Monday, 21 November 2011

Gunners record fifth straight league win

Norwich 1-2 Arsenal

Arsenal recorded their fifth straight league win against Norwich on Saturday, but made hard work of it, as Robin Van Persie once again came to the rescue.

Having started brightly and creating chances at will, particularly through Theo Walcott’s incisive runs on the right, Arsenal could have been at least two goals ahead in the first fifteen minutes. Van Persie did not appear to be wearing his shooting boots during this spell as he squandered a host of chances, while Walcott excellently created space for himself on the edge of the penalty area, only to see his shot acrobatically cleared off the line by Norwich’s Russell Martin. Already frustration was building as Arsenal fans began to hope this would not be one of those days when we control the game for large spells but ultimately do not come away with the three points.

This fear was compounded in the sixteenth minute as completely against the run of play, Norwich took the lead through Steve Morison. A long ball forward (which over the years has been Arsenal’s Achilles heel) was not cleared by Mertesacker as he inexplicably took an age before deciding what to do with the ball, allowing Morison to steal in and fire the Canaries into the lead. Arsene Wenger appeared furious on the touchline, not at his defender but at the officials for failing to spot an apparent foul on the German. Although it is still far too early to make a definitive judgement, Mertesacker has failed to impress me so far. He appears far too slow for this league, his positioning is questionable at times and he does not command the penalty area with his enormous height. Wenger suggested after the match that in other leagues the defender would be given more protection from the referee in this situation, but for an international defender it was a poor mistake.

The team reacted very well following the goal; they could have felt sorry for themselves, but responded admirably, as they created a host of chances once again. Gervinho was denied by the goalkeeper, and Martin, when through on goal, but Arsenal just kept on going and in the 27th minute were finally rewarded for their endeavour. Walcott brilliantly jinked past the Norwich left back and sent an excellent low cross into the six yard box, which Gervinho tried to turn in with an elaborate pirouette, but missed. Luckily for the Gunners Van Persie was standing right behind the Ivorian to apply the simplest of finishes to bring Arsenal back on terms.

Arsenal started the second half brightly but, as at the start of the first half, could not seem to apply the finishing touch to their sumptuous moves. Gervinho directed a tame headed effort straight at John Ruddy in the Norwich goal while Walcott also shot straight at the goalkeeper. However Arsenal were not to be denied and as Aaron Ramsey dispossessed Martin in the centre of the field, Alex Song hurdled his Arsenal team mate (who had been clipped by the Norwich defender) to power forward and play a perfectly weighted ball through to Van Persie, who exquisitely clipped the ball over the advancing Ruddy to give Arsenal the lead. It was a truly wonderful finish by the Dutchman for his 31st league goal since January.
Van Persie lifts the ball over Ruddy to give Arsenal the lead

Although Arsenal remained dominant throughout the game, the fact they failed to score a third goal meant Norwich were always in with a chance of stealing a point. Nerves were gangling as Grant Holt’s disgusting attempt to win a penalty, in the dying minutes, with a blatant dive was rightly rewarded with a yellow card by Phil Dowd. Then a few minutes later the referee awarded a free kick to Norwich in a dangerous position, following another dive by the Englishman. However Arsenal held on to secure all three points and following Liverpool’s win against Chelsea, are now level on points with both these clubs. Considering the horrendous start to the season, the Gunners have done extremely well to be in this position after just twelve games. Long may it continue!

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