EPL Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Norwich City

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EPL Preview: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Norwich City
Julian Finney/Getty Images

English Premier League action returns this weekend after a two-week hiatus as international friendlies, Euro qualification and World Cup qualifiers commenced. It has already been a whirlwind 2011-12 Premier League campaign, despite just three months in. There has been shock results, a mass of goals and general bizarre excitement. Better yet, there are still 27 games to enjoy—28 for Everton and Tottenham.

One team that will relish the return of Premier League action alongside being slightly wary is Arsenal. The Gunners endured a horrific summer and an even worse start to their 2011-12 campaign, which included the historic 8-2 thrashing by Manchester United.

However, Arsene Wenger's men have shown phenomenal resilience and spirit and have regained their reputation in English football. Arsenal have won nine of their last 11 matches, including four consecutive EPL victories, to ensure they sit seventh.

The Gunners encounter newly promoted Norwich City at Carrow Road in a game that looms as a tremendous test for Wenger's men. The Canaries sit an impressive ninth and have enjoyed an energetic start to their new life in the Premier League. They have not looked out of place, even against the reigning EPL champions Manchester United.

Arsenal will have to show momentum is still with their squad and their recent good form was not just a turn of good luck. Paul Lambert's men have conceded just one loss at t home and will look to utilize their clinical attack against a sometimes fragile Arsenal defensive line.

However, the North London giants have spirit and determination on their side and will be eager to continue their rise back to the renowned and prestigious top four.

As always, Bleacher Report predicts the Arsenal starting XI.


Goalkeeper

The ever present and in-form Wojciech Szczesny enjoyed a strong performance for Poland in their friendly with Italy and is certain to start against the Canaries. Deputy Lukasz Fabianski also featured for Poland, against Hungary, but will have to endure the backup role.

Italian youngster Vito Mannone is set to complete a loan spell in the coming weeks with League One the likely destination, whilst veteran Manuel Almunia is unlikely to feature again for the Gunners as the Spaniard eyes an exit in January.


Defence

Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen made a successful return to the Arsenal first team early this month, following ankle surgery. After returning from international duty with Belgium unscathed, Vermaelen will start in the central defence. The Belgian is likely to be partnered with Laurent Koscielny, who successfully made his debut for France during the international break.

German giant Per Mertesacker is set to miss out and is likely to receive a bench whilst imposing Swiss Johan Djourou is expected to once again become a makeshift right back due to Bacary Sagna's absence. However, teenager Carl Jenkinson may also start on the right.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

England international Kieran Gibbs is fit to play after a persistent stomach injury, but is unlikely to feature with in-form Brazilian international Andre Santos set to start at left back. Veteran defender Sebastien Squillaci is unlikely to feature alongside teenager Ignasi Miquel.


Midfield

Teenage sensation Jack Wilshere is expected to return by February but has expressed his desire to enjoy his whole career at the Emirates. Wales captain Aaron Ramsey enjoyed strong performances with the Dragons and is expected to start in the midfield alongside Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta.

Cameroon international Alexandre Song will as always take on the defensive midfield duties, whilst teenager Emmanuel Frimpong will deputize the 24-year-old from the bench. French youngster Francis Coquelin was ever present for the France U-21 side, but is unlikely to receive a place on Wenger's bench.

Czech captain Tomas Rosicky was impressive during his country's qualification success to Euro 2012. However, the 31-year-old is said to have a slight hamstring complaint and is unlikely to feature. Nonetheless, Israeli captain Yossi Benayoun will receive a role on the Arsenal bench.

Imposing Frenchman Abou Diaby is approaching full fitness but is unlikely to feature, with the Carling Cup quarterfinals at the end of the month the 25-year-old's expected return.

Julian Finney/Getty Images


Forwards

Arsenal captain and immensely in-form goalscorer Robin van Persie was sent back to North London early from the Netherlands' friendlies on request by Arsene Wenger. The 28-year-old will lead the Arsenal front line as he aims to continue his sublime goal-scoring touch and maintain his place at the top of EPL scoring chart.

Ivorian forward Gervinho is expected to start on the left wing. The 24-year-old has developed strongly in his last few appearances. On the right, England international Theo Walcott is expected to start ahead of Russian captain Andrei Arshavin.

Highly-touted teenager Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was once again immense, this time for the England U-21 side, but is unlikely to make Wenger's matchday squad. However, Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh is considered fully fit after a knee complaint and is set to deputize van Persie.

South Korean captain Chu Young-Park is unlikely to make the squad whilst Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi is nursing an ankle injury.


Substitutes

Wenger has a wide array to choose from for his substitutes. Lukasz Fabianski is certain to be the emergency keeper, with Jenkinson and Mertesacker the likely backup defenders. Frimpong andi Benayoun should be the midfielders, Arshavin and Chamakh the attackers.

It will be a tough game against opponents who should not be taken likely. Can Arsenal continue their impressive run after the international break against Norwich City?

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