Evening all. Much to the consternation of environmentalists everywhere, we’ll make the 14 minute flight to Norwich tomorrow, as we try to secure our first win in three Premier League games.
We’ll also be looking to make it four wins in a row against the Canaries, since, if memory serves, a Per Mertesacker slip let in Grant Holt to grab the hosts a 1-0 win back in October 2012.
And after Manchester United and Leicester City both dropped two points earlier today having played out a 1-1 draw, we can climb back above both of them in the standings with a win tomorrow.
In terms of how we’ll line-up, I’d expect Aaron Ramsey will come in on the right-hand side of midfield for Joel Campbell, which would admittedly be particularly harsh on the Costa Rican, given his fine performance against Dinamo Zagreb in midweek, but for me Ramsey remains the better option in that position.
Elsewhere I think we’ll be unchanged and should have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench to give us one more attacking option should we need it as the game progresses.
There had been talk in some quarters of Ramsey playing alongside Santi Cazorla in the middle with both Francis Coquelin and Mikel Arteta currently out injured, but Arsene Wenger feels asking the Welshman to play deeper in a more disciplined, defensive role would take too much away from the player’s natural game, saying:
Ramsey is more an offensive player. I will use him sometimes there [centrally] when the game demands, but is he naturally with Cazorla a balanced pair? Defensively, certainly, it’s a very adventurous one! I used Ramsey on the right because he gives us a balance, because we have Ozil who is an offensive player, we have Sanchez, we have Giroud or Walcott and Cazorla so to balance a bit defensively, I use Ramsey on the right. That’s where I will certainly continue to use him. He is not afraid to tackle but he likes to go in the box and he has a good timing of runs and he wants the ball and he wants to go forward. If you take that out of him, and you say ‘look, you have to sit now, and sit there and wait,’ you kill his strengths. He [Ramsey] can do [the deeper role]. It is not that he cannot do it, but he can do it [more effectively] with Coquelin. Cazorla can [play alongside] Coquelin. Cazorla and Ramsey is a bit [attack-minded] and you know in my mind I have seen that the turn of our results last season was when I went for a bit of stability and put Coquelin in there. Now I am a bit cautious on that front and I do not want to unbalance the team. Arteta is not a Coquelin-type but he is a tactical player who loves to sit now because he is less [focused on] going forward. In my mind I always had Arteta and Flamini and Coquelin. But Arteta was injured so I played always Coquelin. Now with Arteta and Coquelin both injured we are of course a bit short. That’s why I play Chambers for 10 or 12 minutes to see how he positions and we are happy because he can do it.
I have to say I completely agree with that assessment by the boss. The only way I could see Cazorla and Ramsey working effectively is if Ramsey changed his game and mimicked Coquelin’s role as closely as possible, but as the boss says, that would be a waste of Ramsey’s natural strengths as a midfielder; the lung-bursting runs and goal-getting ability etc.
Elsewhere I think the team picks itself and the only position we might see a change, injuries aside, is in central defence where Arsene has occasionally rested Mertesacker for Gabriel so far this season.
Back post-match on Sunday.