Arsenal 3 (Arteta (pen) 85, Giroud 88, Podolski 92) – Norwich City 1 (Turner 56)
Man of the Match – Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
It was again a typically Arsenal game at the Emirates. Attack, attack and more attack for large parts of the game, go down a goal completely against the run of play, and then suddenly decide to be more prolific in front of goal and plot the escape from jail.
With the opportunity to go ahead of Sp*rs and Chelsea being presented in the form of cannon fodder teams like Norwich City, it looked at one stage that Arsenal would be making it harder for themselves from now till the end of the season.
With Per Mertesacker suspended, Thomas Vermaelen came back into the squad in the centre of defence, along side Laurent Koscielny. Elsewhere, with Tomas Rosicky injured, Jack Wilshere was thrust back into the squad, as Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta kept their places. Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were named on the bench, with Gervinho getting the nod. Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left-back.
Norwich had banked two defensive walls, in front of a potent Arsenal side that carried a threat everytime they moved forward. The first real chance, however came only in the 23rd minute, when Sagna’s cross was angled on to the cross bar by a Giroud header.
Gervinho was back to his woeful best, as he was presented with the chance of the match. A brilliant through ball from Cazorla released the Ivorian free of the Canaries defence. However, his first touch was so heavy that it nearly went out of play. He, however managed to retrieve it, and his tame attempt across goal, did not carry any threat whatsoever.
He was to be presented with another chance later in the half, when Arsenal’s attackers outnumbered Norwich’s defenders by the ratio 5:2, but he took the poor decision of going by himself and miscued his effort.
Arsenal were creating more chances from the right wing, and almost scored, when Giroud turned in a low Sagna cross, with Michael Turner for close scrutiny. A Gervinho cross was then wasted, with no one near it. A Santi Cazorla shot, and a Giroud header that went wide completed a frustrating half for the Gunners.
Norwich took the lead completely against the run of play, 12 minutes into the second half. Kieran Gibbs seemed to have clipped the Norwich player just outside the box, but he seemed to have gone down too easily.
It was an all too familiar sight as a free kick from Snodgrass was headed in by Michael Turner. Arsene Wenger bought on Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski to freshen up the attack, and it almost worked as Walcott used his pace to beat Whittaker, who bought the pacy winger down in the box, but claims for a penalty were waved away.
Moments later, a Sagna cross was too high for a leaping Giroud and fell to the feet of Podolski who was slow to react. Kieran Gibbs was bombing forward but wasn’t able to put in the right balls in the danger area, and it seemed like Norwich could sustain this spell of Arsenal pressure.
Arsenal came mighty close to equalizing in the 78th minute when Podolski thundered an effort against the post, after being set up perfectly by Giroud. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came late on for Bacary Sagna.
Arsenal were thrown a lifeline by the assistant referee, when Giroud was hauled down by Kamara in the 84th minute. Mikel Arteta made no mistake from the penalty spot to make it 1-1.
And Arsenal showed remarkable comeback powers, as the brilliant Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got ahead of the Norwich defence, and his pass was turned in by Giroud or Bassong or whatever that huge mass of humanity was right on the goal line. It didn’t matter, Arsenal were ahead, with seconds left on the clock.
Norwich almost scored, however, bringing memories of last season’s capitulation, but Fabianski was equal to it, and the win was sealed when a swiveling Podolski fired in to make it a sweet 3-1 win, and to take the Gunners a point ahead of their London rivals.
Positives then. Olivier Giroud was definitely the man of the match for me, for his brilliant hold up and link up play. I was highly impressed by Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta too, who kept the midfield ticking, despite Wilshere looking out of touch, and Cazorla a bit subdued.
Defensively, Arsenal were strong, and rarely troubled, but work clearly is necessary on what seems to be a defense susceptible to set pieces. It was too easy a goal to concede. Kieran Gibbs was good going forward, but lacked in making that decisive final ball.
Elsewhere, Gervinho was again poor, and it seems like a case of 2 steps forward, and 2 steps back. Let’s be honest, Wilshere wasn’t better either, maybe due to his recent injury layoff. Arsenal’s host of attacking options on the bench were a delight, and they definitely won this all important game.
Podolski and Walcott immediately bought freshness and a new impetus, while Chamberlain bought that attacking thrust and raw speed and power.
More importantly, this puts us in the drivers’ seat to secure 4th spot, if not 3rd, as the season draws to a close. With Chelsea having had a long and hard season, which still has gotten longer, owing to their involvement in the Europa League, and a fast fading Sp*rs side, it is up to Arsenal to keep up the momentum now.
Jai Arsenal 🙂