How will Norwich City line up against Arsenal?
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Covid cases and injury problems made it the nightmare before Christmas for Norwich City head coach Dean Smith.
With Arsenal rolling into Norfolk for a Boxing Day clash, City will be hoping they have the capability to produce an upset against Mikel Arteta's in-form side.
Prior to this contest, the Canaries were delivered a blow with the news that both Mathias Normann and Milot Rashica would be missing for the festive period, although the Kosovan is expected to return for the New Year's clash away at Leicester City.
Preparations are difficult for every Premier League club at present, with Covid continuing to cause problems amongst playing squads.
Son of a Gunn
Tim Krul confirmed on social media that he had once again tested positive for Covid, after struggling with the symptoms last year. That is likely to hand Angus Gunn his first Premier League start since joining the club permanently in the summer.
Gunn has been forced to be patient before making his first top-flight start for the club that his father, Bryan, made over 400 appearances for the club between1989 and 1998.
- 1 Former City midfielder poised to move again
- 2 'I fell in love with the Championship' - Ex-Canaries ace joins Bristol City
- 3 'They’ve come out of nowhere' - Ferdinand assesses City survival chances
- 4 City duo nominated for Premier League awards
- 5 Hanley urges City to up the ante
- 6 On-loan City striker Soto switches Portugal for Scotland
- 7 Put your questions to Canaries legend Chris Sutton
- 8 City survival rival will improve under my old boss - Sutton
- 9 City striker frustrated but ready to battle if Baggies loan continues
- 10 Injury scare for in-form City forward at Southend
Krul was always going to be the first choice to start the season, but Gunn has provided competition designed to push the Dutch international even harder.
It will be opportunity knocks for the 25-year-old, who may be able to set himself up for a run of games in the side with a good performance against Arsenal this afternoon.
Who comes in at defensive midfield?
With Normann out, Jacob Sorensen may be handed an opportunity to stake his claim for a prolonged run in the starting XI in his natural position.
The Dane was one of the very few bright spots from the defeat to Aston Villa, although there was plenty of mitigation behind that loss to Smith's previous employers.
Lukas Rupp will continue to be assessed ahead of this fixture after suffering a combination of illness and a hamstring injury. His performances have improved since Smith's arrival.
Pierre Lees-Melou has also returned to training after a Covid-19 infection that kept him out of the Villa clash. Whether the Frenchman is fit enough to start the game with the Gunners remains to be seen.
Sorensen's composure in possession and ability to read the game from a defensive perspective may give him the edge, particularly given Alexandre Lacazette's willingness to drop into deeper positions away from the centre backs.
Przemek in pole position?
It's been a tough start to the season for the flying Polish winger.
But Smith likes what Placheta has to offer and believes he is coachable. The Polish winger has started the last two matches and been effective in patches.
With Christos Tzolis and Josh Sargent returning, it will be interesting to see whether the 23-year-old will retain his place in the Canaries starting XI. During the last couple of matches, fatigue has set in as the game develops, perhaps understandable given his Covid-issues and lack of minutes.
Despite an improvement in his performances, that is yet to translate into the construction of chances or conversion of goal scoring opportunities. With players returning to the fold, there will be an increased onus on him to prove why he should keep the starting start.
Predicted Norwich City XI (4-3-3): Gunn; Aarons, Kabak, Gibson (c), Williams; Sorensen, Gilmour, McLean; Placheta, Sargent; Pukki
Subs: McGovern, Byram, Giannoulis, Tomkinson, Rupp, Lees-Melou, Tzolis, Cantwell, Idah