Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Norwich City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, April 30
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Richard West and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Kevin Friend
  • Reverse Fixture: Norwich 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 4 - 1 Norwich (October 19, 2013)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 26 Arsenal wins, 11 Norwich wins, 19 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-D-W-D
  • Norwich's League Form: L-D-W-W-L-L
This pretty much encapsulates our season.
I'm not going to lie, I just Googled explosion GIFs and one of
the first ones that came up with this Michael Bay-ified
Arsenal GIF. I think what's most enjoyable is that the the goal
they're celebrating won a fourth round League Cup tie.
Now that Arsenal and Sunderland played out their fourth scoreless draw in the last six years, there's not much I have to say here. Most Arsenal fans just want this season to be over, while some have at least been able to take some schadenfreude in Tottenham's draw with West Brom that has all but handed this year's title to Leicester City with three games to play.

But, let's remember that these remaining three games are not dead rubber for Arsenal. The Gunners are in fourth, goal difference behind Manchester City for third, with a trip to the Etihad next week. Manchester United are breathing down their necks, five points back but with a game in hand. We certainly know that Arsenal need to bring in reinforcements this summer and we all know that it's much easier to do that when you're guaranteed Champions League football. Finishing third is critical for more reasons than just match profits.

Arsenal have City away, Norwich at home, and Aston Villa at home. City have, aside from that Arsenal game, Southampton and Swansea, both away. Manchester United have Leicester at Old Trafford on Sunday, then Norwich away, West Ham away, and Bournemouth at home.

The point is, Arsenal still control their own destiny for finishing third. They just have to win their remaining games. Easy, right?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (match fitness)
Doubts: Cazorla (match fitness)

What demonry is this? Arsenal's entire squad is in full training! Much like last season, Arsenal have managed to get completely healthy just in time to be completely out of the title race.

Case in point, Jack Wilshere returned from the bench last week, much like I thought he might. Wilshere had been injured in training in the build-up to the very first game of the season. Just for shits and giggles, let's take a look at what I said at that time:

Jack Wilshere is expected to miss what the club has called "several weeks" (which can literally mean anything with this club) after suffering a hairline fracture in his left tibula during training. I suppose with Abou Diaby gone, his lack of luck has been transferred to someone else.

Harsh! Several weeks was eight months, if you are keeping score at home.

Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla, who was injured in the reverse fixture against Norwich, is back in training as well. I went back to see what I said about his injury at the time, but there were so many other injuries in the squad, all I did was joke about the number of injuries in the squad. It also references Diaby.

You may recall that Santi recently said that he expected to be back in April. **checks watch** Oh, this isn't a calendar... Arsene Wenger stated that Santi could be involved this weekend, so he might just make it for April! Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will still be too short (not a height joke.)

Anyway, this match. I hope Danny Welbeck gets to start up top again, after Olivier Giroud got to be useless for a while last week. I think the only other question is in the center of midfield, where Wenger has to choose from Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, and now Jack Wilshere.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Iwobi, Welbeck.

Norwich Squad News

Out: Tettey (ankle,) Klose (knee,) Wisdom (knee)

Andre Wisdom, on loan from Liverpool, had a nightmare two weeks ago against Sunderland. Not only did he concede the first half penalty that gave the Black Cats the opening goal, but he left injured in the second half. He now joins two other players on the Norwich City roster who are out for the remainder of the season.

That includes another defender, Timm "I'm Not Miroslav" Klose. The Frankfurt-born Swiss international (again, not to be confused with the Polish-born German international) injured his knee against Crystal Palace on April 9. Meanwhile, midfielder Alexander Tettey needed ankle surgery after he was injured against Chelsea in March.

Predicted XI: Ruddy, Martin, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond, O'Neil, Howson, Brady, Naismith, Mbokani.

Current Form

Arsenal are now unbeaten in the league in seven matches, though they've accomplished that in the stupidest way possible. Across all competitions, the Gunners haven't lost since they played Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 16. That was over a month ago, yet, their season is in shambles and it would be impossible to argue otherwise.

When Arsenal overcame Francis Coquelin's red card to get a point at White Hart Lane, the result was not exactly what we needed, but it wasn't a death sentence either. I turned to a group of friends and basically just said "well, we might as well win 'em all now." And that seemed plausible, as Arsenal, on paper, had a winnable run-in. Follow that up with a 2-0 win over Everton and a 4-0 win over Watford and, in spite of their cup crumbles, things weren't looking so bad. Problem was, of course, Leicester kept winning (and, in fact, still have kept winning.) Still, the Gunners were, at the very least, four points back of Spurs with a game in hand.

Then, the 3-3 draw with West Ham. Then, the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. Then, even after winning the game in hand against West Brom, they played a 0-0 draw with Sunderland. Six dropped points in three weeks. Win those games and Arsenal are in second place right now, though Leicester's form still would've made the title out of reach.

Norwich City's 2016 has not gone according to plan, either. They were 14th on January 2. Then, they went ten matches without a win. Now, they're in the relegation zone on goal difference, after a 3-0 loss (at home!) to Sunderland. They and the Black Cats now have four matches apiece to separate themselves out, with Newcastle just a point behind them (though the Toon have played an extra match.)

Match Facts

Speaking of Arsenal dropping stupid points and how that has ruined their title race, Arsenal and Norwich played to a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road at the end of November. One week after losing Francis Coquelin to injury, the Gunners lost Santi Cazorla to injury as well. Santi played the entire second half while carrying his knee injury, which meant Arsenal's midfield struggled mightily. Arsenal had 63% of the possession, but only managed to generate three shots. Mesut Ozil had Arsenal's goal, but Lewis Grabban had Norwich's equalizer before halftime. Laurent Koscielny also left injured on 11 minutes and Alexis Sanchez injured his hamstring on the hour mark. Not a good day at the office.

Prior to Norwich's yo-yoing through the Championship last season, Arsenal had taken all six points from the Canaries in 2013/14. This fixture, played in October of 2013, ended 4-1 to the Gunners, a match which included Jack Wilshere's endlessly viewed tappy-tappy-tap-tap goal. Mesut Ozil scored twice and Aaron Ramsey added the fourth. Norwich had, briefly, made it 2-1 during the course of the second half through Jonathan Howson with 20 minutes to play before Arsenal put it away.

Norwich took points from Arsenal in each of the two seasons prior to that one. Norwich took a wild 3-3 draw from the Emirates in May of 2012 before winning a 1-0 match at Carrow Road the following season, in October of 2012.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Sting lookalike Mike Jones. Arsenal have seen Jones on three occasions this season and have scored 10 goals across the three matches, so maybe he's exactly what their sputtering offense needs? Jones was the man in the middle for Arsenal's 3-0 win over Watford in October, their 3-3 draw at Anfield in January, and their 4-0 win at Hull in their fifth round FA Cup replay.

Norwich City have seen Jones twice so far this season, losing 3-0 at Tottenham on Boxing Day and drawing West Ham at Carrow Road 2-2 in February (in which they surrendered a 2-0 lead.)

Around the League
  • Saturday: Everton v. Bournemouth; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Crystal Palace; St. James's Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Sunderland; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Watford v. Aston Villa; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Swansea City v. Liverpool; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday: Manchester United v. Leicester City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Manchester City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Monday (night): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stamford Bridge, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is an American-born nothing international. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate whether or not he's still eligible to be called up for England.