Norwich 1 Arsenal 0: The Gunners Fail to Turn Up
I must say that I was spot on with my pre-match line-up as Arsenal named a relatively unchanged side with the exception of Andre Santos coming in to replace the injured Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal was expected to sweep past Norwich in Carrow Road but it was certainly no walk in the park, as the final result showcased.
Anthony Pikington drew first blood when he lashed a tame shot that went wide but a panicky clearance from Norwich’s goalie, John Ruddy, almost put his team on the back foot, as Gervinho won the ball in their danger area, but his proposed pass to Lukas Podolski was blocked.
Andre Santos and Olivier Giroud combined well with some intricate passing play before teeing up Podolski but the German’s shot was way off the mark. Against the run of play, Norwich took the lead when an unmarked Alexander Tettey blasted a swerving shot that was parried by Vito Mannone but Norwich’s leading predator, Grant Holt, was on hand to pounce on the rebound.
A moment of uncertainty arrived when Arsenal’s defense was carved open with a through ball but Mannone did very well to stand his ground in the box as Holt dallied on the ball hoping for the Italian goalie to have a crack at him.
There were a few half chances for Giroud but Norwich almost doubled their money when Michael Turner surprisingly got the better of Per Mertesacker in the air to nod Pilkington’s corner wide. The build-up to that corner saw Andre Santos badly exposed on the left but Santi Cazorla showed great determination to track back and block the attempted cross from Martin.
Late on, some good work from Santi Cazorla won Arsenal a free kick but Mikel Arteta’s in-swinger was miscued by Gervinho.
In the second half, Arteta made a rear stride forward and did well to locate Gervinho on the right hand side. The Ivorian teed up Carl Jenkinson that swung a deep cross into Norwich’s danger area. Ruddy parried the ball to Giroud’s path but the Frenchman’s acrobatic effort was pretty pathetic to say the least.
Arteta was at the thick of things yet again as he lofted the ball to Giroud’s path. The big forward flicked the ball in Gervinho’s direction but Le Forehead’s header was easy pickings for Ruddy.
Wenger brought on the Ox for Podolski and one must wonder what the German has to do to finish a game, as he has been substituted in every league game this season. Within minutes of Oxlade-Chamberlain’s introduction, he burnt his reserves of pace to skip past Javier Garrido before picking up a knock after a rash challenge from Sebastien Bassong.
Giroud won a free kick for Arsenal in a promising position following a lounge from Michael Turner but Santi Cazorla failed to capitalize on the opportunity, as his free kick didn’t cause problems for Ruddy.
With Arsenal pressing for that all-important equalizer, spaces were bound to be left at the back and Mertesacker’s awkward slip was almost capitalized by Holt but the forward’s finish was wayward.
With the Ox failing to run off his injury, Arsenal summoned the services of a long lost figure, Andrey Arshavin. The last time Arshavin replaced the Ox in a Premier League game, all Hell was let loose as the fans questioned Wenger’s tactical acumen that led the gaffer to utter that he had made 50,000 substitutions in his 30-year managerial career.
When it seemed as if Thomas Vermaelen was about to make one of his trademark forays forward, the captain slipped on the turf, leaving his team heavily exposed at the back. Holt was handed with a golden chance to put the game beyond doubt, but he went for a chip that was read well by Mannone.
Norwich constricted Arsenal all game long and when things seemed to go from bad to worse for the Gunners, Wenger played his last card on the deck, Serge Gnabry, that came on to replace a very ineffectual Aaron Ramsey. Gnabry almost made his mark when he fired a shot wide. Prior to that, Giroud kicked some air when he attempted a shot to ensure a really bad day at the office for the striker.
Arteta forgot about his defensive duties and lurked forward before blasting a left-footed shot that was smothered by Ruddy. With minutes to spare, Arsenal’s match leveller almost arrived when the vibrant Gnabry slotted a perfect through ball to Gervinho that was on the clear, but Bassong made a block that was the difference between three points and one point for his team.
Cazorla summed up Arsenal’s atrocious night with a shot that killed a bird in the sky and the ref’s whistle was like music to Norwich’s ears as they secured their first victory over the Gunners since Boxing Day, 1984. Fuck it; I wasn’t even friggin’ born by then.
Mannone (6.5) should have done better with Tettey’s shot and gave me another reason to pray for Wojciech Szczesny’s quick recovery.
Andre Santos (6.5) didn’t really threaten much for the left flank. All he did was to have a samba touch or two and I can’t recall when he attempted a cross all game long.
Jenkinson (7.0) was industrious for his team with his surges down the right.
Vermaelen (6.5) was a bit disciplined at the back but for some strange reason, he and Mertesacker (6.5) were exposed countless times.
Arteta (7.5) worked really hard for his team and went on to perform some attacking duties, as the personnel playing in those positions didn’t come to the party.
Cazorla (6.5) was smothered by the opposition but he still did okay.
Ramsey (5.5) was really disappointing and he couldn’t keep up with the pace of the game.
Gervinho (5.5) was back to his disappointing best and I was really surprised that Podolski (6.5) got the axe instead of him.
Giroud (5.0) was a pain to watch and he has given the sceptics another chance to believe that he doesn’t have what it takes to lead the line.
Arshavin (6.5) had his moments and it was nice to see him making his 100th Premier League appearance for the Gunners.
Gnabry (7.0) was a bright spark when he arrived on the pitch.
So, it’s back to the drawing board for Arsene Wenger and his team as the Gunners lose more ground on the leading pack.
Chelsea stood in front of adversity as did pretty well to ease past Tottenham despite the early second half scare; Manchester City had their amazing shot stopper, Joe Hart, to thank when he acrobatically saved West Brom’s Romelu Lukaku’s overhead kick. The resulting counter attack saw Edin Dzeko finish off Sergio Kun Aguero’s pass. Manchester United also had enough in the tank to see off those Rugby goons from Stoke.
While Chelsea and the Manchester outfits continue to set the pace further up the table, Arsenal is struggling in mid-table but Gooners can only find solace in the fact that there are 30 more Premier League games to be played.
I don’t know if this is the right word to say, but Happy Sunday.
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