The ball bounces on the London grass, going twoing and froing at lightning speeds as each side tries to get the better of each other. They each hit the net three times. Supporters and neutrals alike are almost dizzy from the rapid movement of their eyes following the ball back and forth, their hearts racing in anticipation and tension. This however was not Wimbledon. This was Arsenal v Norwich, a game that had it all.
Wenger went unchanged for this game and again decided against starting the Ox.
It is really difficult to sum up our performance. One minute we were Jekyll, the next minute we were Hyde. This reverberated throughout the team. Benayoun gets us off to an explosive start, but then doesn’t do much for the rest of the game and probably should have been sent off. Gervinho was practically asleep for the first half but burst into life in the second half. Similar thing can be said for Van Persie. Song had an ordinary time shielding our back four, yet produced a wonderful assist to set up Van Persie’s goal and a sublime backheel that almost won us the game. I could go on with nearly every player.
On a positive note it was wonderful to see us respond the way we did in the second half. My concerns about fatigue were banished as we did everything in our power to grab the game but the scruff of the neck and take all three points. We produced enough chances to score 7-8 goals easily. Problem was we created at one end, we conceded the same amount of chances at the other end. A draw was probably a fair result, but not ideal to send off Pat Rice in his last home game.
Stand out performer
Everyone performed in their own schizophrenic way, nobody really putting their hand up for a man of the match award. It would probably have to go to Van Persie. After a quiet first half, he was back to his sublime best, netting a brace to save our blushes somewhat. His finish from Song’s pass was absolute class. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, when we needed to dig deep the most, our captain did it again.
The only other player who was remotely consistent was Kieran Gibbs. Apart from the unlucky deflection for the second goal, he held himself well down the left, an area where we’ve been weak. Too bad his performance was overshadowed by all the chaos happening in the centre of the park.
Areas of concern
Where do I start? After a blistering start by Benayoun, scoring after 66 seconds, we let Norwich boss the game. They scored as they opened up our defence way too easily, and an uncharacteristic howler from Szczesny. They then scored another, the holes in our defence bigger than the Grand Canyon. We got possession and panicked every so often and lost the ball. Think back to when we played Norwich AWAY from home, a match where we dominated possession and scored two great goals. It is disheartening to think that the same team gave us so many problems at home. We were a mess in the first half. Wenger made sure we cleaned up out act in the second half, which was encouraging, but the tell tale signs were no more evident, where, against the run of play Morison scored the equaliser. Just too easy, and not good enough for us.
I don’t think its coincidence that when we play without Arteta we have won 0% of our games. I’ve said it time and again, Arteta is our rock in his defensive midfield. His pass completion rate is exceptional, and he has the unglamourous yet extremely important task of making sure we keep the ball and don’t do anything stupid with it. I don’t need to tell you how stupid we were on Saturday. Passing game was all but non-existent as our attacks broke down. As we lost the ball we were all over the place and our defence opened up. Are you starting to see how much of an influence our little Spanish combover man has on the team? With Arteta in the team Song can afford to bomb forward and play those killer passes he has just like he did on Saturday. Without Arteta there Song can’t expect Rosicky or Ramsey to clean up the mess, especially since they are so attack minded. Arteta brings a calming influence to our game, which has the domino effect of making our attack and defence more re-assured. When one of Arteta or Song is injured we have serious problems, particularly given Diaby is eternally injured these days. It is refreshing to hear that Wenger is on the verge of signing M’Vila to fill this gap. More on that later. The signing should be confirmed later this week.
Gutsy. Norwich had nothing to play for. They’d already assured their safety. I suppose this “nothing to lose” mentality was one of the reasons for their performance. They probably didn’t bother coming in with a defensive game plan, they were willing to take risks given that they didn’t need to worry about relegation, and didn’t it show. They weren’t intimidated by us and really “gave it a go”. Bradley Johnson’s foul on Sagna was not cool though. At the time I didn’t think it was deliberate, but Sagna claims it was. Its the same fibula that he broke earlier in this year against Tottenham. He’s been a rock at right back, and will miss the Euros. I hope he recovers in time for the new season.
The referee was the biggest lost case though. A game so action packed and pulsating had the gloss taken off of it from this referee. I am not against referees or anything, but this game was an unbelievable one for the neutral and it was soured by virtually every decision this referee made. General “fouls” where players from both sides got the ball, he would blow the whistle for, yet where there was three clear penalties staring at him in the face (two for us, one for Norwich), he doesn’t care. Benayoun lashed out and didn’t see red. There were so many other incidents for both sides where I was just baffled. It wouldn’t be fair to focus on the ref being unfair to us, because he was unfair to Norwich as well.
Usually I am upset at the referee because of some bad calls. This referee was just incompetent, and didn’t control the game at all. Anthony Taylor, you are officially a retard.
The numbers game
Arsenal have still not won a league game without Mikel Arteta (7 games, 4 draws, 4 losses. Goals scored 9, Goals conceded 19), compared to 69% win rate with him.
Robin van Persie has scored 30 league goals this season. Only the 3rd Arsenal player to do so since the war.
Arsenal had 23 shots on goal, 11 of which were on target for 3 goals.
Norwich had 13 shots on goal, 4 of which were on target for 3 goals.
We have to analyse the reasons why we were not sharp enough in the first half. There is no obvious reason because we prepared normally as we always do, and maybe subconsciously we would win it
The boss highlights a bit of complacency may have triggered our poor performance. It isn’t good enough in such a big game to be complacent, the job needs to be done. We must be switched on next week. We’ve been given a second chance by Sp*rs and Newcastle, and we must not waste it!
The positive signs are there, we aren’t fatiguing and the second half spirit is back after a one month absence. Our passing game needs to hit the spot though, and there is no room for complacency as we enter into the final fixture of the season, an emotional farewell away from home for incumbent England coach Roy Hodgson. It will not be an easy game and our boys must give it one last push to ensure entry into the Champions League.