Written by Gooner in Exile
After two weeks of interlull we could once again enjoy proper meaningful football with a trip to the Fine City of Norwich to take on Paul Lambert’s promoted Canaries.
The only selection problem facing Wenger was whether to field Koscielny, Djourou or Yennaris at right back. In fairness it was a no brainier, Koscielny is one of the first names on the team sheet on current form and out of our relative plethora of centre backs probably most adept at playing right back having had experience there in the lower French leagues.
The team started brightly with Walcott using his pace to scare Tierney and Gervinho causing problems on the left. The skipper was showing why he is the most feared attacker in the Premier League right now with movement and sublime touches that the Norwich defence could not cope with.
One of the early chances fell to van Persie, to the shock of Arsenal fans everywhere he failed to convert it. The team was carving out opportunities and controlling possession so easily that it was only a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken.
The best chance of the opening fifteen minutes came as Gervinho found Walcott arriving in the box he cleverly stopped and curled the ball past Ruddy with his left foot, Martin lunged towards the goal and somehow managed to clear the ball over the cross bar to prevent the opener.
It was Norwich however who took the lead against the run of play, Mertesacker came over all charitable (perhaps a Children in Need Hangover and a confusion of Pudsey with a Canary) and became the Big Friendly German, unnecessarily allowing the ball to bounce when playing it early or just clearing the ball into Row Z would have been the better option. Morrison bundled past the German and slotted the ball under the advancing Szczesny.
Szczesny’s look at Per summed up how we were all feeling about him at that moment.
However this is the new Arsenal, goals given away are just another obstacle to overcome, there was no ten minute spell where we felt we could go more goals down, the team instead set about getting the equaliser.
After another period of more spurned chances we equalised, Gervinho advancing down the wing brought the ball inside and fed van Persie he turned and found Walcott, he pushed it past Tierney, sprinted onto it, looked up and drove the ball towards the centre of the goal and Gervinho. The Ivorian managed an air kick back heel when a simple tap in would have sufficed, thankfully Robin couldn’t miss the opportunity to add to the seasons tally and he had ghosted into the box unmarked to tap in from two yards.
The half played out with more opportunities for Arsenal to take the lead but unfortunately they could not make any of them count.
The second half started well with more fine attacking play. Vermaelen breaking forward and managing to deliver a cross which found Gervinho but he could only head weakly at Ruddy. Soon after Gervinho had another chance to break the deadlock, played in by a beautiful reverse pass from van Persie he rounded the keeper but did not have the composure to pass in to the empty net.
It started to feel like we would not find a deadlock, and some legs were looking heavy from International duties. Then Ramsey disposed Martin and was immediately brought down, Song collected the loose ball and drove forward, Gervinho broke left, and Robin broke right, Song took his time and played in van Persie, it looked like he may have forced him to wide on his right foot, Ruddy came to narrow the angle and but Van Persie calmly lifted it over him with the chocolate leg and the ball nestled in the net.
The rest of the ninety played out with little incident, our new found maturity and responsibility meant that our attacks were limited to three or four players rather than five, six and seven of last season, and the defence rarely looked exposed or troubled.
All in all a job well done, three points were much needed to continue the form we have been showing in the last few weeks and to keep the momentum five Premier League wins on the bounce 15 goals for 6 against.
Undoubtedly there will be more people saying we rely on van Persie too heavily and calling us a one man team after another brace to get us over the final hurdle. Well here’s the thing, thats the laziest punditry I currently hear. Robin van Persie is a centre forward, you expect him to score the bulk of the goals. He does not score all goals by picking the ball up on the half way line and running past everyone, he scores goals by finding good positions and being played in by one of his talented teammates, that nearly every chance he has goes in means the team look to find him with the final ball more often.
Szczesny 8 – Goalkeepers union speaking here but i dislike a keeper getting a 7 just because he didn’t have a lot to do, everything that was asked of him he did well, no chance for Norwich goal, if he had saved it he would have got a 9.
Koscielny 7 – Strong defensively and Norwich did not get a look in on our right flank. However judged as a full back he did not get forward enough to support Walcott.
Mertesacker 6.5 – I know most will expect him to get a lower score because of the mistake that led to the goal, but in all honesty it was the only mistake he made al day, unfortunately he was punished for it. Other than that he swept up and closed down well and looked comfortable.
Vermaelen 8 – Won everything in the air, solid in the tackle and offers an alternative when bringing the ball out of the back line.
Santos 7 – This guy is marmite you either love him or hate him, I think I love him, he is an under-rated tackler and does well going forward. Has a tendency to give me kittens every now and again with a relaxed pass, he just plays the game he knows, pass the ball and trust the receiver.
Arteta 7 – Seemed to suffer really from two weeks off, once up to speed set about providing a useful screen to break up attacks and kept the ball moving in the right direction.
Song 7.5 – Comfortably dealt with all Norwich could chuck at him, filled in at centre back when Vermaelen went wandering forward, and good work to seize on the opportunity to set up the winner.
Ramsey 7 – Worked hard to get in good positions, but wasn’t always found by his teammates. Pounced on the poor touch by Martin to allow Song to break forward for the winner.
Gervinho 7.5 – Getting better all the time, movement good, dribbling good, passing good, finishing must do better, but I’m sure it will come with time.
Walcott 8 – Purple patch time for this young man, finding a way to beat his man every time, and using the ball to good effect. Unlucky not to have scored but a fantastic all round performance.
van Persie 8 – Great movement to be on the end of the first, sublime finish for the second. Good link up play and leadership.
MOTM – Walcott, constant threat and end product.