Sunday, 20 October 2013

Arsenal 4-1 Norwich: I could just dance

We restore our lead at the top of the table after another clinical performance against Norwich City, by running out 4-1 winners at the Emirates. And while it was against lowly opposition and in our own stadium, who couldn't have been excited by THAT performance?!

I for one was surprised as to why Wenger played his first team against such easy opposition, especially by starting Santi Cazorla. Overplaying players, especially key players, is always a big risk, and I thought that he would play the likes of Gnabry or Vermaelen, keeping in mind that we have an important fixture coming up on Tuesday. At this point, we don't want another injury crisis, do we?

The massacre began on the 18th minute through a Jack Wilshere goal after some slick Arsenal play. I think that the word "slick" is an understatement to the caliber of playing showed by Giroud and Wilshere to completely outfox the whole Norwich back four and the goalkeeper. This was literally what I remember of the goal: Cazorla has it, flick, flick, flick, Wilshere through, GOAL. It was one of those magical moments that just takes your breath away, and simply marvel at the beauty of what you just witnessed.

I saw at least 10 replays of the goal, and yet I couldn't remember how they managed to string that move together. It was a combination of Arsenal tippy-tappy and direct style of playing, which I don't see in any other team in Europe. It was the kind of goal you would say you were privileged to watch live, and the kind of goal which rivaled Arshavin's against Barcelona. I remember calling the first goal we scored against Napoli "one of the finest Arsenal goals I have seen this season". Well, after looking at what we had produced, that goal seemed pretty scrappy to me. 

We dominated proceedings after that and while we never really threatened, it was some good, calm Arsenal play. That was until Mathieu Flamini's aggression got himself an injury. He ran and bonked heads with Tettey, which resulted in him getting the worse of the two. And the fact that we struggled until the end of the half after he was taken off for Ramsey simply underlines how valuable he is to the team.

I said it before and I'll say it again: Wenger should've rested his key players for this game. Players like Szczesny, Koscielny, Flamini, Ozil and Wilshere need a breather or they'll get susceptible to injury. And while Flamini's injury wasn't out of fatigue but sheer commitment, wouldn't we have been better suited having that commitment against Dortmund than Norwich? Flamini is the only player in the team who has the Vieira-esque traits, which alone makes him one of the most important. And it's not like we're not capable of defeating a team like Norwich even without these players. This is one of the reasons I don't like Wenger: he'll keep playing his first team until most of them are out and then overplay his second team until most of them get injured, which will leave him to get "creative" with the squad.

Anyways, we grabbed a second goal around the 58th minute after another confident pass-and-move goal which was definitely against the run of play. Ramsey's quick pass to Santi left him in lots of space to engineer a counterattack. And after taking the ball forward, he played it to Giroud on the right. Ollie's slanted cross was inch-perfect, which left Ozil to head home expertly. It was another fine Arsenal goal, showcasing all our best qualities, but I'm not sure that it was one we deserved.

Howson got one back for them (quite predictably, for me, the goal was coming) in the 70th minute to make a game out of it. Howson's low drilled shot past Szczesny came after a rare Mertesacker deflection. And while it was a good finish, I couldn't help but notice how Gibbs failed to block that strike. It was very unlike him, and if you ask me, it was the result of a bit of complacency seeping in.

However, we tied the game up with a sensational screamer from Aaron Ramsey. After Wilshere played a pass to him in the box, he feinted twice to get into a good position and calmly slotted past Ruddy. It was another candidate for the Goal of the Season, and it was fitting to come from Arsenal's Player of the Season so far. It reminded me of Nasri's first goal against Fulham he scored like 3 years ago, but this one was from a more honest lad who deserved it after being through such a lot.

However, his continuously increasing solo play is worrying me. True, it was sensational skill and a cool finish, but I couldn't help but notice how he never gave a thought to the players around him. Ever since he scored against Stoke, his playing style is becoming too goal-oriented and a bit negative. I fear that he will put himself in front of the club in the future and have a Nasri like departure.

Anyway, Mesut Ozil's second put the game to bed, after Rosicky's cross and a Ramsey assist (good he didn't go for goal there!) left him space to tap in and effectively put the game to bed. After the game, Wenger said:

 "We won 4-1 and their keeper had a good game. But I think as well that Norwich played well, so it is strange. They made it difficult for us. We had a difficult period between 30 and 60 minutes where we struggled a little bit to keep our game going. I would come out of the game thinking Norwich is a good team."

A pretty good summary of the game by the boss, who now has to focus on a much sterner test against Dortmund. If Flamini won't be able to make it on a match like this, then I'd be pretty pessimistic about our chances to win it. For me, it has been him rather than our Mertescielny axis which has steeled up our defence. Yet we somehow managed to concede 7 goals in our last 8 games.

Football is weird.

However, for now, let's just laugh at Liverpool and Man Utd (don't we always?), and gloat at being on top of the pile.

Bring on Dortmund. I can't wait.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )