Norwich City at Arsenal - a six-pointer already?
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Money can’t buy me love - Paul McCartney couldn’t have put it better had he been born in the Blackstock Road within the roars of old Highbury.
The ghost of Herbert Chapman will be wandering around the gardens of Highbury Square, wondering how his beloved Gunners come to be bottom of the league – and Spurs at the top. Equally strange conundrums to ponder.
So bad are Arsenal that when they lost 5-0 at Manchester City last weekend, Norwich City actually managed to climb off the bottom of the table, because they managed to score against Leicester. All of which makes next Saturday’s game between the two at The Emirates Stadium the first six-pointer of the season.
It’s not of course, but the cliché gets twisted and turned so often it matters not – you can have a six-pointer party just about any old time of year. The last time an Arsenal v Norwich game was this close would probably be back in the early 90s.
So let’s do a few comparisons, shall we?
This is where it immediately gets a bit controversial – City banked £33m, give or take a million or two, for Emi Buendia and made, for them, a few big money signings, many hovering around the £10m mark and with the words ‘possible club record fee’ attached. It was, by City’s standards, a summer window like no other - loads spent, lots of changes, lots of international players coming in.
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But City’s net spend was in the minus column because they had Villa’s cheque. That discombobulated a few people who thought City made a loss, had shown no ambition, just wanted a fat cheque in the bank. But the fact is they brought in a league-high 10 permanent signings and four on loan. A lot of ‘dead wood’ was also shed. Great business.
Arsenal spent the most in the window – a whopping £156.8m. That included £50m for Ben White from Brighton, the fourth highest sale of the window behind Jack Grealish, Romelu Lukaku and Jadon Sancho. They also signed goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale for £30m. Yes. £30m.
City: Arguably Max Aarons or Todd Cantwell – on the basis of ability and sale price. On current value to the squad, add in Grant Hanley, Teemu Pukki if he gets going and the unknown quantities that are some of the summer signings.
Arsenal: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe – the latter pair are stars of the future... just probably not at the Emirates. Honourable mentions to Kieran Tierney and Ben White, maybe. But it’s an Arsenal squad lacking in top six quality – what on earth would have happened had the European Super League gone ahead with the Gunners one of the clubs involved?
Men in charge
Daniel Farke: Appointed May 2017. Loved by the City fans, even when things are difficult.
Mikel Arteta: Appointed December 2019. Many Arsenal fans are still scratching their heads at what is going wrong. Jury is still out.
Both men are admired by Pep Guardiola: Arteta worked under him and learned his trade at Manchester City; Farke’s football is Pep’s viewing of choice when he’s not busy with his own billionaire’s club.
City’s are high – and by that, high is survival. Stuart Webber promised to give Daniel Farke the ammunition to stay up, so the head coach has got what he wants. Now it’s down to him. As he has most likely said, ‘no excuses now’. City fans have been used to the inevitable disappointment following the ecstasy, but the summer transfer window has helped raise levels of optimism.
For Arsenal, the hope among fans is they retain their membership of the top six – a hope that is fading fast. For too long, the Gunners have not been relevant in the title conversation. They are also-rans, not even dark horses, and this season, despite being in its infancy, is hugely disappointing. Which leads us on nicely to …
Mind the gap. It’s huge. Norwich are two division above Ipswich, whose start to their third League One campaign in a row has been pretty poor. Winless and in the relegation zone after five games was not what the Yankee Doodle-Dandee owners wanted of manager Paul Cook.
So City can gloat away, even from near the bottom of the Premier League pile. But for Arsenal the pain must be just as bad, if not worse. While they languish at the foot of the table, Spurs are top. The rivalry between the teams is intense and this will hurt. A lot.
The head to head odds
Arsenal win 1/2; draw 10/3; City win 21/4.
If you fancy City, that is a bet that is well worthwhile.