The strangest thing about the 4-1 win over Norwich City on Saturday was that it really didn’t feel like a 4-1 performance for a lot of the afternoon. Arsenal seemed like they were in control, even when Norwich were seeing a lot of the ball, but there was still plenty of anxiety around the Emirates going into the last ten minutes.
At times the Gunners seemed to be stumbling, at others they were sublime.
Dealing with the stumbling side first, like a lot of teams to face Arsenal this season, Norwich were allowed to have a lot of the ball. There were periods during the match where Arsenal dropped off from the pace of the game. It’s hard to know whether it was a hangover from the international break or if the team were trying to hold something in reserve for Tuesday’s visit of Borussia Dortmund, but it didn’t make it easy viewing for some of the game.
The most noticeable drop in the team came when Mathieu Flamini went off after a head knock. Being able to bring on Aaron Ramsey showed how strong Arsene Wenger’s squad is, but Flamini’s leadership was missed. That isn’t to say Ramsey and Arteta had bad games at all, far from it, but in the immediate moments after Flamini’s substitution, the Gunners panicked. However Arsenal still restricted Norwich to shots from distance with Szczesny rarely tested.
Then, at 2-1 up with 15 minutes to go, there was fear amongst supporters that Arsenal would throw away the lead. Fans still aren’t used to this Arsenal team being able to close a game out. Even without the leadership of Flamini, there are players in the team who are able to take responsibility to get the team out of tense situations.
So, what of the sublime? My words can’t really do Arsenal’s opening goal justice. Occasionally, you see teams try those sort of moves and when it inevitably doesn’t come off, you tend to at least applaud the audacity to try such an intricate passing move. Except this move came off for Arsenal. Cazorla, Giroud and Wilshere all exchanged one touch passes as Norwich defenders stood still, not knowing who to try and tackle. Giroud’s final flick through was perfect and Wilshere adjusted his feet for a first time finish.
I thought the Clock End at the Emirates saw something special from Mesut Ozil against Napoli, yet this team move surpassed that.
Even in the lulls in the Arsenal performance, when the team clicked going forward, beautiful goals were scored. Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud swapped roles with the Frenchman clipping in a perfect cross for the record signing to nod home Arsenal’s second.
When things were getting tense near the end of the game, Arsenal were able to turn to the Welsh Messi to weave some magic. Aaron Ramsey had already tested John Ruddy with powerful strikes from outside the box before he left three players floundering in the area as he sold consecutive dummies, creating space to fire past the Norwich goalkeeper. A lot has been said and written about his all action performances in recent weeks, so all I’ll say today is that he is awesome. It’s glorious to see someone playing with so much confidence and playing better than we ever imagined he’d be able to.
There was still time for another sumptuous Arsenal goal. Rosicky picked out Ramsey at the far post, and he was aware of what was going on around him to give Mesut Ozil a tap-in. With Norwich demoralised, Arsenal could have added more goals, with the team looking eager to ramp up the goal difference.
The 4-1 score line arguably flattered Arsenal, but on seeing the quality of the goals, it was completely justified. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but Arsenal still took a good Norwich team apart. There’s room for improvement, which makes you optimistic for the rest of the season. With potential for rotation in midfield, there also shouldn’t be heavy legs for Arsenal’s big game with Dortmund on Tuesday.
Before worrying about that game, I’m off to watch those four goals again. Yes, the first one really was that good.