We are Arsenal and there’s no point in doing things the easy way. We provide all the hallmarks of a great movie – despair and fear turned into jubilation when the odds are overcome. Well, maybe not to that cinematic level but somewhere along the lines because that was what happened yesterday against Norwich. Any slip-up yesterday and the impetus would have been thrown back towards the other side of North London. Thankfully, we don’t have to contemplate that today.
There was a surprise before the start of the match when it was announced that Jack Wilshere returned to the first XI. It was a welcomed sight for sure, as it proves that the news of his injury being more serious than it is, was false. Yet, as the game goes on it was clear that he wasn’t match sharp and looks sluggish throughout. It’s never easy to criticise Wilshere but on this occasion, his performance was sub standard.
This is a call that falls on the manager. He and his coaching staff would have seen Wilshere in training and note on his sharpness or even his fitness might not be up to par. It was a poor decision and it could have cost us. It’s about ifs and buts and I know it’s easier to sit here 12 hours plus after the match and say all these. Even then, I still think that it was a poor calculated risk. The other option could have been to bring Santi Cazorla in from wide and bring in either Podolski or Oxlade-Chamberlain.
As expected, Norwich kept their shape and denied us any space that we could exploit. Gervinho had the best chance of the first half but his touch to take the ball away from Bunn in Norwich’s goal, wasn’t as good as McManaman in Wigan’s win at Wembley. It was one paced and very comfortable for Norwich to defend against. We need to increase the pace in the second half, put them on the back foot and not allow them to sit in their defensive shape.
It would get worse before it got better.
Norwich stunned the home crowd when they took the lead in the 56th minute. Turner escaped from his marker to head from from Snodgrass’ freekick. Laurent Koscielny was the culprit for this instance. Failing to follow his man all the way and got distracted. It was poor from the French defender, who has been outstanding since being reintroduced back into the starting XI.
At 1-0 down, we knew what was at stake. Which is why it was refreshing to see the management making swift and immediate changes to rectify the situation. Walcott and Podolski came on for Gervinho and Wilshere. We became more dominant and did more in the last 30 minutes than we did in the first 60 minutes of the match.
That said, we still left it late to claim all the points. We were afforded a way back into the match when the referee blew for a penalty in the 85th minute. Giroud was pulled down in box, had his shirt tugged and denied a shooting opportunity. Nothing in that description that says a non penalty. Yet, it can be classified as a soft one because that kind of shirt tugging happens at every set piece and are seldom punished. Norwich players had every right to feel aggrieved.
It got worse for them a few minutes later as we found the winning goal and the even created a bigger gap. We dug deep and found the resolve to come back into the match. We knew that Norwich were always going to be difficult to break down and it was important not to concede any goal. The game didn’t go according to plan we the 3 points at the end was all that mattered. Just like Gibbs’ saving tackle at WBA last season, we could well be talking about Fabianski’s save late on in this Norwich match.
Onto 3rd place we go. For the time being, parity has been restored in London.