Arsenal v Norwich: the time for excuses is over

For Mikel Arteta, Saturday’s clash with Norwich could prove to be defining.

Win and some of the storm clouds gathering over the Emirates begin to turn from black to grey. Lose and you can be sure the rain will start pouring. In short, only victory will do.

Our first three matches of the Premier League season have been, frankly, atrocious. There has been nothing to like about any of them and no positives to take forward either. A number of mitigating factors have played into every one of those defeats, there’s no denying it, but the level of performance in all three has also been downright pitiful.

Seldom has an Arsenal team looked so vulnerable as the one we have seen recently. Even last season, in the winter of our discontent, we were at least a reasonable proposition in defence even if our attacking play was woeful. This season, we haven’t even had that small mercy to fall back on.

Against Norwich, all of that must change. I’d normally caution against expecting to win any game but, in truth, I expect to win this one. If the manager is truly to turn this ship around, it must start on Saturday with three points and the manner of the victory is also important.

Barring any announcements between now and 3pm tomorrow, the manager will have as near a full squad to pick from as he has had for months. Our injured players are back and our COVID cases appear to have cleared, we should at last get to see Arteta’s team playing Arteta’s way.

Norwich will seek to make this one difficult, to test our nerve, to quiet the crowd, and who can blame them? If they can turn the atmosphere in their favour, they may sense an opportunity but, in terms of sheer quality, they should not have anywhere near enough to take points.

That may sound cocksure but consider the alternative. Do we really want to countenance a scenario in which we’re worried about whether we’ll beat a newly-promoted team at home? It has to be three.

With everyone available (fingers crossed), it will be interesting to see which line-up and formation the manager picks. The way he shapes up tomorrow, with all the tools at his disposal, will inform, I think, how he sees the immediate future for this side and how he wants it to play. If we see something we can get behind and identify with it’ll be an added bonus.

Before all of that, however, we have to get a win – and a convincing win at that. If this is truly to be the moment Arsenal lift off the bottom of the barrel, they must show more fight, determination, desire and commitment than we have seen so far this term. The future is in their hands.

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