I think the answer to that is a bit of both. Across 90 minutes on the balance of play, possession and opportunities carved out I don’t think that 3-1 over-flattered us. That we were still 1-0 down going into the 84th minute does leave a certain feeling of having got away with this one though. I will, however, look at the positives that we kept fighting and pressing and that this is a very important trait that I see increasingly in this squad, which should hold us in good stead for the future.
Early on we dominated possession and carved out a couple of decent openings. I thought some of our old failings of overplaying it and taking one too many passes rather than taking the shot at the right time was in evidence. The pitch was becoming slick from the rain and seemed to be begging players to hit hard low shots that could spin up off the pitch and cause their keeper problems. When we did shoot it seemed to be 2-3 passes too late and the shot became predictable.
Giroud headed onto the bar from a Sagna cross early on but our best chance of the first half was when Gervinho was put through one on one with their keeper courtesy of a slide rule pass from Santi. As their keeper came out Gervinho, rightly in my opinion, opted to go round the keeper but took far too heavy a touch which took him too wide and narrowed the angle. He still came close to finding the net but the ball went just wide of the far post. It would have been a tap in for any player following up and I thought Giroud was slightly guilty of ball watching. If you look at it again he jogs along watching Gervinho and suddenly realises too late he ought to be sprinting into the box. I think he could have got there had he instinctively set off at full pace the moment Gervinho was put through.
The second half seemed to continue where the first left off and we weren’t capitalising on our dominance in possession and territory and you just had a feeling what was coming next. Norwich had hardly troubled our goal but once again the old set piece goal against the run of play undid us on the 56th minute. I was seated behind the goal and remember looking at Turner and thinking I hope one of our bigger lads gets tight to him because he is a big chap and has a history of scoring from set pieces. The fact that arguably their most dangerous player at set pieces ended up getting a free unchallenged header reopens the debate about the merits of zonal marking.
I had to watch MOTD to get an extra feel for the game as it is easy to miss a lot when you sit directly behind the goal. I wanted to have a look at the lead up to the free kick and on initial evidence it looked like their player tripped over his own feet so I waited for the replay and the better camera angle to get a better idea but do you think MOTD were interested in looking at a potential injustice against Arsenal that resulted in a goal?
Gervinho and Jack hadn’t really been at the races in this game and Arsene waited another 4 minutes before subbing them for Walcott and Podolski. I felt it gave us a boost with Walcott causing immediate problems down the right and arguably our most natural finisher sniffing around their box. It didn’t take too long before a decent passing move saw Podolski clear and he smashed his shot against the bar. The equalising goal was still eluding us however and Arsene replaced Sagna with the Ox on the 80th minute for an all out assault on their goal. His introduction in addition to the other 2 subs did the trick and we all of a sudden looked far more direct and penetrative.
The equaliser came from a slightly controversial penalty decision. This time MOTD decided to make a real song and dance about it and funnily enough the pro Spurs Lineker, the just behind us in the league and soon to be playing us Everton manager, and the perennially Arsenal disliking Hanson all shouted injustice against Norwich. Keown showed in a close up that although they both grappled a bit the defender did indeed initiate the grabbing of Girouds shirt and clearly pulled him down. The ref should have seen it but didn’t and the linesman correctly spotted it from a greater distance. Well done to him I said as David Moyes, possibly with some ulterior psychological motive, intimated we had been thrown an incorrect decision. Anyway Arteta coolly slotted home and it was 1-1.
What came next was one of those ends that just makes you smile and, if anything, leave the game even happier than if you had the game sewn up on the hour mark. The players obviously realised the importance of the 3 points and kept pressing and cue 2 excellent goals in the last 2 minutes. Podolski’s goal for me illustrated why we should play him more often as no other Arsenal player has his finishing ability.
A critical 3 points and on to the tougher fixture of Everton on Tuesday. I think we will have to be more clinical in attack and more solid on the set pieces if we want to get the 3 points in that game. Had it been Everton today I am not so sure we would have got away with it. On to the ratings :-
Fabianski 7 No chance for the goal and didn’t have much to do but made a couple of critical stops when needed.
Sagna 6 Considering we had them mostly pinned back he didn’t seem to offer too much to our offence in this game.
Vermaelen 7 Had a solid game. Not too much defending to be done. Their goal seemed to be a tactical fault of the whole team rather than being down to one individual.
Koscielny 7 Ditto for Kos as with TV.
Gibbs 7.5 First game for a bit and looked good both in attack and defence.
Arteta 7.5 Kept us ticking over and put in a good shift. A cool head when needed for the penalty.
Ramsey 8 My MOTM I thought Rambo had a good game today. He seems to have matured recently and today, despite no individual brilliance, I thought he gave an all action display in the Steven Gerrard mode.
Cazorla 7.5 At times drifted out of the game but whenever we are dangerous or create chances he always seems to have some hand in it.
Wilshere 6 Struggled a bit today after his enforced absence. I am not troubled by this. It is nice that others take up the mantle when it is not happening for him and I think a fit Jack will be important to us for these last games.
Giroud 6.5 Scored a goal and as usual worked tirelessly but seemed a little off the pace of the game today.
Gervinho 6 After a couple of good games he was back to one of his more frustrating performances. It remains to be seen if this is just how it is with him or whether he can turn out the good performances more regularly.
Walcott 7 Caused immediate problems to them when he came on and all 3 subs seemed to turn the game back in our favour.
Podolski 7 Scored a good one and crashed another on to the bar. You feel we have a greater goal threat when he gets in and around the opposition box.
Oxlaide-Chamberlain 7 Good direct running and made the second goal with a bit of inspiration.
Written by GoonerB