So, that day has arrived. The last day of the league season. A lot of things are still open in theory but reality says everything has already been settled. There are two theories that involve a 16-goal-margin victories for both Norwich and Arsenal. If Norwich beat Arsenal 16:0 and West Brom lose their match against Stoke, the Canaries will survive in the Premiership. If, however, Chelsea lose to Cardiff with a two-goal-margin and Arsenal beat Norwich 16:0, Arsenal will pip Chelsea to third place and direct qualification for Champions’ League.
If anything, the match at the Carrow Road will be one with a few farewells. Norwich fans will watch their team as a Premiership club for the last time before they get relegated and think about what had gone wrong. Why did the team that had been so successful last season and spent significant money in the summer ended in the relegation battle and – more importantly – lost it? The boy cried: “Wolf!” and the Canaries cried: “Wolfswinkel!” They spent 8.5 million pounds on a striker that has scored one goal in 25 appearances and turned out to be a very poor replacement for the veteran striker Grant Holt. Gary Hooper, a striker with a name that would suit an actor that stars in westerns, hasn’t fired too many bullets either – just six goals by his name is a rather poor return. Stats of their two biggest attacking hopes say it all – Norwich couldn’t have had a better season with just 28 goals scored (the worst attack in the league) and 60 conceded (they have conceded 12 in two away games against Manchester City and Liverpool respectively though).
Their Premiership status was all but diminished after they had lost three games in a row between 29th March and 12th April against also struggling Swansea, West Brom and Fulham respectively. Prior to those games, they were seven points above the relegation zone. Given that West Brom are three points ahead of them, Amalfitano’s winning goal for the Baggies at Carrow Road might have been a key moment of their season.
Given the match against the Canaries doesn’t mean anything to us and that we have arguably the biggest game in the last few years next week, we might salute some farewells as well. Wojciech Szczesny will have some motive though given that he can claim The Golden Glove if he keeps another clean sheet. If we concede a goal, Petr Čech will win it due to fewer games played. Szczesny’s competition with Čech means Lukasz Fabianski probably won’t get his last chance to play for the Gunners in the Premiership. There is a huge possibility that, unfortunately, Bacary Sagna will play his last Premiership game for Arsenal while the same remain a possibility for our captain Thomas Vermaelen.
Signs of Mikel Arteta’s age have struck us heavily this season against Liverpool, Chelsea and Everton so it might be the very last league game for our vice-captain as well, seems unlikely though. Nicklas Bendtner hasn’t been in action for a while but who knows – we might see a swansong of the greatest Danish striker that has ever worn the number 52. Jack Wilshere might get a few minutes to improve match fitness ahead of the final – after all, Wilshere has scored what has been arguably the goal of the season against Norwich in the reverse fixture.
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Finally, it’s going to be a league-farewell to Nike as well given that Puma is going to be our new supplier.
If we win against Norwich, we will end up fourth with 79 points – the same number of points champions Manchester United had collected in their 1998-99 treble-winning-season or just one point less than United had won in 2010-11. It might be a part of a slow but safe rise of Arsenal to the top – just like our double-winning team from 2001-02 had needed three barren years to reshape and sweep the competition. There have been many lessons that we should have learned a lot from and hopefully not repeat them ever again.
Finally, a victory would be a nice farewell to the fans. It might be “the deadest rubber” of all dead rubbers ever played but keeping a professional approach helps build a winning mentality. With all squad rotation that might take place due to FA Cup Final waiting for us round the corner we should win this match.
So, for the last time in Premiership this season…
Arsenal: Gibbs (doubt – hamstring), Wilshere (doubt – foot), Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Walcott (knee), Gnabry (knee)
Norwich City: Fox (knee), Pilkington (hip), Yobo (calf)
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 19 Oct 2013 Arsenal FC 4 – Norwich City 1
Premier League (EPL) 13 Apr 2013 Arsenal 3 – Norwich City 1
Premier League (EPL) 20 Oct 2012 Norwich City 1 – Arsenal FC 0
Premier League (EPL) 5 May 2012 Arsenal FC 3 – Norwich City 3
Premier League (EPL) 19 Nov 2011 Norwich City 1 – Arsenal FC 2
04 May 2014 Chelsea FC 0 – Norwich City 0 EPL
26 Apr 2014 Manchester United 4 – Norwich City 0 EPL
20 Apr 2014 Norwich City 2 – Liverpool FC 3 EPL
12 Apr 2014 Fulham 1 – Norwich City 0 EPL
05 Apr 2014 Norwich City 0 – West Brom 1 EPL
04 May 2014 Arsenal FC 1 – West Brom 0 EPL
28 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – Newcastle United 0 EPL
20 Apr 2014 Hull City 0 – Arsenal FC 3 EPL
15 Apr 2014 Arsenal FC 3 – West Ham 1 EPL
12 Apr 2014 Wigan 1 (2) – Arsenal FC 1 (4) FAC
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen (c) Monreal
Arteta (c) Flamini
Norwich City 0 – 2 Arsenal FC