Arsenal test offers Norwich City a path to redemption

Posted by Paddy Davitt

IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty ImagesNorwich City manager Chris Hughton will hope his side can get back on the winning track on Saturday versus Arsenal.

Chris Hughton managed to raise a wry smile when it was put to him that Arsenal's club-record signing Mesut Ozil may be struggling to face Norwich City this weekend in the Premier League.

Ozil picked up a knee injury in Germany's 5-3 World Cup qualifying romp against Sweden that will require a pre-match fitness test ahead of the Canaries' visit.

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One could understand Hughton's rather dogmatic response; Arsenal are not exactly light on prized talent in attacking midfield areas. Aaron Ramsey has been the revelation of the opening weeks of the new campaign with a potent goal threat seemingly furnishing a game that was always rooted in craft and guile. Ozil's potential absence may merely accelerate Jack Wilshere's return to familiar central pastures following his goalscoring efforts from wide against West Brom prior to the latest international shut down.

Hughton knows that whoever Arsenal field, his men face a formidable test of their recent upturn in form. Chelsea's power from the bench allied to self-inflicted blows from the hosts' emanating from a refreshing willingness to attack ensured City earned scant reward against Jose Mourinho's side on the same weekend Wilshere's hammer strike salvaged a point at the Hawthorns.

Hughton needs no reminder of the parallels between that Blues' reverse and Norwich's last visit to the Emirates Stadium; not only in the scale of their 3-1 defeat but also the manner of an outcome that left a similarly sour aftertaste. Michael Turner's glancing header looked to have edged the Canaries to a Premier League win that would have gone a long way to eradicating the gut-wrenching finale they had to suffer before finally securing their top flight status for a third consecutive campaign.

Instead, City succumbed in controversial fashion when Mikel Arteta despatched a penalty awarded on the advice of a far side assistant considerably further away from Kei Kamara's apparent tug on Oliver Giroud than the referee. Arsenal's late double salvo to seal all three points was doused in liberal measures of further contention. Hughton is not a manager who dwells on past histories, but there was still a residual sense of injustice in his tone at his pre-match press call ahead of the pending return. Norwich know they will need to reach those same obdurate heights against an Arsenal in prime form and inspired by their supremely gifted German.

City's play has unquestionably exhibited encouraging signs of maturity in recent weeks. Defeat against Chelsea following victory at Stoke both hinted at a midfield concoction which looks the most productive of those at Hughton's disposal. Leroy Fer's transition from FC Twente was rubber-stamped in midweek by his start for the Dutch in their latest World Cup stroll against Turkey.

Fer, Jonny Howson and Alex Tettey were the equal of Chelsea's illustrious midfield at Carrow Road last time out until Mourinho rather cruelly called for reinforcements in the shape of Eden Hazard and Willian. That salutary lesson is why Hughton knows even an Arsenal midfield shorn of the talismanic Ozil will still present a troublesome conundrum if the Canaries aim to avoid fresh disappointment.

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