Norwich 1-2 Arsenal: 31 in 29
The short report
Three more points bagged thanks to two more Robin Van Persie goals, taking his calendar year tally to 31 and in so doing becoming one of only five players to have achieved the feet of 30. This season has saw the return, at times, of the high tempo opening that so often in years gone by had allowed Arsenal to open up their 'caught cold' opponents, but despite creating numerous chances early on Arsenal found themselves behind following a mistake at the back by Per Mertesacker on 16 minutes. An undeterred Arsenal though maintained their dominance and levelled through Robin Van Persie on 27 minutes following an excellent low cross from Theo Walcott. Norwich City having been totally outplayed for the opening spell rallied following Arsenal's equaliser and edged the possession stakes for the remainder of the half. The second half saw a resumption of chances created by Arsenal, but were once again wasteful. Once Arsenal finally took the lead on 59 minutes through Robin Van Persie they began to show a large degree of control and maturity to see the job home.
Supporting the full backs
The full backs at Arsenal are fully expected to support attacks, providing the overlap and crossing options. The same should therefore be expected on the wide attackers (protecting their full backs) as part of an overall 'defend as a team approach'. Gervinho and Walcott did just that against Norwich and even did so when they had switched flanks. It has been a key element to the improvement in the defensive element of our game, and today with fill in right back Koscielny playing out of position and new boy Andre Santos still adjusting it was ever more important.
Closing out the game
We have seen this film before in the last couple of seasons, Arsenal take a narrow lead in a game by the hour mark in a match that in truth should have been long done and dusted, but the ending has changed. Instead of a caviler approach in search of more goals and nervy, risky play deep in our own half the team have learned to take a more measured and mature approach with the odd punt up field, taking ball towards the flag and playing careful possession football across the back. The value of the added seniority has certainly played its part in this respect.
Player focus: Gervinho
Has quickly adapted to Arsenal and changed the dynamic of the front line. Typically involved in the majority of our play and was bright again against Norwich with his pace, directness and flair. However, despite doing all the basics right he was somewhat over elaborate at times, just look at the difference between Van Persie and Gervinho on the equalising goal. The Ivory Coast international attempts a flick between his legs whilst Robin Van Persie guides the ball home in the simplest of fashion. Involved in much of our best attacking work but there is room for improvement in his execution which will then see his assist and goal tallies begin to reach the levels his overall contribution deserves.
Man of the match: Theo Walcott
Theo Walcott gets my vote, with better finishing from his team mates Theo could have had a hat-trick of assists. His low cross from the right hand side is quickly becoming a trademark weapon, he had two super deliveries against Chelsea and another today that was turned home by Van Persie. His game continues to evolve too, in defence he showed willing and team play to cover his makeshift full back and in attack he is beginning to take up a wider variety of positions and angles, he can now provide from the byline in similar fashion to Gervinho.
Moan of the match 1
Per Mertesacker had the time to choose any one of numerous options but did neither and fumbled his way to the ground, not the kind of defending you would expect from a German international centre back of his stature. I do wonder whether had Carl Jenkinson had been fit, and no doubt featured, whether the manager would have gone with the back four that had kept a clean sheet against West Brom, that would have been my choice against a fairly mobile attack. I couldn't argue with the manager's choice though to bring back Per rather than include Johan Djourou at right back, in our previous two outings away from home in which Johan has featured we shipped 3 at Chelsea and 4 at then rock bottom Blackburn.
Moan of the match 2
Gervinho and Van Persie were rather wasteful in front of goal, but I will temper any criticism in light of their performances, two more goals for Robin and the secured win. The fact that Arsenal created numerous opportunities in our first post interlull match is also an encouragement, but at the same time with only a narrow lead those missed chances may well have led to squandered points.
The final word
A second straight away victory and another coming from behind highlighting a certain confidence, poise and team ethic. The interlull for once failed to halt our progress and the winning run now stretches to five. Norwich City were handedly placed in 9th prior to kick off despite having recently played Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa all away from home in their previous five and with their fellow promoted teams both also featuring strongly this one would be far from a walk over. Arsene will be pleased by the performance overall and the way we closed the game out. Defensively one error and some naivety in defence from Santos aside we were pretty solid and despite numerous misses at the other end there can be much encouragement from the number of openings we created.
2011-12 | Match Reports