Arsenal – ‘The Gunners’ – Wenger’s lot – Piers Morgan’s passion ( other than sucking up to rich and famous celebs).
There are a number of things to admire about Norwich’s next opponent in terms of their club history, pacey playing style and silky individual skills.
And yet, there are so many things to dislike about the current ‘brand’ too;
- An arrogance that comes with being situated in the sprawling London metropolis and never having suffered relegation from the top tier.
- A chairman by the name of Sir ‘Chips’ Keswick – an Eton educated, Tory-backing merchant banker of insufferable poshness.
- Ex-players continually cropping up as pundits on TV and radio – Keown, Wright and Dixon most irritatingly, constantly bleating about the good old days when they had a decent defence.
- Their penchant for erecting statues to players not even the wrong side of 50.
- Piers Morgan.
I’ll leave you to consider the many other factors which I’m sure spring to mind.
Of course, any bitterness that may be drawn from the above list comes mostly from Norwich having a generally terrible record of late against north London’s finest (Spurs fans may contest that claim).
That said, it’s not so long ago that we enjoyed the sweet taste of victory over them courtesy of a Grant Holt winner at Carrow Road to give Chris Hughton his first three points as the Canaries’ boss.
That game coincidentally followed a defeat at Chelsea as with this season, although the latter was a 4-1 spanking. It triggered a fine unbeaten run into the new year which promised glory days in the Premier League unknown since the time of the ‘Silver Fox’ and his Bayern bashing boys.
Needless to say, it didn’t quite turn out that way and much water has passed under the Wensum’s Bishop Bridge since October 2012 when Wenger was left to bemoan a “very, very poor Arsenal,” and Chris Hughton in typically humdrum fashion gave his after match thoughts;
“This has been a long time coming, which our performances have warranted. However, this league is unforgiving.
“I am delighted for the team, because the work-rate was outstanding and there is no coincidence in the result.
“We have deserved this by our play this season so far, so it is a very good feeling to get the win here at Carrow Road for the supporters.”
I appreciate that many don’t want to be reminded of anything from the Hughton-era but looking more closely at the points raised by our former boss, the majority of them still apply to the here and now under Alex Neil.
The league is certainly unforgiving. We have a side whose work rate and commitment is never in doubt. Some – not all – of our defeats this season have masked performances which deserved better.
As with that day in 2012, this Sunday’s meeting with the Gunners will undoubtedly feature 60-70 per cent possession and the majority of goal threats coming from those clad in red and white.
Not very optimistic of me? Maybe, but such are the realities of where Norwich are in the grand scheme of things.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It will need a backs-to-the-wall effort from a well organised and error-free defence and midfield, with whichever lone striker Alex Neil chooses making the most of the odd chance that may come along.
The word of the moment around Carrow Road is pragmatism. The realisation is that we simply don’t have the players to take it to the majority of sides and play them off the proverbial park.
That early season excitement of possession and attack has withered fast with the nadir at Newcastle proving to be a ‘light bulb moment’ for the previously unswervable young Scot who got us up in such exhilarating fashion.
At the risk of inciting the faithful, Alex Neil is adopting a Hughton-like philosophy – at least for now. Those who did and continue to malign the former boss’s time at the club are seemingly going to have to suck it up.
The all-conquering Leicester tried the opposite approach and went toe-to-toe with Arsenal not so long ago. Walcott and Sanchez duly made hay in a 5-2 win.
Neil may well go for the same system which stifled the ‘pass it to death’ approach of Swansea, albeit Garry Monk’s team didn’t possess the weaponry of a Sanchez or a Cazorla.
As back in 2012, Arsenal will be missing the physio’s friends of Walcott and Wilshere. That gives us a bit more of a sniff of a chance doesn’t it?
With the Christmas lights being turned on around the country and small children being forced into portraying biblical characters for their parents’ entertainment, I’ll be offering a small seasonal prayer for an off day for Arsenal and a lucky break for Norwich.
I just hope Piers Morgan isn’t making the trip on Sunday – win, lose or draw, that would be an unwelcome sight.