Norwich 1-2 Arsenal: Analysis, Video Highlights & Player Ratings

By on November 20, 2011

For the first time this season, Arsenal return from an interlull looking to continue the form they took into the break; being unbeaten in the last 7, with 6 of those being wins meant that Arsenal fans were cautiously optimistic of a victory at Carrow Road.

The only change was Mertesacker replacing the injured Jenkinson, forcing Koscielny out to right-back, meaning Arsenal lined up as Szczesny, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Andre Santos, Song, Ramsey, Arteta, Walcott, Van Persie (C) and Gervinho.  Norwich started with Ruddy, Naughton, Martin, Barnett, Tierny, Hoolahan (C), Crofts, Fox, Johnson, Pilkinton and Morison in a 4-5-1 formation, hoping that there would not be a repeat of the last time Arsenal visited; the Gunners won 4-1 as they neared the end of their 49 game unbeaten run in the league.

Arsenal started brightly and both Van Persie and Walcott had shots, with the captain’s being scuffed wide while the latter’s was blocked. Szczesny was forced into a couple of rushed clearances but coped fine, despite having an extremely bright sun shining in his face. Van Persie pulled another shot just wide and Arsenal could easily have been 2-0 up after 5 minutes. Norwich begun to get a foothold in the game, but it was the Gunners who had the next chance; Walcott cut in from the right and beat Ruddy with his shot, only for Martin to acrobatically clear off the line.

However it was Norwich that did take the lead with their first chance of the game. A ball over the top was seemingly dealt with by Mertesacker, but a huge lapse in concentration from the big German resulted in him pondering on the ball, allowing Morison to brush him aside far too easily before slotting home past Szczesny. The defender knew how poor his mistake was and was visibly angry with himself in the aftermath of the goal. Arsenal looked to equalise immediately and were getting in behind Norwich regularly. Martin cleared the ball off the line twice more, the first from a Van Persie header and the second after Ruddy took the pace off of Gervinho’s shot, which was still looping into the net.

Santos put in multiple crosses from the left, but in the 26th minute it was Wacott on the right who eventually created the Gunners’ first; beating Tierny with ease, he forced his way into the box before driving it across the 6 yard box. Gervinho tried a flick but missed the ball completely – fortunately for the Ivorian, RVP was right behind him to tap into the empty net. Arsenal would have hoped to push on from this goal and take the lead before half time, capitalising on the opposition’s diabolical defending. However, it was the Canaries who reacted better to the goal and the home side had the lion’s share of possession in the next 10 minutes, although they were unable to create any clear-cut chances.

Walcott, who had drifted out of the game in those 10 minutes, came over to the left to take on right back Kyle Naughton. Whilst he succeeded in picking up more of the ball, he did not have the beating of Naughton in the way he did with Tierny. Arsenal were in control again in the last few minutes of the half but neither team could take the lead and after Szczesny easily caught another cross, as he did all half, Phil Dowd blew the whistle for half time. The home fans had been getting on Dowd’s back, believing he was not giving them any decisions but although a few minor calls may have favoured Arsenal, he had not been too bad – he certainly hadn’t made any blunders on the level that he did at St James’ Park last season, when he awarded two ridiculous penalties against Arsenal in the 4-4 draw.

Norwich showed their intent for the second half by replacing defensive midfielder Fox with the offensively minded Elliot Bennett. Now given more space by this change, the Arsenal midfield controlled the opening exchanges of the half, and had the time to find the forwards making runs in behind the Norwich defence. Van Persie was through on goal after being played in by Walcott, only to be given offside as he looked to work an angle for a shot. Gervinho was also played through and had seemingly rounded Ruddy, only to drag his shot straight into the recovering keeper. The ball then came back to the Ivorian but he appeared to panic, passing the ball three yards to a defender.

Martin, who had saved three Arsenal goals in the first half, then lost the ball to Ramsey on the halfway line, before tripping the Welshman. However Song picked up the ball and drove forward as Dowd played a good advantage. With a choice of Gervinho to his left or Van Persie to his right, Song this time chose the Dutchman and it proved the correct decision as he delightfully chipped Ruddy to give Arsenal the lead. Bennett immediately ran down the right and crossed, but Pilkinton was unable to turn in from 6 yards out. This served as a warning for the Gunners that the game was not won yet. Gervinho was then tripped as he ran forward and Bennett picked up the first booking of the game.

Norwich fans turned up the volume and encouraged their team to attack as club captain and striker Grant Holt came on for captain on the day Wesley Hoolahan. The clumsy Mertesacker bundled into the back of Holt and conceded a free kick. This was delivered in well but Vermaelen defended magnificently to head away from danger. Mertesacker nearly cost the team another goal, but fortunately for him Holt was too forceful as he took the ball off the German. The game was becoming increasingly stretched and while Arsenal could have easily scored 5 or 6, being only one goal behind Norwich were far from out of it. Benayoun replaced Gervinho to give Santos a bit more cover on the left and Tierny was then booked for one foul too many on Walcott. Norwich made their final substitution, bringing on Simeon Jackson for Pilkinton.

Arsenal began to play possession football and still attacked, although given a choice between trying a through ball or just keeping it they chose the latter. After over a minute of Arsenal passing around those in yellow, Norwich won a free kick and lumped it forward. Holt turned in the box and went over, sparking huge appeals for a Norwich penalty. However, Dowd gave the free kick to Arsenal and booked Holt for diving – this decision proved correct as replays showed Holt ignore the ball and dive into Mertesacker.

Arsenal went forward and Walcott thumped a shot against the post, but they were still unable to get the third that would secure the win. As the game entered 3 minutes of stoppage time, ‘captain vantastic’ was named man of the match after another excellent forward display, scoring another two goals and continuing his amazing run of form. A foolish Santos barged Holt in the back, leaving Wenger frustrated as Van Persie should have won a free kick earlier in the play. Djourou came on for Walcott to help defend the set piece, but he wasn’t needed as the ball was a simple one for Szczesny to come and collect. Arsenal kept possession for the final minute and Dowd blew the whistle for full time.

Pundits will undoubtedly praise Norwich for their effort and belief, but in reality they were poor, creating few chances and rarely testing Szczesny. Vermaelen was once more a rock at the back and Koscielny looked reasonably comfortable out of position at right back. Even Santos defended fairly well on the left, proving that Norwich did not exploit Arsenal’s weaknesses anywhere near as much as they could have.

Their defence was torn apart by Arsenal and it is not unrealistic to say both Gervinho and Van Persie could have had hat-tricks – the former really should have scored at least one. Walcott also had an excellent game and was only denied a deserved goal by Martin’s toe early on. The only real negative for Arsenal was that Mertesacker again struggled, looking awkward against one of the poorest strikers in the league. Overall, it was a good attacking display and encouraging that we held on for a win, as in previous seasons we may have conceded a late equaliser at the end. This is a sign of the increased maturity that Wenger has talked about and is a promising sign for the rest of the campaign.

Watch all the goals from Norwich 1-2 Arsenal, and also see player ratings here

 

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  1. Pingback: Norwich gunned down by RVP | goonerblogger

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