Monday, October 21, 2013

Arsenal 4 Norwich 1

After the long two weeks' wait, the Premier League was back. Ever since the transfer dead-line day, the Arsenal fans have been entertaining the thought that Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla would play in the same team. Santi's ankle injury during the September international break meant that we had to wait for our dream to come true for seven weeks. Then when it was finally going to materialise, Özil suffered a knock on the knee during Germany's 5-3 win over Sweden, which saw the German playmaker limping off the pitch with a few minutes remaining. After a nervous wait, the good news arrived that he was fit to play against Norwich. We were excited with the prospect of the two technically-gifted creative midfielders on the pitch at the same time for the first time. The combination of Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil was simply mouth-watering for the supporters.

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the side that started in the 1-1 draw with West Brom two weeks ago. The team welcomed back the fit-again Bacary Sagna in place of Carl Jenkinson. The omission of in-form Aaron Ramsey from the starting line-up came as a surprise, but considering that the number of games the Welshman has played for the Club and the country so far this season and the fixture list ahead of us, it made sense. Santi Cazorla made his first appearance since September 1 in the Welshman's place.

Arsenal started brightly with some good moves, but Cazorla's shot was not powerful enough to test John Ruddy. However, in the 18th minute, the hosts strung together ingenious one-touch interplay, which Wilshere started and finished coolly. The team effort took some technical quality, quick moves, and improvisation, involving Cazorla and Giroud as well as the English midfielder. Arsene Wenger described it as one of the best Arsenal goals he had seen.

Norwich had their moments on either side of half time. Arsenal's second goal came against the run of play. Giroud's lofted delivery was met with Özil's header. It was the French striker's fourth assist this season, already one more than the whole of last season. He hasn't found the net for the last few league games, but his contribution to the team has been tremendous.

12 minutes later, Norwich got a goal back as Howson took full advantage of Mertesacker's half-clearance and blasted the ball into the bottom corner of the Arsenal goal. It was also a fine goal, which Szczesny could do nothing about.

A couple of season ago, this could have put an enormous pressure on Arsenal defence and they could have caved in. However, we had confidence in this team and couldn't see any other result but a home win. The team responded positively as Arsene Wenger brought Nicklas Bendtner on for Giroud instead of making a more defensive change in order to protect the now narrow lead.

Aaron Ramsey's exquisite solo goal in the 83rd minute put the game to bed, followed by Özil's second goal at the end of a beautifully worked-out movement in the 88th minute.

It was not as comfortable a win as the scoreline might suggest, but we played some good football. Some of the moves were breathtaking, especially the build-up to the first goal and finish. It was a delightful afternoon for us Gooners. The team have belief in the quality within the team and are enjoying playing football at the moment. If they can keep playing in that way, their attractive football should entice world-class attacking players from all over the world in the future.

Players rating

Szczesny: 7
Wasn't tested too much, but made a couple of good saves when needed.

Sagna: 7
Joined attack often. Solid defensively.

Mertesacker: 7

His inadequate clearance led to Norwich goal.

Koscielny: 7

Kept the opponents at bay.

Gibbs: 7

Made a great run and nearly set up a goal for Giroud with a perfect low cross. Made 5 tackles, one of which was a crucial last-man tackle.

Flamini: 6
Had a good game until he suffered a concussion and double-vision through the collision with Tettey. The head injury may explain some of his wayward passes after the incident (still an impressive 94% completion rate, though).  The rules governing concussion injuries (5 day break) will sideline him against Dortmund on Tuesday night.

Arteta: 7

Had a couple of shots from outside the box. Made 94 passes with a 95% success rate. 

Özil: 9

Scored two goals.

Cazorla: 7

He was heavily involved in Arsenal's good attacking moves, but some of his decisions indicated his lack of match-fitness. Substituted in the 59th minute, which was probably planned.  

Wilshere: 8
Scored his second goal in two consecutive games and first league goal at the Emirates. Improved performance as his decision-making was a lot quicker and didn't hold onto the ball too long.

Giroud: 8
Provided two assists through brilliant flicks for the first and perfectly-weighed cross for the second goal. Unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself when his one-touch finish at the near post was denied by Ruddy's superb save.



Ramsey: 9
He was initially meant to be rested, but came on the pitch in the 38th minute in the wake of Flamini's injury. Scored a great solo goal with composure, after waltzing through Norwich defence in the box. Set up a goal for Özil with a fine cut-back. Made 5 tackles as well. 

Rosicky: 7
59th-minute substitute for Cazorla. His cross from the left to Ramsey at the far post led to 
Özil's second goal.

Bendtner: 7
78th-minute substitute for Giroud. Had a decent game, involved in the build-up for 
Özil's second goal.

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