Norwich go to the Emirates on Tuesday night with an army larger in number than a Dothraki horde. Are they travelling more in hope than expectation? Jon Punt spoke to Gay Gooners’ Joe White to get the lowdown.
Jon: Right, straight off the bat, let's just get this out of the way. Daniel Farke, Norwich's recently installed head coach, is a serious stylish man. The summer saw an all black outfit which wouldn't have looked out of place in the recent Bladerunner sequel. Autumn has set in and Mr Farke took to sporting a new and wonderful Parka. We've all seen Arsene on the telly with THAT puffer jacket. Is this the battle of the coats or can we expect Mr Wenger to be donning something less, well, of a monstrosity?
Joe: Well, in fairness to Monsieur Wenger he has received a frosty atmosphere at times in the past year... but I think that whilst the weather has been reasonable he may just don his standard suit for the match. If the weather changes over the weekend though, we may well all have to experience that *delightful* jacket (available in the Arsenal shop I believe).
Jon: Yeah I guess the whole Wenger Out stuff is viewed by the outside world through the filter of Arsenal Fan TV, which I’m guessing doesn’t offer a particularly balanced snapshot of the Gooners’ fanbase. Where do you stand on Arsene’s reign, should it be drawing to a close or can he propel you back towards some kind of glory?
Joe: The fanbase is definitely pretty split on Arsene, especially after last season. It’s almost a more abrasive topic of conversation than Brexit for a group of Gooners. I’m very much a Wenger pragmatist - I was only 3 and a half when he was appointed, so he’s all I can remember at Arsenal. Obviously this was great growing up, and he’s produced a solid history for us within European and English football. But as the game has changed, the league has gotten tougher and we’ve fallen behind the European elites it’s been a hard transition for fans that had a glorious number of years with success. As Wenger likes to be involved with all decisions, he’s not just a coach - he’s a director of football, a transfer scout, a head coach and in this day that’s extremely rare and hard to succeed in all of it. The team is being punished because of that I feel, we no longer secure the best players we can and the best young talent we used to be able to.
He’s definitely on his way out and part of it would have been glorious for him to go with the wonderful game against Chelsea in the FA Cup. We played superbly, with passion and to top it off with the cup and Wenger being the most successful manager in the competition would’ve been a brilliant send off.
Jon: Interesting you mention the best young talent, blooding the youngsters in the League Cup seems to have been a trademark of Wenger’s down the years. Is that what we should expect on Tuesday and is there anyone in particular Norwich fans should be on the look out for?
Joe: He definitely played a younger team against Doncaster in the past round, with some bigger names in as well. I’d hope for Wilshere to start and he has been brilliant recently.
I’d say Norwich fans should keep an eye out for Maitland-Niles and Nelson - they’ve got potential.
Jon: Don’t tell us Wilshere is likely to start, those that were there at the Emirates are still scarred by that team wonder goal he finished off in 2014. Is he close to full fitness right now then? It always appears he’s on the comeback trail and hasn’t been able to kickstart his career in recent seasons?
Joe: Hopefully we can recreate that wonder goal on Tuesday. He’s certainly near to full fitness - he played the full 90 against Doncaster and BATE, and fans were disappointed that he didn’t play against Watford. The signals from Wenger are that he’s cautious to push his fitness too quickly, so that’s why we’ve not seen as much of him as we may have liked. Hopefully he can kickstart this season - if he does, and his fitness isn’t an issue, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s offered a new contract. He’s got the fight we sometimes lack - there’s the World Cup squad to try and get into, as well as his contract ending in the summer.
Jon: Well from an England perspective I’ll hope he starts to perform, just not on Tuesday thank you very much.
You might be aware Norwich are bringing a large following to North London, we quickly sold out our initial allocation of 5,200 seats and Arsenal were gracious enough to grant us another 3,600 which have all been snapped up, so all in all nearly 9,000 of us in attendance. That will mean a very vocal backing for our boys, how’s the atmosphere nowadays in the Emirates?
Joe: Only 9,000? Not quite F.C. Koln standards, but I’m sure you’ll all enjoy it. The atmosphere is great, providing we’re playing well. Otherwise I expect it to be pretty quiet - Carabao Cup doesn’t sell particularly well with us, especially on an Autumn Tuesday night. I’d hope it’ll be a great match and an early chant of “1-0 to the Arsenal”. Of course if Jack plays, expect to hear our Super Jack chants too.
Jon: Norwich are likely to field a pretty strong line-up if our previous League Cup outings are any kind of indicator. Is there anyone that you fear (come on, be nice about little old Norwich now) in the Canary ranks?
Joe: Well of course there are names like Hoolahan and Jerome. But I think Maddison has been rising up the ranks for you this season - and in a big game, there’s always the potential for a player to step up and prove himself further.
Jon: You’re quite right, Maddison appears to be a special talent, Norwich fans may just have to accept it’s a case of ‘enjoy him while he’s here’. However, his workload has been heavy of late and given the weekend’s trip to Ipswich it might be time to give the young lad a rest to avoid mental fatigue.
So, prediction time, I’m plumping for plucky little Norwich to take the lead early on courtesy of a deflected long range strike, eventually getting pegged back and then succumbing to a late winner, 2-1 to the Arsenal. Yourself?
Joe: With us both playing Sunday, I think it might impact on the game - it’ll be a close match but I agree I think Arsenal will just about edge it 2-1. Maybe a bit of extra time for us all too!
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