Canaries face tough task against Arteta's Arsenal 'animal'

Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta during the Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium, LondonPict

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta during his team's 1-0 win over Norwich in September - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd 

Norwich City need to find top gear to get anything against the Arsenal 'animal' that Mikel Arteta has created, according to head coach Dean Smith.

The Gunners head to Carrow Road today sitting fourth after three successive wins in the Premier League, also easing past League One side Sunderland with a 5-1 home win in the League Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.

After a shock 2-0 loss at Brentford on the opening night of the campaign, Arteta's team lost 2-0 at home to Chelsea and 5-0 at Manchester City but responded with an eight-game unbeaten run featuring six wins.

A 4-0 defeat at Liverpool brought a wobble of three defeats in four but now the north London side are back on track and chasing a first Champions League campaign since 2016-17.

“I’m really pleased for Mikel Arteta and how he has turned the season around," said Canaries boss Smith.

“I said before when we played them with Villa this season (losing 3-1), there was a lot of talk about the start they’d had and in amongst those first couple of games was the European champions and the current Premier League champions. 

"So sometimes results have to be taken in context and I’m really pleased they’ve turned it around, but we’re coming up against an animal at the moment, that is playing really well, and need to make sure we’re at our best.” 

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Young stars including Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Emile Smith Rowe have combined with summer signings such as Aaron Ramsdale, Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ben White in producing the early signs of an exciting team emerging under Arteta.

“I think you could see at the start of the season that, even though they were losing games, the first three I think they lost, but you could also see what they were trying to do," Smith continued.

“Sometimes you come up against better teams, sometimes you’ve got players that aren’t in good form at that time. 

“Now they’ve got the big word and the buzz word in football, which is momentum - and momentum can take you an awful long way.  

“They’ve certainly got that and they’ve got a clear identity of how Mikel wants them to play.” 

The Spanish coach, who served his apprenticeship as Pep Guardiola's assistant at Manchester City, recently asserted his authority when striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was stripped of the captaincy for a breach of club disciplinary rules.

City's chief added: “I don’t know the ins and outs of what’s happened there, and I don’t really want to because it’s not a club that I’m involved in. 

“But our roles as head coaches or managers are to show good leadership and make good decisions. 

“You can only look at their performances and their performances have shown that he must be making very good decisions.” 

NCFC EXTRA: Smith on City's spirits lifting and under-23 prospects