Norwich Preview: The End Of Days

vs1The final day of the season is upon us and another nine months of trials, tribulations and triumphs has passed. A poignant day for the season to end, falling on the 29th anniversary of the fire at Valley Parade, 56 souls not returning from a football match. Safe travels to all, no matter what game you go this afternoon.

Arsenal travel to Carrow Road safe in the knowledge that a top four finish is secure for another season. Norwich meanwhile know that irrespective of the outcome, they are a Championship once the final shrill peep has swirled into the breeze. In those circumstances, you sense that a distinct end-of-season atmosphere ought to prevail on the pitch yet I am sure a few of the players in yellow and green don’t fancy playing football in the second rung of the English pyramid and view today as a shop window. Mind you, if they had played football in the Premier League, they probably would not be in their current predicament.

Arsène’s team news will no doubt have filled Greg Dyke’s sinking heart with joy, the FA Chairman finding the prospect of Manchester City winning the title depressing due to the lack of native talent in their starting line-up. With comments like that, it is little wonder Dyke is going to Vilamoura to meet with the Football League to discuss his commission’s report instead of meeting the Premier League the same weekend. I am sure that the Algarve holds little allure and did not sway his decision one little bit.

Wenger reported the return of Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs to the Arsenal squad, staking their claim for a place in the FA Cup final squad. The England duo are joined today by Abou Diaby and Aaron Ramsey, giving Arsène the opportunity to rotate the starting XI with a view to ensuring that the team which strides onto the Wembley turf is as fresh as can be. You could forgive Per Mertesacker for wanting to have today off, having missed out on the 2009 DfB Cup final,

“I got injured one week later in the Europa League game, also against Hamburg. I was really up for that final and wanted to achieve something. But we won against Leverkusen and Mesut Ozil scored the goal. It felt a bit strange not to feature in the final. But that goal in the semi-final gave me the confidence to say, “Yeah, I’m a cup winner, I contributed a lot to that team”. Of course, when you take part in a final it will be something more.”

The BFG had scored in the semi-final, just to add a little twist to the situation. More importantly for Mertesacker is winning a trophy this season, expecting to win a trophy this season although his belief that resting judgement of the previous nine months on 90 minutes at Wembley is harsh, is unavoidable. Finals tend to have that polarising impact unless there is a bigger target landed in the trophy cabinet.

But that is for then, Norfolk looms broad on today’s horizon. Since beating Wigan – yes, like West Brom earlier in the season, winning a cup-tie within the rules of the competition counts as a win, not a draw – it has been four Premier League wins, ten goals scored and one conceded. It’s all been a bit of a canter following the wobbles induced by February and March defeats. It’s good, momentum is building toward Wembley and the players, the manager, us, we’re all keen for that to continue. How long ago that October afternoon capped off with Jack Wilshere’s calm and simple finish to an exquisite move that swept the length of The Emirates pitch. To sign off the season with something similar would be a nice touch (or ten) but too much to hope for. The current run suggests Arsenal are flat-track bullies but that is what they need to be, eradicating the silly dropped points, strange defeats and then moving on to take points on the travels to title rivals, showing they can cut the mustard at the top of the table.

It may well be the final outing in the Premier League for Bacary Sagna, as an Arsenal player at least. Sagna told French media yesterday that he did not expect to resolve his differences over a new contract with the club and that he would leave when his contract expires. That being the case, so long, thanks for the service, best of luck for the future and we move on. That’s the way modern football is; players are well rewarded, hero-worship is a thing of the past as the cult of the celebrity dominates. It’s a changing world but nowadays if the kids can play in the street without dodging cars with the same frequency we evaded tackles, they will wear a Real Madrid shirt and pretend to be Ronaldo rather than Ronald of Accrington Stanley. Television, commerce; football was the game of the world in the past, now it is a global game. I remember the Kaiserslautern shirt I was given in 70s from an uncle stationed in Germany, being a sense of fascination but now any Bundesliga or La Liga shirt can be picked up in the High Street. I dare say a Kaiserslautern shirt might still hold some fascination given their reduced status – compared to then – but only briefly.

So to this afternoon, which eleven tired and weary will start. To be honest, even though I would do the opposite, I doubt Arsène will make many changes. Some like Mertesacker, I would genuinely rest anyway, irrespective of the past. He has been immense in the defence this season, played over 50 games and it is better that he is ready next week than tired. Vermaelen is an able replacement. Giroud too, a place on the bench for him with Sanogo leading the line. Sagna’s admission offers an interesting test of Wenger’s thinking; does he go for the best XI at Wembley or factor in the best longer-term interests of the club by giving Jenkinson a place in the final to gain experience that will stand him in good stead?

The line-up I expect today,

Szczesny; Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Monreal; Flamini, Diaby, Kallström; Rosicky, Sanogo, Podolski

Not starting the likes of Özil or Cazorla does not mean they won’t travel but a place on the bench unless needed seems the best option. We shall see. The main thing is to win and keep momentum going.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

90 thoughts on “Norwich Preview: The End Of Days

  1. Indeed! However I now have black pudding, back bacon, pork sausages and tatty scones kindly brought over, so I think a great British grill up before me and the stomach stretching out to watch the grand prix followed by the saunter at Norwich! That should sort out the head too!
    Have as nicer day too Yw!

  2. Yes, just having a Carajillo for breakfast. Should have had one earlier, might have sorted out the faulty fingers this morning; couldn’t type to save my life.

  3. I hope that isn’t the side, YW. Ozil needs a game before Wembley and that midfield looks a tad pedestrian.

  4. Sausage………….; I didn’t get Delia Smifth……………. I got Graham Rix 🙂

  5. Lovely Jubbly Yogi

    Customer happy, cash in pocket……….. stayed in a superb manor house with pool. Now at my ex’s for a bit of R and R.

  6. I don’t really care what team is fielded today…. bit of a pointless match apart from getting a win to keep the momentum going. Would like to see Sanogo play and posibly get a goal.

    Every time he plays I’m urging him to score. It’s a bit like making love when drunk and you just can’t get to your orgasm…………..; in other words, frustrating

  7. CBob

    It’s on multiplex in France. If you don’t get the game try…… VIPBOXEU, streaming

  8. Carajillo Yw? Hmmm forgotten how good that one is! You in spain?
    Welcome Nb sounds a successful sojourn!
    Yes – my friend has a big case for porky imports!

  9. If at half-time today, the delicious Delia enquires “Where are Youuuuuu”, I hope our ever loyal fans will up and tell her “We are here and where you won’t be next season.”

  10. Ah, no. I don’t think it is. Have to watch Fat Sam spoil City’s day. As they have been rehearsing their ‘celebration’, they deserve to lose. Hubris.

  11. CE

    No, Mrs YW is Spanish though, introduced me to all sorts of delights such as that one. Several native spirits as well although I tend to steer clear of Anise after a pre-christening drink with one of her cousins, who was an Army captain. But that’s a tale for another day…

  12. Hmm odd lineup – where’s Verm…..injured. Why risk Ozil, Ramsey and Giroud. Fab in goal…..Szcz to start in cup final so..?

  13. must be weird for Norwich they know they going down and that this is their LAST game in the PL. They going out with a bang though. I mean if you have to be relegated what could be better than to play the arsenal stars in your last match? Possibly get Ozil or Jacks jersey? IF nothing els, the norwich players are guaranteed a star jersey tonite 🙂

  14. Top post and as the PL campaign comes to a close, Arsene puts out a strong line-up.

    Not sure why he wouldn’t give Sczny his clean sheet and Yaya a start. Maybe he wants the players to find their rhythm for the FA Cup Final. Hopefully he takes off Ozil, Ramsey alongside Podolski(as always) at the 65-70min mark.

  15. This makes me wonder who is going to start the Cup Final.


    Surely Verm and Jack can’t start the Final.

  16. So the golden globe goes to Cech now?

    That just seems irrational, i agree bob, feel sorry for Szces

  17. well i guess AW sees Footy as a team game and does not put to much emphasis in individual trophies. For him having a hungry and rested chesney ready for the FA cup is more important than chesney getting a golden glove….

  18. honestly whats up with the west ham away suits? They just made that up when the got there?

  19. if I hear that we have been top of the table for the most amount of days this season I’m going to get mightily miffed. Yes we were top, yes we f*cked it up, shut up about it!

    also Giroud…tsk tsk tsk

  20. i guess if Sanga leaves we should play Jenks in the final? because just as we want Chesney to get experience of winning since he is staying and Fabianski leaving we want the same with Jenks?

  21. @jabberwocky everyone in the top 4 fucked up bar whoever wins today out of City and Liverpool.

  22. infact Liverpool fucked up the most, they had the title in their hand. it was theirs to loose and they lost to a bottom half team?

    They look like we did in the CC cup against Birmingham.

  23. poodle – wasn’t a moan about our season (have come to terms with it), just the fact that they mention it every 2 mins it seems on both streams I’ve been using

  24. Only 2 points from Liverpool if we win and they lose.

    4 points from top and level on points with Chelsea if we win and the scores stay the same.

    Not too bad but could have been so much better.

  25. Zenit fans just stormed the field full on riot and are fighting players with several of the Moscow players get hit in the head, naturally match was abandoned but police are trying to gain control of the situation.

  26. @Moe

    Don’t forget Theo will be back. He can be our main striker and Ramsey can keep scoring from the midfield.

    Will be hard for Jack to get in the side with Ramsey playing at this level!

  27. Ah well, he’ll have to better it next season.
    i like this confident Jenks, him vs aurier will be some match.

    quite competitive for a dead rubber


  28. C

    Yeah i agree, it’s too bad the Wilshere Ramsey axis isn’t completely solid. They could potentially dominate for years.

    Question i wanna know is, although Ramsey has been unbeleivable, no one has quite called him world class.

    I think he still has areas to improve but he is not far off.

  29. lol Dowd doing his best to help Liverpool. “everyone wants Liverpool to win” “they deserve it” aparantley…

    Im gonne smline and laugh at all the liverpool supporters if City wins this…

  30. I bet you City will get a couple of red cards and then west ham will get two quick penalties …

  31. @Moe

    Next year is going to be massive for Jack because Ramsey just keeps getting better and to be honest he picks up less injuries than Jack.

    I agree about Ramsey. If he continues to develop, there is no reason he won’t be in the discussion about World Class.

  32. well more points this year than the last 6? well maybe not the progress we wanted, though progress never the less…

  33. 1 Man City 38 65 86
    2 Liverpool 38 51 84
    3 Chelsea 38 44 82
    4 Arsenal 38 27 79

    Huge gap in Goal Difference, but not a big gap in points.

    If we took 1 point in each of the away games we lost against: Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Man United, Everton.
    And won one game at Home against Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Man United, or City.

    Things would have been different today.

  34. Easy everybody its Ras Ronaldo from Sporting Montpellier. Great write up YW. Sanga played a magnificent game. Hhmm he’s going to be a big loss. Good to see Jenks get a goal and good to see Abu on the pitch.

    We gots to invest invest invest in a number of players for next season.Sporting mercernaries victory for City.

    Onwards Fowards for the FA Cup…..

  35. Thought Diaby showed some class touches when he came on, hope for his sake he can keep himself fit and injury free next season

  36. So, that is that.

    4 goals less only, but 6 more points.

    Only 7 points behind the winner and 5 points behind Liverpool, and we have a chbce for the FA cup.

    All the doom and gloom that we saw a few weeks ago seems to have have been rather overstated.

    This season represents an improvement and a move in the right direction.

  37. Looking at it another way, where we not a freak last minute own goal and a few dubious penalty decisions away from 2nd and even winning it?

    You may say that I am looking through rose tinted glasses, but is not what I am saying correct?

  38. no…

    we were a top quality striker and a few tactical changes in the big games away from winning it…we knew that in the summer and we got neither and we are were we deserve to not creaming my knickers over being battered 10-0 5 times in the same season and only scoring 7 more goals than everton becuase we have a striker who can only score when the balls passed to him in the 6 yard box and finishing in a position where we finish every year…

    4th isnt progress…it just represents another year of managerial fuckups thats holding us back…

    4th and a cup is however, progress…then i’ll cream my knickers but thats a week away..

    until then…..

  39. 4th isn’t progress but the points total is. A cup final is positive and ending the trophyless years would be a big step forward too. Leading the league for long periods is a positive change as well–at least it is a more interesting experience for a change than trailing the leaders by 15 points most of the season. But clearly the club knew it needed a DM and a striker last summer. If we had done proper business, we might have had a great season. That’s the perennial problem. Not taking the steps that could make that final difference. Let’s hope our player losses aren’t too great and we bring in the players required. Tactical changes were made this season but abandoned in some key away games. That means AW and his coaches can make some alterations. I am hopeful but not especially optimistic everything can be done this summer. In the meantime, I will support AFC as we all do. It will be easier to be excited if some good early business comes through on the heels of an FA cup win. That would be great momentum after falling away from the title race and some demoralizing losses to our direct competitors.

  40. I actually think that Fabianski playing today was a pointer to him playing in the Cup final – a sighter game.

    Good to see Diaby back and I hope Ramsey can play upward of 30 games in next year’s Premiership. We have some serious class there…

  41. I think that there are objective measures that support that we have improved this year: points this year vs last year, time at the top, falling out of the race later than previous years, putting away (most teams) below us, home form, defensive record – all progress in my mind. Of course, the best objective measure of progress (table position) suggests no progress, but a Cup would tip the scales.

    Subjectively, my recollection is that at the end of last season I felt more disillusioned than this year and what I asked for then was to see was us ‘competing’ in the title race. Yogi and I had some debate a week or two back about what that means, but I think that seven months of real ‘hope’ beats the two or three months in the past few years makes for a better year as a supporter because I am more emotionally ‘invested’ in each game. And that is what sport is about for me.

    Let’s hope for a couple of exciting additions, further progress with Aaron, Jack, Ox, Gibbs, Serge and Ozil and importantly, some big improvements in the fitness/medical department next year. The foundation of the team gives me some hope for next year already and the fact that they are signed up for a few more years has us in good shape overall. We all know what needs to be added…

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