Basement boys Norwich City and fourth-placed Arsenal are set to lock horns in a potentially one-sided Boxing Day match-up at Carrow Road.
Norwich and Arsenal were embroiled in a bottom-of-the-table fight before the Gunners staged a jaw-dropping comeback to climb up the ladder.
Unlike the London outfit, the Canaries cannot catch a break in the Premier League this season as they look to be on course to confirm their reputation as the archetypal ‘yo-yo’ club.
Tipped for a season-long fight against the drop, Norwich head into proceedings amid another rough patch.
After losing three Premier League matches on the trot, Dean Smith’s men are rooted to the foot of the standings, albeit they are just three points adrift of 17th-placed Watford.
Since defeating Southampton 2-1 on his touchline debut, the new boss has gone winless in his subsequent five top-flight games (D2, L3), as the ex-Aston Villa boss starts to feel the heat.
His Arsenal counterpart Mikel Arteta is enjoying a purple patch after his side went from back-to-back Premier League defeats to three league victories in a row.
The Gunners’ noticeable upturn in form has helped them move to the last Champions League place, but keeping hold of it won’t be a straightforward task.
Arsenal hold a four-point lead over fifth-placed West Ham United, although the Hammers have a game in hand over Arteta’s team, with sixth-placed Manchester United lurking in the shadows.
Norwich City vs Arsenal Head-To-Head
Out-of-favour Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a second-half winner to sink a spirited Norwich side in the reverse fixture back in September.
A 1-0 victory at the Emirates earlier this season made it three wins in four top-flight H2Hs for the Gunners (D1), all of which saw the Canaries fail to get on the scoresheet.
Arsenal will now be ‘gunning’ for their third-ever Premier League double over Norwich, last managing that feat in 2013/14.
Norwich City Preview
Boxing Day has never been kind to Norwich as they’ve played more Premier League fixtures (seven) on this day without ever winning in the competition’s history (D1, L6) than any other side.
They have found the net just once in that seven-game sequence, which is very much in line with their uneventful attacking showings this season.
Any hope of landing their first-ever Premier League triumph on Boxing Day will hinge on the Canaries’ ability to improve in the front third.
Smith’s men have drawn a blank in a league-high 11 Premier League fixtures this term and are the only side in England’s top-flight yet to smash a 10-goal barrier (eight scored so far).
Five of Norwich’s eight Premier League goals this season have been netted by Teemu Pukki, who continues to be the only shining light in Smith’s underperforming team.
Unlike Norwich, Arsenal have often managed to bring their A-game to the table on Boxing Day, having lost just two of their 23 such contests so far (W14, D7).
But before a 4-1 toppling of Leeds United in their most recent Premier League travel, the Gunners lost three consecutive away league games, conceding 2+ goals on each occasion.
Based on their indifferent away form, Arsenal’s victory at Carrow Road is anything but a foregone conclusion despite their status as huge pre-match favourites.
After Arteta decided to strip Aubameyang off the captain’s armband earlier in December and push him on the fringes at the Emirates, Arsenal have needed a new hero.
Although many people expected Alexandre Lacazette to fill the void, up-and-coming forward Gabriel Martinelli has soaked up the limelight as the Gunners headline performer during Aubameyang’s absence.
The Brazilian prodigy has tallied four goals and two assists in his last six Premier League appearances for Arsenal, as many goal contributions as he had in his inaugural 33 in the competition beforehand.
Norwich City vs Arsenal Predicted Line-ups
Norwich City (4-3-3): Tim Krul; Max Aarons, Ozan Kabak, Ben Gibson, Brandon Williams; Billy Gilmour, Jacob Sorensen, Kenny McLean; Przemyslaw Placheta, Teemu Pukki, Todd Cantwell.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Aaron Ramsdale; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Gabriel, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
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