Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his players travel to Norwich City on Saturday so, to find out more, tactical expert Michael Cox and local journalist David Cuffley gave their pre-match views.
After a highly-successful 2011/12, Norwich have significantly changed their tactical approach under new boss Chris Hughton. Whereas the primary feature of Paul Lambert’s management was his clever switches of formations between - and during - matches, Hughton is more consistent with his shape.
Gone are the days of Norwich moving to three at the back, or experimenting with a diamond midfield to pack the centre of the pitch. Instead they have two solid banks of four behind the ball, and the only major variation in Norwich’s approach is the identity of the man used in conjunction with the main striker.
Often it’s been Simeon Jackson, a pacy forward, but most Norwich fans would prefer to see Wes Hoolahan deployed as an advanced central playmaker.
It’s noticeable that Norwich focus their passing down their right flank, which means Lukas Podolski might have to get through more defensive work than he’s been accustomed to this season.
Robert Snodgrass, who has been Norwich’s most prolific creator of chances this season, should return to the side on that flank - and Kieran Gibbs or Andre Santos must be aware that the Scot is very left-footed. Show him onto his unfavoured right side, and he’s a much less dangerous player.
The chief danger will be the physicality of Norwich’s striker, however. Grant Holt and Steve Morison are seldom used together, but both offer an old-fashioned British centre-forward threat, thriving on long balls and crosses.
Holt is also a clever player, peeling off intelligently to the far post when the ball is played wide, and Arsenal’s centre backs must be alert to his movement. Norwich have yet to win a Premier League game this season, but they have been creating chances - it’s about getting the finishes right.
Arsenal should be confident of dominating the ball in midfield, though - Norwich have the third-lowest pass completion rate in the league, behind only Reading and Stoke.
The Canaries don’t offer much of a combative threat in the centre of the pitch either - they prefer to sit deep when out of possession, and have picked up just two bookings in their seven league matches so far. Arsenal will see plenty of the ball at Carrow Road - they must concentrate on using it intelligently in the final third.
DAVID CUFFLEY, NORWICH EVENING NEWS
Norwich played in a 4-4-1-1 against Chelsea last time out, with Wes Hoolahan playing just off Grant Holt. Hoolahan can be a threat, though he has only started twice so far this season.
It’s at the back where Norwich have had real problems. They’ve conceded five twice, and four once already this season - and we’ve only had seven games.
They tightened things up a bit when they signed Sebastien Bassong from Tottenham but then he got injured and they conceded five in the next game. Norwich look to him a lot to keep things tight at the back and when he doesn’t play, they’ve suffered a bit.
By and large the fans have been fairly patient with new manager Chris Hughton. He’s a guy with a decent track record, and he’s a very nice bloke as well. They are prepared to give him a chance but will grow increasingly concerned the longer it takes to get that first win.
It took them until the 14th match to get their first win when they were promoted under Nigel Worthington. From then on, they were always playing catch up.
Norwich’s last away game of last season was of course against Arsenal - and it was a cracking game. They performed really well and got a 3-3 draw. It’s worth remembering though, that they haven’t beaten Arsenal at Carrow Road since Boxing Day 1984. I think everyone would be very pleased to take a point.
In terms of a prediction, I’ll be optimistic and say Norwich will get a 2-2 draw.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 18 Oct 2012