Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Arsenal 3 Norwich 1

It wasn't a vintage performance from the Gunners or a comfortable viewing for us  Gooners, but you have to admire their spirit which made possible a comeback that looked impossible until the final 5 minutes of normal time.

In fact, at Las Mimosas bar, we were saying that we didn't look like scoring. Arsenal weren't clinical enough in front of the goal in the first half and their attack looked lacking cohesion with too many passes misplaced. It also lacked penetration as they tried to squeeze through the crowded middle with tight exchanges of passes. Four minutes after conceding a poor goal defensively early in the second half, Arsene Wenger brought on two subs in the 60th minute. The two players with a more direct approach injected energy and much-needed pace, but Arsenal were still not their usual fluent selves. Another sub was thrown into the game with 10 minutes left. In our opinion, the Ox should have come on much earlier. The young Englishman made a difference, especially when the Norwich defence started showing signs of tired legs.

Then, this controversial (only to the eyes of Norwich players and their fans) penalty decision came in the 85th minute. Replays show that there was a clear shirt-tug by Kei Kamara on Giroud, who was subsequently dragged to the ground. It was an intentional foul in the box, which warrants a penalty. There is an argument that this kind of fouls are so common these days and many of them go unpunished, but that does not mean that the penalty shouldn't have been given in this case.

Arteta coolly converted the spot kick and the second goal arrived three minutes later. The Ox was brilliant in the build-up play, combining with another sub, Poldi. Giroud said that he swore he "hit the ball", although Bassong probably had a touch on the ball as well. Hope the Dubious Goal Committee will award the goal to the French striker because he deserved it. As the boss said in his post-match interview, Giroud's first-half performance was "very, very average", but he was much more mobile in the second half and played a pivotal role in Arsenal's comeback as well as subs.

Fabianski still had to make crucial saves in the remainder of normal time. The sight of the board showing "6-minute" added time was met with our groans. It meant that we had to suffer a further 6 minute+ agonising time. However, our anxiety was short-lived. Poldi's beautiful strike from the edge of the box early in stoppage time ensured that three points were in the bag now.
It was an amazing game in perspective. Arsenal scored three goals in the final 7 minutes to come from behind to claim vital three points. Overall, the performance was nowhere near perfect, but the way they grabbed the win should strengthen their belief and confidence. After all, all that matters is the result at this time of the season. The win moved us to third in the table, a point clear of Chelsea, who have a game in hand, and Tottenham as their match was postponed this weekend. Tuesday's clash with Everton, who are still in the mix for the top-four race, will be a massive game for us. 

Player ratings

Fabianski: 7
Made a couple of crucial saves. He is a doubt for Tuesday's clash as he got a kick in the rib in this game.

Sagna: 7
A couple of good crosses. Did his job.

Koscielny: 7
Little trouble. It's difficult to point a finger at a single defender for the Norwich goal, but somebody should have attacked the free kick. Turner shouldn't have had a free header.

Vermaelen: 7
Kept Grant Holt quiet.

Gibbs: 6
His first start since the Bayern Munich game. Perhaps, more experienced and more defence-minded Monreal was rested for this game ahead of a more difficult clash with Everton on Tuesday night. It's good that Gibbs gets playing time every now and then. The free-kick against him, which led to Norwich's goal, shouldn't have been given as Kamara tripped himself. He got forward often, but his crosses were poor.

Ramsey: 8
Arsenal fans' Man of the Match according to Arsenal.com site's Fans Online Poll. Made 90 passes with a 90% passing success rate and 6 tackles. Got in a great position in the first half.

Arteta: 8
Made 105 passes with a staggering 95% passing success rate. Scored a goal from the spot-kick with great composure after all the tumult caused by Norwich players. Was part of BBC's Premier League team of the weekend. 

Wilshere: 6
He was probably rushed into the game too soon after 6-weeks' absence. He looked rusty with far too many passes going astray by his standard. Wenger admitted that Rosicky's injury forced him to slot the England midfielder straight into the Czech's place as the boss wanted to keep the shape of the successful team intact. Taken off the pitch in the 60 minutes.

Cazorla: 7
His astute pass released Gervinho behind the Norwich defensive line.

Gervinho: 6
He was Wenger's preferred option for the starting XI ahead of fit-again Theo Walcott, presumably on the back of the Ivorian's recent form. Theo is a better finisher with more defensive reliability. Gerv's confidence level might have been improved by now, but his final ball let him down again. In the glorious chance in the first half, his first touch was so heavy that by the time he reached the ball the angle was too narrow for him to deliver a shot on target. Perhaps, Giroud should have been in the box.
Giroud: 7
As the boss said, his movement improved a lot in the second half. Worked hard defensively as well for the team. Several sites chose him as a Man of the Match.


Walcott: 8
Replaced Gervinho on the right wing in the 60th minute. According to Sky Sports site, he was their Man of the Match as he was constantly a threat since he came off the bench. It's true that he had an impact when he came on, but we felt that his direct involvement in the game was limited. However, he provided an assist for Poldi, hence the high rating.

Podolski: 8
His introduction in the 60th minute, in place of Jack Wilshere, prompted Cazorla to move to central midfield in order to accommodate Poldi on the left flank. Heavily involved Arsenal's attack. Missed a great chance with a poor touch, but his powerful goal-bound shot forced a great save from Bunn, which subsequently hit the cross bar. Scored his 14th goal of the season. After the match, Wenger revealed that he was working with the German as a central striker. Interesting to see how it develops.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 8
Lively as usual. He contributed to his team's late comeback by delivering a low cross for Giroud after a beautiful movement on the left wing.

No comments:

Post a Comment