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Preview: Arsenal vs. Norwich City - prediction, team news, lineups
11/09/2021 11:42:08

The Emirates Stadium plays host to a bottom-of-the-table Premier League encounter on Saturday lunchtime, as Arsenal face off against another pointless side in Norwich City.

The Gunners were torn apart by champions Manchester City before the international break, while Norwich suffered a 2-1 defeat to Leicester City.

Match preview

Many feared that Mikel Arteta's return to the Etihad would be a painful one after back-to-back defeats to Brentford and Chelsea, and those concerns were proven correct on a day where everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Arsenal.

The Gunners were forced to play most of the encounter with 10 men following Granit Xhaka's sending off - although Ferran Torres and Ilkay Gundogan had already put City 2-0 up by that point - and the former would score again after further strikes from Rodri and Gabriel Jesus in a Pep Guardiola masterclass.

With his job coming under increasing scrutiny, Arteta is still thought to retain the faith of those upstairs, in spite of his side's standing at the bottom of the Premier League table with zero points and zero goals to their name, but the Gunners have not opened the season with four defeats since 1923-24.

A 6-0 EFL Cup thrashing of a youthful West Bromwich Albion side represents the only silver lining in Arsenal's season so far, and they can only boast two wins from their last six league games at the Emirates, where 60,000 supporters are growing all the more frustrated by the week.

Should Arsenal fail to find the back of the net this weekend, it will mark the first time ever that they have registered zero goals in their opening four games of a league season, but Norwich are not exactly renowned for any form of defensive resolve either.

Coincidentally, Norwich's highlight of the 2021-22 season so far has also been a 6-0 triumph in the EFL Cup, with the Canaries seeing off Bournemouth with complete ease amid their tough start to life back in the big time.

Also victims of a 5-0 thrashing against Man City, Norwich would open their account for the season against Leicester thanks to Teemu Pukki's penalty, but Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton netted either side of the Scandinavian's spot kick to take all three points home from Carrow Road.

In fairness, Daniel Farke's side were never expected to produce any shocks against Liverpool, City or Leicester in August, but that taxing opening to the season has not done wonders for the Canaries' morale as they occupy 19th spot in the table.

Defeat to the Foxes stretched Norwich's losing run in the Premier League to 13 matches since victory over Brendan Rodgers's men in February 2020, and not since 2012 have the Canaries prevailed in a Premier League encounter in London - beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1.

Arteta's Arsenal eased to a 4-0 victory over Norwich when the sides last met at the Emirates in July 2020, and this week's visitors have not claimed an away league win against the Gunners since a 4-2 success at Highbury in August 1992 - their first ever game in the Premier League.

Team News

Arteta has been handed several fitness boosts since the international break, with Thomas Partey back in training and the defensive duo of Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White featuring in a friendly win over Brentford.

However, Emile Smith Rowe is a fresh doubt due to illness, while Mohamed Elneny picked up an injury with Egypt and the COVID-positive Xhaka begins a three-game ban following his sending off at the Etihad.

White and Gabriel should certainly form the centre-back pairing if both men are deemed fit enough, while Nicolas Pepe could start out wide if Smith Rowe's illness - which is not COVID-19 - keeps him out of contention.

As for Norwich, Christos Tzolis's calf issue may keep him out of contention, while Bali Mumba dislocated his knee before the international break and continues to recuperate.

Przemyslaw Placheta remains affected after contracting COVID-19, but Farke will be reluctant to make too many alterations after giving Leicester a good run for their money last time out.

Summer signing Dimitrios Giannoulis should therefore remain on the bench as Manchester United loanee Brandon Williams continues at left-back, with Milot Rashica and Todd Cantwell continuing to support Pukki up top.

Arsenal possible starting lineup:

Leno; Maitland-Niles, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Lokonga; Saka, Odegaard, Pepe; Aubameyang

Norwich City possible starting lineup:

Krul; Aarons, Hanley, Gibson, Williams; Gilmour, McLean, Lees-Melou; Cantwell, Pukki, Rashica

We say: Arsenal 2-0 Norwich City

In what has been jokingly referred to as a relegation battle, Norwich may travel to the Emirates feeling optimistic about their chances of a shock result given their hosts' own abysmal start to the season.

However, Arsenal are set to welcome back a trio of indispensable players - with the returns of White and Gabriel undeniably key - and we are backing the Gunners to relieve the pressure on Arteta's shoulders with a first league win and clean sheet of the season.

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