Arsenal 3 – 1 Norwich: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

The Gunners picked up three vital points after a dramatic late comeback. It was a strange sort of game – partly enjoyable with great team work and combination play, partly frustrating with terrible individual moments and defensive lapses.

Wenger made three changes. A couple of them were forced – Wilshere for Rosicky, and Vermaelen for Mertesacker – while the other seemed like a good use of squad depth – Gibbs for Monreal.

Arsenal dominated the game from the start but it took them more than half an hour to get a shot on target. Bunn only had to make two fairly comfortable saves in the opening 45.

One of the commentators on the channel that I was watching (Fox Soccer) went on and on about the need for faster passing. He also seemed to have something against Gervinho. It was not difficult to see his point. Norwich were largely able to retain their shape and often felt like the team that was controlling the game, albeit without the ball. The Ivorian, for his part, was having a particularly bad day when the decisive moments came along.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the popular view of the events of the first half. It’s not entirely incorrect – certainly, the observations are valid – but it is rather superficial. Sometimes I like to go against the grain and in this case I will. Here’s why…

In the first half, Arsenal created 8 or 9 promising moments. They had excellent possession and did a very good job of pressurizing opponents higher up the pitch. Norwich looked comfortable in defence but they had virtually nothing to offer at the other end. The visitors had zero attempts at the Arsenal goal.

We have often talked about ‘balance’ on this blog. Players have make a choice between offensive options and defensive ones all the time. The choices they make decide how a team plays. It can vary from the uber-aggressive but completely open at the back to ultra-defensive and lacking penetration at the front. At some point or the other, we have seen Arsenal in both these extremes and almost every grade in between.

What we saw in the first half was an excellent example of balance. It’s not easy to see because the most important ingredient – a goal – was missing. That was a problem of efficiency but it should not take everything away from the quality of the game played.

I recall three very good passes/crosses from the right by Sagna – Gervinho miscontrolled the first, Giroud hit the post with another, and Bunn saved from the third (Giroud should have done better). Similarly, there were three excellent moments from the left. First Gibbs, and then Gervinho, twice, couldn’t find the target despite there being sufficient bodies in the box. In one case it was terrible decision making from Gervinho and in the other two it was an issue with the players not knowing the kind of runs to make. Then there were the two glorious chances down the middle. Wilshere put too much weight on the ball in one instance while Gervinho’s first touch made a complete hash of a delectable through-ball from Cazorla. Even from a corner, Giroud was able to direct a good header towards goal that might have gone in on another day.

The point is that Arsenal created many threatening moments and conceded nothing. The balance was excellent. Just because the ball wasn’t flying towards the goal and the keeper making big saves doesn’t mean the attack wasn’t good. The final ball was lacking no doubt, but if that is rectified (there is no reason why it couldn’t be) this was about as perfect as Arsenal need to be at home against such teams. If Arsenal control games as well as they did and even find one goal, they’ll collect a lot of points while forcing teams to come out on their terms. This is where Spain excel and their success offers a roadmap to the Gunners in their search for the elusive entity called ‘balance.’

The second half was different. It was more of a Premier League game. Norwich came out with a little more belief and played a little higher up the pitch. Arsenal did not have the same rhythm as they had before the break.

Wenger’s team did have a 2-3 minute spell in which they had a couple of corners and pinned Norwich back but it was an isolated period of dominance in the opening 15-20 minutes of the second half, which seemed the most even period of the game.

Norwich got their goal from a set-piece. Whether it was a foul in the first place is debatable. The abject nature of Arsenal’s defending is not. It was interesting to note that Turner made a horizontal run while other attackers moved vertically to pull the defensive line back thereby opening space for the centre-back. The ball arrived perfectly for him. Was this a practiced routine? If so, Hughton and his staff deserve applause. It was neatly done. The Gunners looked like deer in headlights, watching the oncoming peril completely paralyzed and helpless.

If I’m not mistaken, Koscielny was marking Turner but he let him go without any effort. Were Arsenal defending zones or marking players? ‘Neither’ seems to be the answer! It’s also worth noting that there was a lot of communication between the players just before the ball was delivered. To me it says that communication cannot help if the players aren’t thinking about defending in the correct, clear, and comprehensive manner.

The game got more hectic and disorganized as time went by. Wenger introduced Walcott and Podolski for Gervinho and Wilshere. There was some action around the Norwich box with Theo working hard to create something but the quality of chances was still pretty average.

With a midfielder off the park and Podolski playing high up and virtually centrally, Norwich did find more room in the midfield but they weren’t able to make the most of it as the tempo increased. Nevertheless, they had a glorious chance to double their lead on the counter-attack when Russell Martin hit his shot straight at Fabianski from a highly promising position.

At the other end, Podolski failed to control the ball when well placed before forcing a good save from another excellent chance. At that point I had a feeling Arsenal will score the equalizer. And this season we’ve seen the Gunners often score another in quick succession.

The penalty decision was debatable but also the right one, if that makes any sense. The annoying commentator I mentioned earlier seemed to make the point that it was a foul but since the ref didn’t give it the assistant on the far side had no business making the call! Mike Jones allowed a lot of fouls to go unpunished and it wouldn’t have been a surprise if he’d let that one slide as well. From that point of view Norwich do have a case but it’s a thin one.

Arteta’s body language always makes me jittery when he’s taking the penalty. It was almost saved but had enough power to go in despite Bunn getting something on it.

The Gunners took the lead with a good penetrating run from Oxlade-Chamberlain that involved a quick one-two with Podolski before Giroud tapped it in.

Norwich almost equalized as Wenger’s defence again failed to deal with a long ball. Howson was very well placed but could only hit it at Fabianksi. Podolski made it three with a neat finish through a bunch of bodies after Giroud’s flick-on from a long ball found Walcott (was off-side) who picked up another assist.

The football in the second half wasn’t very good. But it had more excitement and all the decisive moments.

Individual Performances:

Fabianski: Made a couple of good saves. Deserves credit for positioning and for handling the balls well. Couldn’t have done much for the Norwich goal.

Sagna: Had some physical duels throughout the game and came out on top in most of them. Some of his crosses were disappointing but he did create two very good chances for Giroud. Picked up a booking with a necessary professional foul after Snodgrass had put him in trouble. Good game from the full-back.

Koscielny: Had a fairly comfortable first half. Why did he let Turner go? It was his weak header that gave Howson a great chance towards the end. Not a terrible day but he’s had better.

Vermaelen: Could he have attacked the ball or at least given Turner a challenge? Was it in his zone? Did a decent job of mopping up behind Gibbs. It seemed like a fairly routine day at the office for the Captain.

Gibbs: Got into some very good positions in attacking areas but didn’t always find the final ball. Didn’t have much to do defensively but the free-kick for the goal came from his foul (it might not have been one but the defender could have done better in this situation.) There were a number of high balls floated towards his side of the pitch and he wasn’t able to win many of them. Will probably have to take a few tips from Sagna on that. Overall a fairly respectable effort from the Englishman.

The defenders had virtually nothing to do in the first half. Norwich didn’t go long to Holt as often as I’d have expected them to, and when the ball did find its way to him the central defenders made sure he couldn’t turn or influence the game in a meaningful way. There was some uncertainty against aerial long balls and the goal that was conceded was rather shoddy. But that’s more of a long standing issue that has never been fully addressed rather than any problem with a specific individual or two.

Arteta: Had to score that penalty and did well under pressure even if it wasn’t perfectly in the corner. A couple of attempted long passes didn’t quite come off this time but most of his regular passing was like clockwork. Decent defensive shift but he wasn’t really stretched.

Wilshere: Probably the only player who had a really disappointing game. There were many mistakes and he did not look physically fit/ready.

Ramsey: Work rate in the first half was excellent and I like the way he keeps getting into forward spaces without ignoring defensive responsibilities. Often did an excellent job of chasing the ball and closing down forward passes high up the pitch. He is still missing his old knack of creating and finishing in the attacking areas but I doubt that will come so soon. Right now it seems more about starting regularly and performing steadily, which he’s doing well. Again showed his versatility by moving to full-back late in the game.

Cazorla: Was at the heart of many of the creative moves that Arsenal produced, particularly in the first half. But he hasn’t clicked with Wilshere at the level one would expect and this game was no different. Does seem to enjoy playing with Podolski and sharing quick one-touch passes. Almost got a goal at the end but it ended up turning into an over elaborate move.

The midfield showed almost all the attributes of a well-balanced side. The inefficiency in attack was mostly down to the forwards and to a very small extent to the full-backs.

Gervinho: Probably a day he’d like to forget soon. Technical limitations came to the fore quite often and decision making was also found wanting at times. Could easily have had a goal and two assists with better execution and choices. But we know his weaknesses and such games are to be expected.

Giroud: Wenger made some comments about his game that I didn’t quite understand. I thought Giroud had a decent game throughout and was only decisive late in the second half due to other factors rather than his own play. For instance, in the first half he showed a deft touch to put Wilshere in a position where he could play Ramsey through. He met that ball on the move. Should have done better with Sagna’s low cross/pass but he did again meet it on the move and in a good position. The penalty incident and the bundled-in goal in the second half were not exactly down to any changes to his style of play. He did benefit from having Podolski up close with him and it’s a partnership that can develop very well.

Substitutes: Oxlade-Chamberlain made the decisive run, Podolski got a goal and played a part in the second goal, Walcott picked up an assist and had a few other threatening moments. All of them made an impact.

Wenger: Defence must still be a concern for him. Would have been happy with the contribution of the substitutes. It’s interesting that Arsenal are 18 For – 2 Against in the final 15 minutes (76-90+) of games, which is the best record in the League in that crucial time period. Wonder how many fans still think AW doesn’t know how to make substitutions!


18 Responses to Arsenal 3 – 1 Norwich: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. Winner says:

    The three points are the most important thing from the weekend. I was very disappointed with Wenger’s decision to start with Wilshere. When both Wilshere and Carzola are in the team it seems that the balance is lost. But having been out for about six weeks I would have preferred a more cautious re-introduction of the youngster from Wenger. I still believe that AOC could be used in that position or alternatively Podolski could have started on the left and Carzola dropped to mid field. Having said all that this team has great potential, with a bit more efficiency Arsenal should have been out of sight by half time. It is very easy to criticize Gervino, but the positive is that he was running at the players and stretching them. That probably contributed to the tired NORWICH DEFENSE THAT THE TEAM BENEFITED from in the dying stages of the game. The pendulum has now swung firmly in Arsenal’s favour in the race for third place. Believe me there is going to be a lot of good news in the coming weeks.

    • AP says:

      i feel this was a conscious decision of having enough quality for the day with an eye on the next match 3 days later. We consistently see this with AW, esp in cup games. I, for one, would love to find out what algorithm he uses to figure out that ‘just enough’. It becomes a problem only when people play below their par or just cannot execute at the decisive moment or sometimes plain bad luck. Remember, all cudve been very different if wilshere hadnt overhit his final ball to Ramsey, or even played it along the ground, or Giroud’s header squeezed in, or gervinho had rounded off only the keeper and not the keeper and his invisible pet elephant.

      • santori says:

        There’s no balance lost with jack and Santi playing.

        Jack is just not fully ready that’s all. This is a common thing coming back from a knock. Playing him against Norwich was a sensible risk. That we had fire power to make the difference in the final 10 minutes made it a reasonable option to give Jack a bit of time to get back into the groove of things.

        Pound for pound, Jack offers a lot in concert with Arteta and Santi.

        Having said that, with Ramsey slotting in well, I would keep with him next game against Everton,

  2. Induct says:

    Desi always on point. Thank God wenger now sees Poldi as a central striker. I tink d reason we’re more open to a counter in d 2nd half was bcoz Poldi played as a second striker instead of his usual left wing role. Its a bit of a risk bt it wil help us if Wenger finds d balance wit dis new style of play.Bcos prince Poldi is more clinical dan any1 in our rank now n i believe even dan RVP if i dare

    • desialpha says:

      He’s clinical but still not fit in our system. His link up play is reli poor that we cannot effort to start him as lone striker. But i quite like the idea that playing Giroud & poldi as two up front. We look more dangerous when they pair up.

      • santori says:

        1) Giroud provides the physical presence we need when playing against teams likely to sit back and try to absorb us (Corwd space)

        2) Pdolski may have slightly better legs and may offer us more if playing against a team ready to come at us.

        that said there is nothing wrong with having Podolski deployed out left but pinching in to add the extra man around the box, particularly with 15 minutes to go and where the opponents have not shown much appetite to attack us.

        Likely in the summer, if we can find someone-else who can add some speed at the apex, this would be another useful option to have against both teams who like to get compact at the back and/or those who like to come at us.

        Mainly, the issue we have to get better with is ‘transitioning’. Mourinho made a big deal about this, transitioning from defensive posture to an attacking one.

        Particularly with a team that gets organized quickly and likes to deny space, we need to move the ball as efficiently as possible from back to front. A very fast striker (remember Henry) could be extremely helpful in this regard, Walcott or otherwise.

  3. menace says:

    I have been watching the games in India (Star sports) and the commentators (ex uk footballers) are so damned biased. Apparently the Assistant who flagged for the penalty was a million miles away from the incident. The commentator was continuously slagging Wenger’s look and giving his take on how the team should play. In my opinion he was an ignorant moron without an education and without an understanding of his job specification. Commentators should be unbiased and constructive in their comments.

    The officials on the pitch were also had issues and the referee ignored several fouls worse that the one he booked Sagna for. He gave the Norwich players ‘talking tos’ instead of bookings ( a typical racist action in today’s game – talk to the local ; book the foreigner). If it wasn’t for the assistant, the game could easily have been another win against Arsenal by the FA and its puppet PGMOL.

    • AP says:

      Yeah man, i hear you. That espn, star sports team is insufferable. But but but, how did you like macca’s frustration when arsenal stole the win and his liverpool cudnt find the net against Reading in a 90 minute shooting practice. Frankly, for as long as liverpool are below Arsenal, i would love to go back to ESS commentary team and have my share of guilty joy at the fuming frustration of that “pundidiot”.

      • santori says:

        Shiyte refereeing.

        Linesmen were awake. Clearly a foul in the box. Numpties like Warnock need to get the cobwebs in their heads cleared out.

  4. Nini Wise says:

    Desi, Nice piece of work as ever. The team is really doing well now and making us proud. I just hope Arsenal will learn to do it right week in, week out. Gervinho and Giroud needs to work on their game for the good of the team. I’ve not seen the game but with your match analysis, I can really picture what happened in the field of play.
    Thanks, a lot.

    • Block4Gooner says:

      7 wins from 8 games mate. Getting their?

      • santori says:

        Agreee. Lots of issues to be concerned with but more positives than not, particularly if we know we can score a flurry of goals in the final ten.

        The bench is starting to look like real options available now to Wenger, and he is starting to make very good use of it.

        Hats off to the gaffer, subs were spot on.

  5. Cupsui says:

    Desi i agree with everything you said 100%
    well put…
    I too have been subject to the fox soccer network and that fool of a commentator week in week out. He bags arsenal non-stop. His comments on Gervinho are horrible every game. Last game for example he scored one and got two assists and couldn’t believe he was given the start and complained all game about him, even by the end he was saying what a terrible game he played. And then at kick-off against norwich it was more of the same. Then his rubbish about the penalty…drone…boring! Its a penalty the right decision was made. Thats what we want in the game right!? the correct decisions…oh wait british press hate arsenal (yes he is british even though he is a fox soccer commentator)

    I thought the first half was played well but obviously lacking the clinical touch at the end. As you said desi norwich weren’t in the game. Their goal was disappointing, a great move on their behalf. I wonder if they planned to use this against Arsenal’s zonal dead-ball marking? seems a very effective technique against zonal defense. Part of blame goes to Koz, part to TV5 (it was in “his” zone from which the header was scored) but the majority goes to the zonal defense (coaching). I’m not a fan of the zonal free-kick marking.

    However great change of tactics from wenger, with the direct fast play toward the end. It won us the game (not the ref).

    On Giroud, i too thought he was playing very well in the first half although the service he was receiving was very poor. He kept getting the ball at his feet with a defender either side and then being closed down by the covering defensive midfielders (good tactic from Norwich, which they moved away from in the 2nd half to give more attack). He worked very hard. 2nd half he was better but so was his service.

    Finally onto Rambo. MOTM in my opinion. Simply put his best game since his leg break. His movement and workrate was amazing. HE MADE SLIDE TACKLES!!! Defensively he was great. positionally great and even in attack he got into great areas (pity jack couldn’t quite pick him out). I have been critical of him at times (although i never wanted him out like some) but he is turning a corner and this is a HUGE asset for arsenal cause he is immensely talented and gives us much greater midfield depth

    Great read as always desi…cheers

    • santori says:

      I’m still yet to be fully convinced with Ramsey but he is showing remarkable improvement from where he was.

      Issue for me is where we afforded him the games to get to this current level, it also cost us.

      BUT he is defensively much better.

      I am still not sure where he fits in our scheme of things in the midfield. Maybe as Desi mentions, he is sort of our Ray Parlour.

      Or as I would like to think, he could be a good candidate to take over from Arteta in a season or two. They share the same passing skill set and Ramsey has good vision. If he can pick up the experience from Arteta very quickly, we may have a partial solution to the ‘DM’ issue.

      That would likely mean jack could be pushed up into the hole where he may alternate with Santi and likely Eisfeld (who should get a look in with Rosicky likely to slow down in coming seasons)

      Still like to see someone solid then next to either of Ramsey or Arteta for those games the other team lumps a Fellaini on us.

      Possibly Coquelin could grwo to fill that role but more likely we will also need a bit of help from market being that the main candidate to give us height and presence, a certain Diaby, is never really available.

      Someone no nonsense and competitive like Capoue to me could be a good solution particularly as he can also cover as CBack.

  6. santori says:

    With regards. the defensive blunder, I’m not sure if anyone is at fault.

    Looks like more systemic than anything-else.

    Turner’s run started from around where Sagna was covering zonally. but Sagna had someone to mark as is, Turener than moved into TV’s zone where he too was watching another player.

    I think Norwich were well drilled and took us by surprise with the set piece.

    Likely what we need to do is to be aware of these threats during the game and have someone organized us accordingly 9this is where a leader is most important). woudl not be difficult to have a spare man on our part watch out for a floater (not suggesting anything renal) and man mark him accordingly if such tactics are applied.

    Decent game for Vermalen. Some clearances were back to opposition but hope he continues to rehabilitate.

    Players come in and out of form. No reason to feel that just because Vermalen has been poor in recent weeks or that Jack looks rusty, that they will not get back to a different level (much like Ramsey).

    • Cupsui says:

      I’m not in the slightest worried about Jack. People are ridiculous.

      All this talk about Jack being worse for the team, playing a terrible game, not trying?!
      Are they serious?!
      The guy just came back from 6 weeks out and was struggling. He shouldn’t have started and Arsene admitted that.
      He is the most penetrative midfielder in the EPL bar none. That is his ability to turn and drive forward with the ball past opposition mids and move into space. This is such a benefit as it opens holes, draws defenders away from where they should be and of course takes the beaten man out of the equation at least for a minute.

      Rosicky does this exceptionally well too, Cesc was amazing at it and thats why he was so dangerous, Gerrard was so good at this back in the day but can’t really get it back. But there aren’t really man other players that do it.

      His passing % isn’t as strong as rambo or arteta because he makes more creative passes. And positionally (when he is fit) he is brilliant.

      Give the kid a chance folkes…come on!!

  7. Redcore says:

    Hi Desi,

    I know I am late in submitting this comment but this article was truly a very enjoyable read. Thanks.

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