“Winter is coming.” It is a phrase the inspires fear, awe and trepidation to any fan of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones, it is also a phrase that conjures a similar set of emotions in large swathes of the Arsenal support.
Every year, as the days shorten and the temperature drops, you can almost hear the Arsenal footballing machine grind to a halt.
Before the start of the season the Arsenal fans were almost deafening in their pleas to Wenger to strengthen their squad. The bespectacled Frenchman was, again, almost stereotypically bullish in the defence of his finances. Yet as the injury list makes its annual decent almost as far down to Wenger’s knees and the fixture list becomes more congested, you wonder if given the chance to do-over his transfer business would he invest more? Probably not.
Arsenal go into Sunday’s 3pm kick-off riding the crest of a wave, having breathed new life into a Champion’s League campaign that looked in danger of flat lining. The 3-0 win at home to Dinamo Zagreb keeps their European dreams alive.
Opponents Norwich cast a considerably more dejected view. After a reasonably bright start, this season is proving to be every bit as difficult as the Canary fans feared it would be. A fixture against Arsenal so soon after a trip to Stamford Bridge may destroy some of the confidence built up after the sides mature win over Swansea. Boss Alex Neil, however, can take some solace in that West Bromwich Albion provided the perfect template in how to overcome the Gunners in the last round of games.
Norwich’s afternoon will live and die with their ability to bound and gag Arsenal danger man Mesut Ozil, though, so good has his form been recently that you get the feeling that the Norwich players may have to take that advice literally. The bug-eyed, German schemer is the most productive creator in Europe’s top 5 leagues with 11 assists. If Norwich can shackle Ozil and cut off the supply line to the equally dangerous Alexis Sanchez then they are in with a shout.
Norwich will be able to call upon just about a full squad; only midfield destroyer Alex Tettey will be absent, though you feel that that may prove crucial. On a more positive note; skipper Russell Martin returns.
To compound Norwich’s woes, Arsenal will field a squad considerably strengthened with the return of wide man Alex Ox lade-Chamberlain and engine room operator Aaron Ramsey. The continued absence of midfield linchpin Francois Coquilen is an area fit for exploitation.
Another win for Arsenal keeps them in the hunt for the elusive league title, in a season as unpredictable as this, every point is a treasure. While I do not expect Norwich to get anything out of Sunday’s game, I do expect them to survive come the end of the season – unlike many characters in Game of Thrones.