Norwich City face Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium (5.30pm) on Saturday, knowing that any sort of positive result would be a massive boost to their hopes of staying up.
With just four games left and both Sunderland and Newcastle coming into some form at just the wrong time for the Canaries, a point or better (no matter how unlikely it seems) would be huge.
The proposed demonstration by Arsenal fans and possible large number of empty seats mean that this game will have an interesting sub-plot as well. However, will it be a good thing or a bad thing for Norwich City? I guess it could go either way. If City start brightly, the home fans could soon get onto the backs of their players. On the other hand, will such a demo lift the Arsenal players and make them more determined to put on a show?
Arsene Wenger talked in his pre-match press conference about how his side had lost the Premier League title at home to “lesser teams,” due to a difficult atmosphere generated by the Gunners faithful. He added that away from home they are title challengers – comments that sent the TalkSport Drive show into meltdown on Friday afternoon.
Regardless of how these issues affect the home side, or otherwise, Norwich City have to be at 100% or you suspect that the Gunners will shoot us down with ease. The Canaries have shown all too fleetingly, like at Old Trafford, Upton Park and Anfield this season, that they can compete against the big boys away from home and they will have to do it again here.
Arsenal`s Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have both recovered from their respective Achilles and knee injuries but Cazorla sounds like he is the only one in with a shout of the match day squad.
Tomas Rosicky is fit after a thigh injury but is also not expected to play any part, other than that Wenger has a fully fit squad with Jack Wilshire pushing hard for a recall.
Norwich Captain Russell Martin could return after a virus kept him out of the game against Sunderland.
Timm Klose and loanee Andre Wisdom will miss the rest of the season and Klose could miss Euro 2016 as well. Wisdom has returned to Liverpool for recuperation.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on the planned protest by Arsenal supporters:’We have to put things a little bit into perspective and see how the club’s evolution has gone over the years.
‘The quality of the work we’ve done at the club has got us into a strong position where expectations are very high, but we are frustrated when we don’t get what we want.
‘The best chance (supporters) can give our team is to be behind our team. We have to stick together.’
Alex Neil on the protest: ‘You can look at it in two ways, Is it a good time to play them because there is going to be a protest? Or are the players going to give the reaction that they expect?
‘The bottom line is we have to go there with the intention of bringing something back, be it three points, which would be great, or a point. Whatever the case may be.
‘We just want to go there and play as well as we can, and if we do that then we have a chance against them.’
Norwich’s last victory at Arsenal was on the opening day of the first ever Premier League season in 1992. City fought back from 2-0 down with 21 minutes to go to win 4-2.
Norwich are winless in their six league visits to Arsenal since (D2, L4).
Arsenal are unbeaten in seven league games but have only won three of them.
The game against Norwich will be Arsene Wenger’s 750th Premier League match as a manager – only Sir Alex Ferguson (810) has more.
Mesut Ozil has gone eight Premier League games without assisting a goal, while Olivier Giroud has failed to score in his last 20 appearances for Arsenal.
Ozil has created a league-high 137 goalscoring chances for team-mates in this season’s top flight, more than any other player in a single Premier League campaign since 2003-04.
Norwich have won just two of their last 14 league games, losing 10 of them.
City`s last top-flight win in the Capital was in April 2012 at Tottenham, courtesy of THAT goal from Elliot Bennett.
The game is live on Sky so the eyes of the world will be on us, with not many outside of Norfolk giving us a snowball in hell`s chance. All the big media pundits have tipped us to lose and it`s expected that we will turn up and simply roll over. If we are to harbour any hopes of survival then we need something from this game and the same goes for the next three too. It`s not in our hands anymore, due to Sunderland`s superior goal difference, so we will have to hope Stoke and Palace will do us a favour and suddenly start playing again, because they seem to have stopped. Couple that with a herculean effort by our boys and it could happen – realistically though, they`ve had all season to put in that sort of effort.
Anyway, enough of the pessimism, if you`re going, make sure you sing your hearts out!