Arsenal's Premier League Game with Norwich City Previewed

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 06:  Robin van Persie of Arsenal looks on dejected at the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan at Emirates Stadium on March 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Jamrock RoverSenior Analyst IMay 3, 2012

There are only two Premier League games left to play for Arsenal this season, and on the face of it, they should win them both. Since their disastrous start to the season, the very best they could really have hoped for was a third-placed finish. That target is still well within their sights with their fate still firmly in their own hands.

Of course, in true Arsenal style, they haven't made things easy for themselves, as they have stumbled towards the finishing line in recent weeks.

Arsenal have only taken two points in their last three league games, and only scored two goals in the process. If they had even managed three more points in those games, third place would be a much easier prospect for them now.

It's no coincidence that Mikael Arteta only managed to play for 10 minutes of those games before picking up a season-ending injury against Wigan. His influence on their midfield since his arrival on the August transfer deadline day cannot be overestimated.

With Jack Wilshere missing the whole season injured, Arteta brought the stability that Arsenal's transformation was built on.

They have struggled to impose themselves on opponents without him, but they must find a way in the next two games. The prize on offer is too good to turn down, and it's up to the players available to make sure Arsenal finish third.

It is of course possible that fourth place will be good enough for a Champions League place next season, but it's a risk no team can afford to take.

If the unthinkable happens and Chelsea win the Champions League final, they will take the place of the team that finish fourth in the Premier League.

Chelsea lost to Newcastle on Wednesday night, and that defeat means a top four finish is beyond them barring an incredible sequence of results in their favour. They still have an FA Cup final to play, but the Champions League final against Bayern Munich is their real priority.

Arsenal play their game this week on Saturday, and it gives them the opportunity to put some pressure on both Spurs and Newcastle who are chasing them. If Arsenal can beat Norwich it will leave them four points ahead of both of those teams before they play their games.

Spurs play away to an Aston Villa team that probably need a point to ensure Premier League survival, and Newcastle are at home to title-chasing Manchester City.

It's Arsenal's final home game of the season, and a chance for the players to give the fans a farewell they deserve. It hasn't been a great season for Arsenal fans, but three points on Saturday would put a smile on their faces as they face the prospect of three months without their favourite team.

The summer months are never easy for fans, but at least there's the unending transfer rumours to look forward to.

Despite being far from their best at the moment, Arsenal still have a far better team than Norwich. The players need to approach the game with the intensity that a must-win game deserves, and attack Norwich as if their lives depend on it. There can be no let up for the entire 90 minutes, as the better the victory, the tougher it will be for the chasing teams.

The only way Arsenal can tie up third place is if Spurs lose and Newcastle don't win along with an Arsenal win, of course. I can see Newcastle not winning, but I think the most Arsenal can hope for is Villa to manage a point against Spurs. If that is the case, Arsenal can make things a lot better by racking up a good scoreline against Norwich.

Norwich won't make it easy for Arsenal, as they have put up a fight against every team they have played this season. They create good goal-scoring chances in every game they play, but they also give up an awful lot of chances, too.

Arsenal need to take advantage of the slack defending Norwich are guilty of far too often, and punish them as often as possible.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Mark van Bommel of AC Milan goes in for the tackle on Tomas Rosicky of Arsenal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg match between Arsenal and AC Milan at Emirates Stadium on March 6, 2012 in London, England.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Robin van Persie needs to score two goals in his last two games to reach the magical 30 league goal mark for the season, and it would be great if he could do it against Norwich.

He has won the player of the season awards from both the players and the football writers, and it would be a perfect way to celebrate his awards. Hopefully, he will be around next season to try to retain his awards, and maybe even win a trophy with Arsenal.

I would imagine the Arsenal team will be very similar to the one that drew 1-1 away to Stoke last week. There's a possibility of Andre Santos or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting, but I think Arsene Wenger will opt for an unchanged side. The experience of players like Tomas Rosicky and Yossi Benayoun could be crucial on the day.

It could be a nervy affair for the players and fans if Arsenal don't score early on, but the team need the full backing of the crowd for every minute of the game.

I have confidence in the ability of the players to get the result they need, and to put in the performance required. Now is the time for the players to show they have the same belief in themselves, and do all that is required of them.

It's as simple as giving their all in the final two games of the season, and delivering the results that will achieve Champions League qualification for next season. Arsenal are the only team with their fate in their own hands, and the other teams will be feeling just as much pressure.

I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal with RVP bagging the goals he needs to reach the 30 mark. It would be great if Arsenal could run up an emphatic scoreline, but once they win, it doesn't really matter if it's a last-minute 1-0 victory.

As an Arsenal fan, you learn to live with the tension, and it seems like the team don't like to make life too easy for their fans.  

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.  

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