norwich into making enough mistakes.
Norwich’s fullbacks also get involved in the attack and this leaves them very open for the counter. With their defence staying compact, they are poor at defending out wide.
Anthony Pilkington will be the man to watch on the left flank. He definitely has enough pace and skill to really bother our defence. Fortunately, between Sagna and Koscielny, we should be able to keep him out.
The Weak Link
With Marc Tierney out and Adam Drury picking up an injury against Liverpool last week, we’ll see Russell Martin playing out of position at left back. After coming on against Liverpool, he was constantly exposed and not being a natural left back, he should be the target going forward.
This Arsenal squad usually delivers in big games and even though it may only be Norwich, this is definitely a big game. Arsenal should be winning this comfortably.