Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side host Norwich in the Premier League on Saturday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Norwich find themselves in the relegation zone ahead of Saturday’s fixture – but Arsenal’s 1-1 draw at Carrow Road back in November shows the Canaries are capable of frustrating superior opponents.
"The target for Norwich’s long balls and crosses will be Dieumerci Mbokani, who has regained his place up front in place of Cameron Jerome. A towering striker who loves competing for high balls, he’s also capable of good near-post runs, and can vary his position to drift wide – from where he scored an outstanding goal in the crucial 3-2 victory over Newcastle earlier this month"
Alex Neil favours a straightforward 4-4-1-1 system, most notable for its extremely passive defensive approach: Norwich make the fewest tackles in the Premier League, and also the fewest interceptions. The midfield drop back into a deep position quickly, shielding the defence and preventing opponents from playing through their lines.
The system depends upon strong aerial performances from the centre-backs, and makes it very difficult for Norwich to dominate possession – they simply don’t regain the ball often enough.
Norwich’s centre-backs tend to hit long diagonal balls, while the full-backs are capable of pushing forward dangerously into attack – Andre Wisdom is good in possession, while left-sided Martin Olsson can charge down the touchline dangerously.
The central midfield duo, Gary O’Neil and Jonny Howson, are cautious with their positioning and distribution. Both are naturally energetic and can push forward on occasion, but against big sides are usually instructed to concentrate on protecting the defence and playing simple passes out to the flanks, which is where Norwich create most chances.
Slightly unusually in the modern game, Neil fields wingers on their natural flanks – right-footed Matt Jarvis on the right flank, going down the line and swinging crosses into the box, while Robbie Brady, pushed forward from the left-back position he played earlier in the season, offers a tremendous left-footed delivery from the opposite flank, and is a fine set-piece taker.
The target for Norwich’s long balls and crosses will be Dieumerci Mbokani, who has regained his place up front in place of Cameron Jerome. A towering striker who loves competing for high balls, he’s also capable of good near-post runs, and can vary his position to drift wide – from where he scored an outstanding goal in the crucial 3-2 victory over Newcastle earlier this month.
Perhaps the most interesting player in this 4-4-1-1 system, however, is Steven Naismith. An £8m January signing, the Scottish forward is extremely intelligent tactically, capable of marking an opposition holding midfielder to make up the numbers in the centre of the pitch, before sprinting forward in advance of Mbokani to provide pace in behind the opposition – although he hasn’t scored since his debut, 10 matches ago.
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