Norwich City 1 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Lee Dixon take a bow. The former Gunner made four predictions for the game in his betting preview and got them all right. Over 2.5 goals, Morrison to score, RvP to get a brace, and Arsenal to win.

As with most games there can be arguments that the end was nervy and it could have been another disappointing draw. Or a positive spin about the numerous gilt edged chances created that could have led to a five goal win on another day. At the end of the day though, it’s an away win after coming back from a goal down and that’s not bad, not bad at all.

I was surprised Norwich went with such a positive approach in this game. Lambert introduced an extra midfielder in place of the winger Bennett but his players were pushing forward at every opportunity. That was a suicidal strategy against Gervinho and Walcott as the hosts neither had sufficient quality to test the Arsenal defence nor sufficient pressing to close the passing angles once they lost the ball.

In the opening ten minutes Arsenal created three or four good chances from the wide areas, but, apart from the Walcott shot that was spectacularly cleared off the line, Ruddy wasn’t really troubled by the shots.

In the 16th minute, completely against the run of play, Morrison put the home side in front. It was just another simple ball over the top. Mertesacker was a bit casual as he let it bounce and wasn’t really shielding it. It was such a slow ball that Szczesny could have collected it long before Mertesacker or Morrison reached it if he’d the intent and had been reading the pass. But it seems Arsenal either ask the Keeper to come for almost everything or virtually nothing. The big German could also have headed it back to the lanky Pole. He could also have passed it towards Santos who was under no pressure. None of that happened.

Morrison attacked the ball while Pulling Mertesacker back. Considering the number and type of fouls given against Arsenal in this game it’s strange the ref didn’t blow for that. But in general one would not expect that given in a Premiership game so the German should have been stronger in the duel. Perhaps he is still getting used to this version of football. Those who primarily watch only the Premier League will probably be furious with the centre back. I am disappointed he wasn’t better prepared.

The Gunners deserve credit for not letting their heads down. Somewhat surprisingly, Norwich didn’t change their tactics after getting the lead. That meant the chances kept coming for Arsenal. Gervinho should have done better in a one-v-one but it was also a decent save and a covering clearance from a defender.

Arsenal were level ten minutes after going down. The move involved good runs from Gervinho and Walcott. Theo picked up the assist as Van Persie tapped one in despite the frivolous attempt by Gervinho in front of him that could have been distracting.

The first half didn’t see any other clear cut chances. Arsenal had a couple of good breaks that were squandered. Norwich dominated the ball in the final fifteen minutes of the half but failed to create any chances. The visitors looked fairly comfortable in defence against a mediocre attack.

Interestingly, at half-time Paul Lambert took off a defensive midfielder, Fox, and introduced an attacking player, Bennett. He’d probably realized his side were conceding enough chances anyway and weren’t really offering any threat up front.

In the 50th minute a great run from Vermaelen on the counter led to a free header for Gervinho which went tamely to the Keeper. A minute later Pilkington fired a free-kick straight at Szczesny. Ramsey then hit the side netting after another quality Walcott cross before Gervinho wasted another one-v-one. He rounded Ruddy fairly well but scuffed his shot allowing the Keeper to get a hand on it. The rebound fell to the winger who bungled the passing opportunity with two teammates open in front of goal.

That chance was created by a deft Van Persie through-ball. Norwich were missing the extra defensive midfielder and were more exposed in the central area in the second period.

The winner came in the 59th minute. Ramsey won a 50-50 on the halfway line against a Norwich defender who was stepping up. The Welshman fell, probably fouled, as he was running into space. Song pounced on the ball after leaping over Ramsey. The Cameroonian had a clear pass to Gervinho through but decided against it. Thank God. It proved to be the decisive moment of the game as his ball to Van Persie led to a delectable chip over Ruddy.

After the goal Arsenal eased off and invited pressure to set up a nervy finish.

Norwich’s best chance came in the 65th minute when a cross from Bennett found Pilkington but the former Huddersfield winger couldn’t direct it towards goal.

The Canaries had sustained spells of possession but Szczesny didn’t have a save to make. From one of the balls hoofed into the box, Holt jumped back into Mertesacker, perhaps aware of ref’s history with dodgy penalties. In all fairness, it must be noted that Dowd made a very good call and gave the free-kick to Arsenal.

I doubt anyone will say it wasn’t nerve-wracking. The players lost their composure and made a number of poor passes and tackles. They had enough opportunities to score the third (fourth and fifth). One would also demand better intelligence when the opponents are pushing forward in search of the equalizer. Rotating the ball, drawing fouls, not giving the ball away when a couple of midfielders and the attackers are in the final third, playing safe but confident football is expected from a team that wants to win the big titles. Arsenal tried that and succeed in patches. A lot more is needed. This wasn’t a very good effort. But it was another effective one.

This is Arsenal’s first 5 game winning run in the League since March 2010.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: Should he have read the ball over the top and collected it? It’s hard to say. I have seen it done but it could also lead to other mix-ups. Didn’t have much to do otherwise.

Koscielny: Fairly solid on the right. Some of his long passes were fantastic. Didn’t get as tight on Pilkington as a right back should have in the 65th minute. No other major issues. Wasn’t very adventurous and that was a wise choice.

Mertesacker: Leave the goal out and it wasn’t a poor game from the German. But how can one leave it out. Technically adept defenders from other leagues do struggle with this aspect of the English game. The coaches have to guide him and prepare him better. He too must learn fast.

Vermaelen: Colossal. Very dominant in the air and in his area of the pitch. Made a couple of useful forward bursts. Sprayed the ball intelligently.

Santos: Conceded a few cheap fouls. Didn’t go forward as often as other games but it wasn’t needed. Might have struggled against better quality wingers with that seemingly lethargic effort.

The back four weren’t really stretched but had to endure spells of pressure, especially in the second half. It seemed to me that Arsenal were keeping at least one wide player forward and that reduced numbers in defence while presenting counter-attacking opportunities.

Most of the aerial balls were dealt with comfortably. The nerves were more from memories of the past than mistakes by the defenders.

Song: Was exceptional in the opening hour. Physically strong, good passing, picked up a quality assist, and provided good cover to the defence. Gave the ball away on three or four occasions in the final half-hour when simpler passes and better composure were needed.

Ramsey: Some of his passes were top quality but also made a few sloppy ones. Wasn’t very comfortable under pressure. Got into excellent positions but didn’t get the ball at least thrice.

Arteta: Wasn’t as solid with his control and distribution as we’ve come to expect. Still a decent enough game. Took up good positions defensively.

The midfield wasn’t needed in the attacking areas that often as the forwards got a great deal of space. But I thought the trio could have done more with their passing. They also got in each other’s ways on a number of occasions. This display wasn’t at the level of some of the recent ones from their point of view.

Walcott: Close second in the MotM race. Created a number of quality chances, got the better of the defender regularly, good assist for the first goal, also tracked back when needed.

RvP: Missed a few chances early on but his quality shone through. MotM for the quality of his second finish, movement, and exceptional decision making in the attacking area. His work rate was commendable as ever. It was good to see De Kapitein dropping back to defend whenever Ramsey was caught upfield with the wingers.

Gervinho: Once again the frustrating part of his game tarnished the exciting one. Made a number of excellent runs, was getting into very good positions, some of his passes were good, but overall the finishing and final ball left a lot to be desired.

The wide players will rarely get so much space in games. They have to deliver better end product, mostly Gervinho. It’s harsh to call Arsenal a one man team but without Van Persie’s quality this game could have had a very disappointing result.

Subs: Benayoun knocked the ball around a bit. Djourou didn’t get much time.

Wenger: Picked Koscielny over Djourou. Probably wanted to go with the best players available.  But will he be able to play all of them in every game? Could Norwich have been defeated with a couple of fringe players involved?

The current run continues but focus must shift to a sterner test in the crucial midweek Champions League game.

In a day or so I will look for interesting stats from this game for an article on Epl Index. For those interested, the link to that will be available on my twitter feed when the post is published.


11 Responses to Norwich City 1 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Tim says:

    I thought we controlled the second half pretty well. Indeed, Norwich had only two shots on target in the entire game – their goal and a Pilkington free kick early in the second half. Sure, there were a couple of other chances and a few dangerous free kick positions, but there was no real moment where I thought “ooh, they really should have scored there”.

    What is there to say about RvP that hasn’t already been said? Totally agree that Vermaelen was colossal. He was dominant all over the back line and he really does seem to bring a sense of calm and organisation to the defence. And his contributions to the attack were also quite wonderful – in particular the cross-field ball for Theo that set up Ramsey’s chance, which was positively Beckham-esque (only better, obviously).

    This wasn’t exactly winning ugly as we did produce some wonderful passages of play, but equally Norwich made it difficult and we would not have won this game two months ago. Progress, for sure.

    http://thearmchairsportsfan.com/2011/11/19/van-persie-spares-blushes-after-it-all-goes-per-shaped-for-mertesacker/

    • santori says:

      We are creating a ton of chances.

      In that sense, I don’t see us panicking or withdrawing into a shell anymore when we go behind. We know we can hurt any team (especially with RVP on point!)

      Just need to be a little less forgiving up top, particularly with the rest of the cast. What does it take for Gervinho to find his scoring boots. he is doing almost everythingelse right. Someone give the man a break please.

  2. NepaliGunner says:

    I thought the first half an hour was the best Arsenal has played in a long time, although we lacked the cutting edge in front of goal. Other than the lapse by Mertesacker, we dominated and created a plethora of chances. This game was a bit weird because it was patches, with Arsenal being dominant at times, and then hesitant at times. But I did think we played well in the last 15 mins, and the only time I was truly nervous was the free kick right at the death.

    Vermaelaen was immense, and Robin was simply Robin. Theo did well, but he was afforded a lot of space. Gervinho I think will become immense, if he can just sort out his finishing. He should have had a hat trick today. Koscielny was solid, and I thought Per had a good game, other than the mistake. Just another learning experience for him. Santos is definitely the concern at this point. His defence leaves a lot to be desired. I am really glad Gervinho works hard defensively.

    Ramsey was decent, his Fabregas-esque chips are a delight. Song and Arteta were decent except for a mid second half for about 15 mins when they were giving balls away like crazy.

    Anyways, solid win. Another step up. It’s shaping up to be a great battle for third and fourth place, and dare I say second place as well. Man City for now is a cut above the rest.

    On to Dortmund. Let’s do this at home.

  3. ina says:

    yet another solid display from the back four, apart from Met’s hestation to clear the ball that led to one goal down. the striking line showed enornomous displays but again finishing from ever improving ivorian out fit needs to be worked on. i still have to single out Theo the way he handled the ball and his crossing. it;’s an improvement that every person desires to see. in nutshell all was, well done arsenal keep up especially a team that is giving hard times from to the top of table.

  4. SomeRandomGunner says:

    Hmm Song was immense in the first hour ? I fully remember Song loosing all his tackles and his passing was really really bad. I will go back watch it again. Felt this is the worst game from Song in a long long time.

    • santori says:

      Good decision making by Alex to pick out RVP for the second goal no? he could have played it to Gervinho you know… 😀

      • SomeRandomGunner says:

        Assist was good, Gervinho was really down after his miss . But Song’s decision making was extremely awful. He was always trying to find the farthest player or looking for through ball where none existed. In the last 20-30 mins he kept joining the attack even though he was the last midfielder to come forward he kept making those impossible passes and loosing the ball.
        Song is becoming another one of Arsenal’s midfielder who wants to attack rather than what is needed for team, may be he is looking to improve his contract. When he is concentrated on doing defense he looks very good. But when he decides to become the creative midfielder the team is weakened too much because of this.
        Arteta 6 interceptions won 3 out 5 tackles. Song 1 interception won 2 out of 5 tackles yesterday and passing rate of ~80%.

  5. I cent says:

    Well written Desi,i think in the next sixweeks we will more shock/freak results,i just pray they are positive for us cos dats wen d league takes shape

  6. santori says:

    Excellent game by Walcott. Good to see him looking for options.

    A bit surprised Wenger started Koscielny in lieu of the mid week game coming up but good to see Koscielny out right.

    Thought Santos was good first half but it bit sloppy second half. Still, going forward, he is an asset with his crossing.

    Well done the Arsenal. Hopefully we will be rewarded with a favourable result with Chelsea-Liverpool. Like to see us chip away another spot. 3 points away from Newcastle, not bad, not bad at all.

    Top 4 by Xmas.

    • SomeRandomGunner says:

      Walcott was my MOTM . His touch was excellent , the way Theo controlled the crossfield ball from Vermalen was really beautiful.

  7. T2T says:

    Usually, when a defender and opposing player is battling out for the ball, the GK should stay. I find it no fault of Szczesny, poor decision making by Mertesacker – just clear the ball!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s