Arsenal v Norwich
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: October 19, 2013 3:00 PM BST
After an international break, there is often the fear that players will be a little tired and jaded. And with Arsenal suffering a few knocks over the last few weeks, as well as a number of players returning from injury, I honestly had no idea what our team was going to look like.
I was very surprised to see Santi Cazorla start the game, after only recently coming back from injury. But not so surprised to see Ramsey on the bench, who has played ninety minutes for most games this season, and played a big part in both internationals over the past fortnight. With Santi coming back into the team, and Özil now in the central attacking midfield role, Wilshere was pushed out to the right. I felt this could benefit him, as he is not much of a crosser, and this would allow him to cut inside and drive towards the goal in his usual fashion.
We started strongly, absolutely dominating possession as you would expect. Sagna getting a cross in which was cleared just before Giroud could nod it home, and Cazorla getting the first shot on target; well saved by Ruddy.
Wilshere was doing superbly on the right, working well with Sagna and cutting in at the right times, and it wasn’t long before we were able to capitalise on our dominance. After a quarter of an hour, some vintage Arsenal link up play between Cazorla, Wilshere and Giroud, with a quick one-two between Jack and Olivier, put the young Englishmen through on goal to score his second in two games, and a possible contender for goal of he season. 1-0 Arsenal!
We kept up the pressure for the next fifteen minutes, with not only good possession, but excellent pressing without the ball. The second goal seemed inevitable, but after a break in play stemming from Mathieu Flamini absolutely steam rolling Alexander Tettey, we seemed to drop off the pace a bit and allowed Norwich time and space to play the ball. With the only real chance coming from a Gibbs cut back and a Giroud shot, which Ruddy did fantastically to save. Flamini had to be substituted shortly after complaining of double vision, Aaron Ramsey coming on in his place after less than forty minutes. I felt this change was really noticeable, often seeing a large gap between our midfield and defence, which just hadn’t been there before. Norwich had the better of the game towards the end of the first half, with Szczesny being called upon a number of times, responding well to any questions being asked of him. He played a huge part in retaining our lead, as we went into the break 1-0 up.
I was hoping the players would come out after the break a bit more fired up, and we could pick up the tempo and play the way we did in the opening half an hour. It was Norwich that looked more dangerous however, and I felt we really needed a goal to steady the boat a bit. My wish was granted just before the hour mark, when slightly against the run of play, Santi Cazorla picked the ball up on the counter attack and drove into the Norwich half. At the bottom of the screen you could see Mesut Özil breaking his back to get up the pitch in support, and when Cazorla sprayed it wide to Olivier Giroud, Özil arrived in the box just in time to head the Frenchman’s cross past Ruddy to make it 2-0.
Cazorla was subbed off almost immediately after the goal, which was a sensible move as he didn’t look 100% match fit at all. Having a player of Rosicky’s quality to come on from the bench is a vast improvement from a couple of weeks ago, when we had the likes of Frimpong and Miyaichi on the bench. And while I love both those youngsters and hope they have a bright future at Arsenal, if we are to win or even challenge for the title, we really need players with quality and experience to bring on.
We still didn’t look completely comfortable at 2-0, with Norwich still pressing and threatening our goal. There was almost a very contentious moment, when Mertesacker was blatantly fouled off the ball, leaving acres of space for Pilkington to run into. Thankfully he put his shot well wide, but the lanky German was still furious with the ref for ignoring the foul.
He couldn’t really complain a few minutes laterthough, when his attempted clearance bobbled straight back into the area to Howson, who was allowed far too much space by Gibbs, and was able to drill it low into the net past a helpless Szczesny who again I felt deserved a clean sheet but didn’t get one. 2-1.
Giroud was taken off for the greatest striker that ever lived, Nicklas Bendtner, who looked extremely sharp coming on, which was great to see. Aaron Ramsey had been pretty poor for most of the game, seeing very little of the ball, and with more than a few stray or over hit passes. He seemed to suddenly come alive however, testing Ruddy with two good shots before showing great feet and composure to slot home Arsenal’s third of the game and his ninth of the Premier League campaign.
You had to feel the game was safe at this point with only ten minutes to go, but just to reassure us Özil put his second goal of the evening away, after Bendtner unselfishly laid it off to Rosicky, who picked out Ramsey at the far post with a superb cross. The Welshman knocked it down to Özil who calmly put it past Ruddy, sealing Norwich’s fate and insuring Arsenal’s place at the top of the League.
A fantastic result, with some fantastic football on show. It was a bit of a stop start performance at times, but when we turned it on Norwich just couldn’t handle us. With some of our competition dropping points, we have secured our place at the top of the table for another week, widening the gap between some of the early favourites. Can’t wait to see more from this current Arsenal team, with Giroud and our midfield combining to devastating effect. 4-1 to the Arsenal, to points clear of Chelsea, Dortmund to come on Tuesday. COYG!
on the first goal…
It was certainly one of the best [Arsenal] goals, one that I enjoyed the most as well because it was a team goal. It had combinations and the speed which you always like your team to play with, unfortunately it doesn’t happen always. This one was a mixture of technical quality, speedy thinking, quick reaction and as well being calm in front of goal. It had nearly everything you want to have, combined speed and calm and relaxed attitude. It was a great goal. I think we have scored some good goals this season already. All the goals were great, but the first was exceptional because it was improvised, combination play.
on the game…
We won 4-1 and their keeper had a good game. But I think as well that Norwich played well, so it is strange. They made it difficult for us. We had a difficult period between 30 and 60 minutes where we struggled a little bit to keep our game going. I would come out of the game thinking Norwich is a good team.
He had concussion. He had double vision, so on the advice of the doctor I took him off because I did not want to take any gamble. I don’t know if he’ll be available for Dortmund, it depends now what the doctors will decide. Sometimes they are not allowed to play for five days, it depends how big the concussion was.
on rotating his midfielders…
We play seven games in 23 days, and that means we will need everybody. I could rest Ramsey a little bit because he has basically played every minute of the season and also the two international games for Wales. It gives me an opportunity as well to give the players a little breather before they will get injured. I will juggle. Everybody will play. At the moment, don’t forget we still do not have Walcott, Chamberlain or Podolski.
on echoes of the Invincibles…
It is a bit early, we are not at Christmas yet! But honestly we have a good attitude and are hungry, with a good solidarity level. We certainly get that as well from the stand. We have quality, but how far we will go is down to how consistent we can be, how much effort we put into every single game and how much we are able not to get into a comfort zone. That is the top level.
We have belief. The belief is strengthened by every win. We have come out of a long period where most of the time in recent years in October we were already looking forwards from being behind. At the moment we are in a better position, but there is a long way to go. We just have to focus on developing as a team and keep the solidarity we have.
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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