Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal not in decline for Norwich City chief Alex Neil
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Alex Neil is not expecting to find a crumbling empire when Norwich City rock up at Arsenal searching for a Premier League lifeline.
Arsene Wenger's 750th top flight game in charge of the Gunners should be a cause for celebration, but organised protests are expected from sections of the home support angry at another season of unfulfilled promise.
Neil has his own concerns as Norwich try to revive their survival prospects - although the Scot is in no doubt Wenger's achievements deserve more respect.
'He has done a fantastic job,' said Neil. 'You look on the pitch and off it with that stadium and the money in the bank. They have a world class team on the pitch and I am pretty sure if you offered all that to Arsenal fans 15 or 20 years ago they would probably have snapped your hands off. Like anything in life, it is about expectation and the more you get the more you want.
'You can look at it two ways. They are going to be protests, by all accounts, but the players could give a positive reaction to that. We have to go with the intention of bringing something back, three points, a point, and if we play as well as we can then we are capable.
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' It is not all doom and gloom. Being a fan of any club, but particularly Norwich, where there are so many highs and lows the mood swings so much.'
Norwich may have stumbled in painful fashion against Crystal Palace and Sunderland but Neil's optimism is partly fuelled by their ability to mix it with the elite at times this season.
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'Our problem has been consistency levels,' he said. 'We went to (Manchester) United and were the first team to beat them at Old Trafford this season. It is just if we can deliver on the day and I am confident we can. We did it at Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool. We can do it. The hardest thing to adjust to in the Premier League, I have found, is going from one style to another in a week. From playing Aston Villa to Manchester City is significantly different in how you approach it. When we play the likes of Villa we are expected to be expansive and go and attack it but when you play City if you do that up there you are in a bit of bother.
'People simplify football too much at times. What you tend to find at those places is really it is what you do without the ball that is more important and then try to be expansive when you do get the ball and they are exposed. The onus is on them, not you, if you like. The easiest thing to get right is being relatively compact and sitting behind the ball. It is a lot harder to be expansive and retain that solidity at the back.'
Arsenal's title challenge may have tamely tailed off but the Gunners on home soil are still a formidable proposition.
'They are really expansive, they move the ball well, they make the pitch big and move it at pace,' said Neil. 'You have to be extremely well set-up to counter that and when you do get the ball you can't continually give it back because they are a good team and good teams eventually punish you. We have to pose a threat but not be too open and exposed ourselves. I don't think it is win or nothing. The one thing we have to bear in mind is we have two at home, where we are stronger, and then a difficult one at Everton. We certainly don't want to lose it.'