Arsenal 4 (Wilshere 18, Ozil 58, Ramsey 83, Ozil 88) – Norwich City 1 (Howson 70)
Man of the Match – Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)
Arsenal put on a display for the football purists to strengthen their position at the top of the Premier League with a convincing win over a mediocre Norwich side. The goals were of absolute top quality.
Arsenal named Santi Cazorla in the starting line up after his injury marred two months. This was the first time the combination of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla would ply in midfield. In-form Aaron Ramsey was named on the bench, with an eye on the midweek Champions League clash against Dortmund.
Jack Wilshere started on the right, with Cazorla on the left. Cazorla looked a bit rusty in the opening minutes but took the first attempt of the game, with John Ruddy easily saving. However, it didn’t take long for the Spaniard to play a vital role in a mesmerizing opening goal for the Gunners.
Jack Wilshere won the ball in Arsenal’s half and released Kieran Gibbs on the left, who in turn played in Cazorla, running into space. He exchanged passes with Wilshere, who flicked it deftly to Giroud, who in turn returned the favour with his customary flick, to play in Wilshere, in behind the defence. The England international made no mistake in slotting past Ruddy. It was a goal right out of the top drawer.
There were some moments of concern as there was a clash of heads between Mathieu Flamini and Norwegian international Alexander Tettey. The Arsenal midfielder was visibly shaken and probably seeing two of everyone. Two Ozil’s and two Cazorla’s is certainly not a bad proposition, but he was unable to continue for long, and was replaced by Aaron Ramsey.
This disruption allowed Norwich to slowly get back into the game. However, it was still Arsenal who looked the likeliest to score, as Giroud’s close range effort off a Gibbs cross was saved by Ruddy. Norwich had one shot of notice, as Leroy Fer forced a fine save from Wojciech Szczesny,
Norwich seemed to get some good moments of possession in the second half as they searched for an equalizer. However, it was Arsenal who doubled their advantage. A beautiful long ball by Cazorla played in Giroud who waited for Ozil to get into the centre, and he played in a ball at the right moment, for the German to head past Ruddy. It should have been the other way round, but nonetheless, it was the German’s first goal in the Premier League.
Arsene Wenger thought this was appropriate to call Cazorla off, with Dortmund coming up in 3 days time, and he was replaced by Tomas Rosicky. There was some danger from Norwich, as Anthony Pilkington seemed to have fouled Mertesacker, before taking a shot past goal, when it seemed an easy goal to score.
They did get a goal back, as Mertesacker was unable to clear properly and the ball fell right into the feet of Johnny Howson, who ghosted past Kieran Gibbs to slot home a goal. It was nervy again at 2-1.
By now Aaron Ramsey was testing Ruddy from outside the box, with some stinging shots, which the England keeper managed to keep out. The Welshman then set up Ozil, but Ruddy was again at hand to deny Arsenal a 3rd goal. Olivier Giroud was bought off in place of Niklas Bendtner, whose first touch bought a huge roar from the Emirates crowd.
He was quickly into action, as his powerful shot was saved again by Ruddy, but it didn’t take long for Arsenal to restore their two goal advantage. Ramsey hoodwinked two Norwich defenders by flooring them and coolly putting the ball in the back of the net, with Ruddy unable to save. It is the Welshman’s 9th goal in all competitions.
Arsenal added the cherry on the top, as Rosicky’s ball over the Norwich box fell kindly to Ramsey, who flicked it back to Ozil, in acres of space. 4-1 to the Arsenal. Easy pickings. It was a fine performance from Arsenal.
Some thoughts on the game then. Arsenal need to work on the worrying trend of allowing the opposition back into the game after having taken an early lead. This has become a worrying norm in almost all games this season, where Arsenal lose their way having scored early.
Defensively, we look solid, with the odd error cropping every now and then. Szczesny looks like he has really matured this season, but much of it can be attributed to the staple back 4 of Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny and Gibbs who seem to have formed a formidable defensive line. Add to that the work rate of Mathieu Flamini.
Olivier Giroud seems to be playing like a player clearly enjoying his football. Playing as a lone striker can be really draining in the English game, but his performances this season have been excellent. His hold up play is second to none, and his ability to play in others has been much beneficiary to the side in general.
Aaron Ramsey, at the moment, is on fire. An unstoppable beast. His glut of goals tells only half the story. There seems to be a spark whenever he gets the ball. You know he can cause danger, and that was something which was unfathomable months back. His reading of the game has improved leaps and bounds and credit must go to the manager for keeping faith in the lad.
The return of Cazorla is quite welcome, and we got some glimpses of his potentially devastating partnership with Ozil. Jack Wilshere had a fine game too. His goal should surely rank as an early candidate for Goal of the Season.
Jai Arsenal 🙂