Arsenal struggled to finish the job against a combative Norwich City side in Sunday’s 1-1 draw despite taking the lead and dominating periods of the game. It was yet another disappointing draw that saw us drop not only two points but suffer two/three more injuries to key players – it’s as if someone has put a curse upon the Gunners.
Here are the key points from a defeat-like draw against The Canaries.
1.Petr Čech saved us a point.
We defended so dreadfully against one of the worst teams in the league that we required a world-class save from Petr Čech to maintain at least a point in our hollow pockets. It was another point saved by the world-class goalkeeper who is probably frustrated with the level of defending in front of him.
2.Hector Bellerin couldn’t add the final product.
The Spaniard didn’t have the best game as he allowed far too much space for our opponents in the first half and failed to produce anything at the other end of the pitch. It looks like he is still searching for his missing golden touch after his recent injury troubles.
3.Nacho Monreal didn’t have the best day at the office either.
Nacho’s crosses didn’t find their target today and he offered too much space to Wisdom in the first half that almost resulted with a second goal for Norwich. The fact he lost his partner Alexis in the second half didn’t help either.
4.Gabriel is yet to learn a thing or two about positioning.
The Brazilian could have been this week’s Mikel Arteta but Petr Čech’s save spared him from further blushes. He had to replace Laurent Koscielny without having a serious warm-up however. He was neither strong enough to battle Grabban in the duel that led to the host’s goal nor well positioned to make an offside trap for the Norwich striker. It wasn’t the first time Gabriel was caught in no mans land (Bayern) so it’s something that he should really work on. It won’t be easy to fill Koscielny’s shoes if the Frenchman’s injury is a serious one, that’s for sure.
5.Mathieu Flamini’s first real test didn’t end well.
I wrote before the game that the match against Norwich would be a real test of Flamini’s ability to replace Francis Coquelin. Our only fit senior defensive midfielder didn’t give the best performance to put it mildly. He doesn’t have Coquelin’s pace or his ability to shield the defence properly. We are yet to keep a single clean sheet in the league without Coquelin and even poor opponents like Norwich carve us open with ease. It’s going to be the longest three months unless Wenger digs out his cheque-book in January and sign a real cover/competition for Le Coq.
6.Santi Cazorla is half the player without Coquelin.
It’s fair to say that Cazorla didn’t have the best treatment from referee Jonathan Moss who was simply terrible 0n Sunday. However, it seems that Coquelin’s injury has taken at least 50 percent of Santi Cazorla away. He doesn’t have enough defensive quality to protect our back line and his attacking game suffers as well because Flamini can’t break attacks high up the pitch in a way Coquelin does. Hopefully his injury is not of a serious nature.
7.Aaron Ramsey looked rusty.
Ramsey has returned from injury only this week but his touch in the final third is yet to be back. It wasn’t his day at all and it’s no wonder Wenger decided to pull him off for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Given that Santi Cazorla might spend some time on the sidelines as well, Ramsey may find himself in the middle of the pitch again.
8.Arsene Wenger is to blame for Alexis Sánchez’s hamstring injury.
Arsene Wenger said after the game against Dinamo Zagreb that there was an alarm raised regarding Alexis’ hamstring but that didn’t stop him from playing the Chilean against Norwich (via Arsenal.com). It wasn’t a gamble but a game of a Russian Roulette in which we lost. If Alexis’ injury is serious, we can kiss goodbye our title challenge as he is one of our best players. And, just like Coquelin’s absence has deprived us of Cazorla’s full efficiency, I’m afraid that the same can be expected about Alexis’ absence and Mesut Özil. The German has finally built a strong partnership with the Chilean but it seems he’ll have to work with players like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell who are not on the same level.
9.Olivier Giroud looked jaded.
The French striker wasn’t at his best at Carrow Road and it’s no wonder given that he’s been our only No. 9 since Theo Walcott’s injury. He looks jaded and his moves are not as sharp as they usually are. Giroud is a big fella, a powerful striker who compensates for his lack of pace with link-up play, aerial prowess and physical presence. He didn’t show any of those qualities against Norwich.
10.We have to forget this crappy month and prepare for the temptations of December.
It was a terrible month burdened with poor results and a tsunami of injuries. We have to go through one more month before the January transfer window opens though. We will know whether we’ll play Champions League or Europa League come February and whether our title challenge is still on or not. If we enter the clash against the league leaders Manchester City with players like Koscielny, Cazorla, Walcott and Alexis back in the team, we can still stay in the mix for the league trophy. But let’s beat Sunderland first!