Well, that was close. A supposedly ‘easy’ match at home to struggling Norwich was treated as such by Arsenal yesterday and they almost squandered the chance of applying real pressure to Chelsea and Spurs. Thankfully the introduction of Walcott, Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain injected some much overdue pace and tempo to our game and we ground out the win in an incredible last ten minutes.
But what preceded it was so frustrating. Following on from last week’s impressive victory at West Brom, the players obviously didn’t see the need to work that hard again against little Norwich. They didn’t bother to press their opponents high up the pitch and they knocked the ball around far too slowly, allowing Norwich to keep their very defensive shape with some ease. It was as if they thought a minimum amount of effort would suffice and as a result passes were misplaced, attacks broke down too often and Norwich weren’t stretched enough.
To compound a wretched first hour, Arsenal then lost concentration at a set piece and allowed Turner an unchallenged header for the opening goal.
To be fair to Wenger, he reacted quickly by sending on Walcott and Podolski for the woeful Gervinho and rusty Wilshere. The manager’s continued faith in Gervinho when he has the likes of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain to call on is baffling. Yes, once in a while he’ll produce as he did last weekend, but for the most part he’ll be the weak link. His clumsy touch as he knocked Cazorla’s first half through ball too far past the outrushing keeper is a perfect example and there were other moments of poor control and bad decisions too.
A lovely goal from the best finisher at the club
We hardly battered Norwich from that point on but the improvement was there. Podolski hit the bar (as Giroud did with our only real chance of the first half) but in truth it looked like Norwich would hang on. Then came the game’s controversial moment on 85 minutes when Giroud clearly had his shirt pulled in the box as a loose ball bounced around following a corner and Arteta tucked home the equaliser.
The main beef of Chris Hughton and the inept pundits on Match of the Day was that the linesman gave the decision from a long way away. Erm, so what? He saw the shirt pull, so what does it matter if he was stood one yard away or 50 yards away? Even though Giroud also had a little tug on Kamara’s shirt, the first offence was clearly committed by Kamara and so it’s a definite penalty.
Where Norwich do have a case is that the corner should never have been given in the first place as it looked like it went out of play off Ramsey, so we got lucky there.
After that we approached the match with the same vigour we should’ve shown at 3pm. The Ox burst into the box and pulled a great ball back for a determined Giroud to use his strength well and bundle home the second goal. Just moments after we’d seemingly won the game though, Fabianski did well to kick away a shot as somehow a Norwich player was allowed a clear sight of goal from 12 yards. Talk about almost throwing it away!
In injury time Podolski lashed in a well taken third (although Walcott was offside in the build up) as if to emphasise just what we can do to teams when we are in the mood. It’s a shame we weren’t in the mood for the first hour — why was that? Complacency? I think so. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time this season (Blackburn, Bradford, Norwich away etc) and we must guard against that because there’s no such thing as an easy run-in as today showed.
In fact we now approach a tricky trio of fixtures over the next two weeks. Everton visit the Emirates next and I’m sure the scousers will enjoy hitting the London bars before the big match. Then it’s a trip to Fulham before we play Man Utd at home and if we don’t improve at the back we will definitely ship more soft goals to these sides. Credit to the lads for showing the character to grab such a late win, but that performance would not have sufficed against any of our upcoming opponents. Improvement is needed and fast.
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