In the future when Arsenal fans scan over the results of the 2012/13 campaign, they will think the 3-1 victory over Norwich today was a walk in the park. Those Gooners who witnessed today’s game and survived it without serious heart-damage will certainly testify otherwise.
Norwich are one of those teams that relish to play against the bigger clubs. They have kept that characteristic even after Paul Lambert left them for Aston Villa. Last season they gave an excellent performance at Old Trafford and they can only blame their poor finishing for not taking three points from that game. They won at White Hart Lane to give us a decisive advantage over the Spuds and nearly took that gift from us in our penultimate match of the season by holding us at draw. This season they were unbeaten at White Hart Lane again, they won the home match against United and kept a clean sheet in that process. In the reverse fixture against us, they won fair and square.
From the very beginning it looked like one of those matches that would end with a goal-less first half. It took almost half an hour to record the first chance for us. Bacary Sagna sent a rare good cross to the near post but Giroud’s header ended on the top of the bar. A few minutes later Cazorla sent a wonderful through ball for Gervinho. The Ivorian lost his marker, rounded Bunn with heavy touch and ended up at a tight angle so his right-footed finish had no chance to find the net. Cazorla’s goal would be a perfect gift to the little Spaniard for the birth of his daughter India, but his drive was saved by Bunn. That was all in poor first half of the game.
The start of the second half didn’t bring too much joy for Gooners as well. We faced very good defending from Norwich and – with out-of-shape Wilshere and without direct passing from the absent Rosicky – it was very hard to find a crack in the visitors’ defense. Gibbs was on the good track when he found Wilshere with his cross. The Englishman sent a shot that was blocked by Turner. Appeals for penalty weren’t founded.
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And then, out of nowhere, Norwich scored an opener. Gervinho and Ramsey were on the left flank with the former needlessly taking the ball off Ramsey’s feet. The Ivorian lost the ball but it should be said that Ramsey was probably fouled in the build-up to the counter-attack. Kamara was fouled outside our box by Gibbs. Snodgrass crossed the ball in the middle of the box where Michael Turner – completely alone – headed the ball home to give the visitors a lead.
That was shocking moment and it took some time before we found ourselves back in the match. Substitutes Podolski and Walcott entered the pitch, but looked a bit rusty at the beginning with heavy first touches. On the other side of the pitch, Russell Martin nearly exploited our shakiness but his shot was saved by Fabianski. Podolski failed to get the ball in the box on two occasions but connected well with Giroud before he fired the ball into the crossbar with Bunn making a decisive tip of the ball.
Five minutes to go we were given a life-line. After a corner, Vermaelen headed the ball from far post into the middle, Ramsey made a bicycle-kick to return it in six-yard-box to Giroud. Kamara was holding the Frenchman’s shirt while making a clearance and referee pointed to the spot after his assistant signalized a foul. Unlike most of his penalties this season which he sent down the middle, Arteta placed this penalty in left side of the goal, in similar way that he took the one against Fulham which Schwarzer saved, Bunn tipped it but only into his net. 1:1, there was still enough time for us to score another one.
And, we did it almost immediately. Oxlade-Chamberlain – who went in for Sagna – played a one-two with Podolski and made a run into the box before firing a low cross for Giroud. Bassong tried to clear the ball in front of French striker but instead sent the ball into his own net.
Only a minute after we completed our come-back, Norwich had a great chance to equalize. Howson fired a diagonal shot from the left side of our penalty box but Fabianski made a crucial save. After the corner, Martin had another chance but Fabianski showed safe hands again. Giroud had another chance to score but it wasn’t his scoring day – Bunn tipped the ball over.
The fourth referee announced six minutes of injury time, but all our worries faded away after the first one. Giroud won an aerial duel to flick-on for Walcott. Walcott was offside but the linesman didn’t wave his flag. Walcott seemed to hold the ball for too long before making a cut back to Podolski. The German, however, made the best out of that situation and found enough space to fire the low shot into the net to make it 3:1. That goal was the 18th Arsenal have scored this season in the last 15 minutes of the game.
All-in-all, there is no such thing as ugly victory. It should be said, however, that our performance was sterile for most of the game, sometimes even abysmal (at certain point Norwich had most of the possession in the second half), but in the end we found our way to secure three points to climb up to third spot. Chelsea have game in hand but that game is against Fulham. We didn’t give the best performance, but we were resolute enough to turn things around. The most important thing is that we collected three points and that we were warned against complacency. Everton are much tougher opponent than Norwich, they still have hopes for a Champions League spot and we’ll need a top performance in order to keep our winning rhythm. The refereeing was terrible but that is nothing new when it comes to the Premiership.
Right now, Arsenal are the first club in London on Premiership table!
on the comeback…
We left it a bit, it was unexpected of course to be 1-0 down at that stage of the game because we were on top and we missed chances. We knew Norwich were strong on set-pieces and they punished us. After that we needed spirit and we needed as well nerves. We have shown both I think and in the end got a win we deserved. But credit to Norwich, they have played very well and if they play like that they will not go down. They defended well and they gave us problems. We missed the chances and from then on it was important to show absolute resilience and we did it.
on the penalty decision…
Honestly I haven’t seen it but everybody tells me it was a penalty. Television confirmed the penalty. Maybe it wasn’t a corner but they tell me as well it wasn’t a free-kick [for the Norwich goal].
on the substitutions…
They had a good impact, yes. They came on with a good attitude and a good spirit. Once Norwich got a bit tired, they made a difference.
on Norwich’s defensive work…
They restricted us. In these kinds of games you need to open it up and to open it up you need to score a goal. We didn’t do that so then you think ‘let’s not make a mistake’ so you lose your spontaneous fluency a bit and it becomes more difficult.
on climbing into third place…
Well at the moment the position is not important. What is important is to keep our run going and the consistency of our wins. That is important. The position at the moment has no real meaning. It means we are all tight and the team that is the most consistent will get there. At the moment we have that consistency so we want to focus on that. We have another big game on Tuesday night and we have a good opportunity that we want to take.
on Jack Wilshere’s return…
He worked very hard, he has been in full training since Wednesday. Walcott has only been in full training since Friday. We thought [Wilshere] had enough in the locker to play an hour and, on top of that, Rosicky, who played in this position last week, was not available. I would not have pushed him in, maybe, had Rosicky been available. I didn’t want to restructure the team that has been successful so he was most suited to play in this position.
on Lukas Podolski…
The luxury we have is to have Podolski, Walcott and Chamberlain on the bench. We have offensive quality on the bench at home, so once you get the team under pressure it is very helpful.
on Podolski’s role at the Club…
Look how he played when he came on. As soon as you have a player who doesn’t play for three games, the papers get a story like that. But he looks very happy to be here.
on holding their nerve…
It is a question of nerves and I think the win today was a balance of nerves, quality and intelligence. In the end we didn’t do anything stupid when we were 1-0 down, and kept facing our game. That side of the game will be important of course.
on refereeing decisions…
No matter on what end, you want the referees to make the right decision. The real question is ‘was it a penalty or not?’ If it was a penalty it doesn’t matter what end it is. If you go into that kind of speculation you would question every single decision of the referee. What you have to question is whether it was a penalty – and everybody says yes.
Sagna Koscielny Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
Lukasz Fabianski | 7.0: Couldn’t do much about the goal. Made a brilliant save to prevent an instant reply and an equalizer from Norwich.
Bacary Sagna | 6.5: Made a bookable offense in the first half after losing the ball and was close to a second yellow in the second half. Had a couple of good crosses. Replaced by Oxlade-Chamberlain. Jenkinson might take his place for Everton game.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.0: Solid performance although – just like Vermaelen – Turner was allowed to roam free in front of our goal.
Thomas Vermaelen | 7.0: The same as Koscielny. It is really important for his future with Arsenal that we won this match. Participated in our attack before Giroud was fouled for the penalty.
Kieran Gibbs | 6.0: Conceded the foul that Snodgrass crossed for Turner’s goal while his attacking attempts weren’t rewarded with efficiency. I believe Monreal will be in the starting 11 for the Everton game.
Mikel Arteta | 7.0: Scored his fifth penalty of the season to bring us back to game. Did his job in the midfield well.
Aaron Ramsey | 7.5: First Gervinho took the ball off him and then he was fouled before Norwich had a counter-attack, after which they scored. Showed a fighting spirit and gave a very decent performance. It is questionable whether he should play as the second defensive midfielder next to Arteta in matches like this.
Jack Wilshere | 5.5: Wasn’t ready for a come-back yet. Didn’t look like himself, but it’s not a bad thing for him to have 60 minutes under his belt.
Gervinho | 4.5: It would be fine if he was just invisible. Unfortunately, whenever he was seen, he did something wrong. First he screwed up a wonderful opportunity served by Cazorla on silver plate with heavy first touch and ludicrous attempt to score with right foot from narrow angle instead cutting back to Giroud in the middle. Then he sent a cross miles away from Giroud and – to round his awful performance – he pick-pocketed Ramsey just outside the opponents’ box and created a chance for a counter-attack after which Norwich took the lead.
Santi Cazorla | 7.5: Before Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain entered the field, Santi was one of the rare players that showed something creative. It is a shame that his perfect long ball to Gervinho wasn’t rewarded with proper response from the Ivorian forward.
Olivier Giroud | 7.5: He was having an unfortunate match until the last 15 minutes – he lost a number of balls, he was off the pace and failed to do anything except hitting the bar after Sagna’s cross. Then, everything changed after Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain came on – the Frenchman produced a nice lay-off for Podolski’s volley, was tackled by Kamara to earn the penalty and challenged Bassong to force the winner after Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross.
Theo Walcott | 6.0: More or less like Wilshere, Theo wasn’t ready to make a come-back yet. He grabbed himself an assist eventually, but it was a really lucky outcome given that he was offside and Podolski deserves a lot of credit for that goal.
Lukas Podolski | 7.5: Although he had problems with a heavy touch, it all changed when he took that volley to rattle the crossbar. He gave our attack sharpness that we lacked for almost 80 minutes and was rewarded with a late goal, his 9th in the Premiership and 14th of the season.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.0: Made a decisive cross of the game setting up Giroud/Bassong own-goal. He was the final piece of the puzzle in our attack today and had a very good cameo.
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