Arsenal vs Norwich: Return of key players means season starts here

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Ben White of Arsenal during Arsenal v Chelsea: The Mind Series at Emirates Stadium on August 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01: Ben White of Arsenal during Arsenal v Chelsea: The Mind Series at Emirates Stadium on August 1, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images) /

At least now the only way is up! After enjoying some much-needed respite from their domestic struggles over the international break, it is back to the grindstone for Arsenal this weekend as they continue the search for their first points of the Premier League season with a home clash against fellow strugglers Norwich.

Of course, one need only reflect on the opening day loss at Brentford for proof that no side can be taken for granted, but with the Gunners currently propping up the division and having failed to score in their opening three games, a meeting with the also pointless Canaries seems timely nevertheless – and the return of some key players should give Mikel Arteta all the ammunition he needs to kickstart our campaign.

Perhaps the most important personnel changes from the 5-0 Etihad drubbing a fortnight ago will be made in the backline, where fans can expect to get a first glimpse of a Ben White and Gabriel centre-back pairing.

From a disappointing display during the season curtain-raiser, to his COVID diagnosis on the eve of game-week two, White has experienced a turbulent beginning to life in north London and has not had an opportunity to demonstrate why Arsenal were so eager to sign him in the summer.

The returns of Thomas Partey, Ben White and Gabriel against Norwich should help Arsenal to kickstart their Premier League season 

However, those issues now appear to be well behind him and, after returning to training during the international window, the £50m man will be eager to make his competitive Emirates debut against Daniel Farke’s side with his anticipated reinstatement enhancing our build-up play and hopefully bringing greater attacking joy as a result, especially considering the visitor’s suspect defensive line.

Furthermore, the influence encompassed by White’s passing ability will be potentiated by the long-awaited return of Gabriel.

Finally recovered from the knee injury that ended his Olympic dream two months ago, the Brazilian is also quite comfortable on the ball, but possesses an aerial presence that compensates for White’s respective shortcomings. Together they should facilitate considerable improvement in our dismal defensive performances of late.

Deviating slightly from the defence, Saturday could also see the perennially-wounded Thomas Partey make his first start of the season. Arteta’s previous responses to injuries suggest he would prefer to slowly ease the Ghanaian back into the fold, but the doubt surrounding Sambi Lokonga’s availability this week, as well as Elneny’s hamstring woes and Xhaka’s suspension for the next three matches, means he could be forced to re-introduce him sooner rather than later.

However, bearing in mind all the challenges we have had to contend with recently, bringing Partey into the first team straight away is definitely not the worst thing in the world and, with his marauding runs and unrivalled ability to play through the lines, he will provide us with a much greater platform to sustain attacking phases in the coming weeks.

Although many supporters are growing tired of excuses and were left bemused by Edu’s recent plea for patience, injury concerns and COVID have severely hampered our efforts so far this season. The impact that has on a transitional team missing roughly half of its starting eleven – against two of the Premier League‘s strongest sides no less – must not be underestimated.

Leno or Ramsdale vs Norwich?. dark. Next

Having said that, such impediments do not excuse the alarmingly poor and spiritless displays we have witnessed recently, or even bode well for the adversity we may face in the future. Arteta believes he now has the means to implement his vision, and there is no time like the present to achieve it.