Arsenal struggled to muster any kind of tempo for the majority of today's match, but after Norwich City pulled ahead and the substitutes came on and with the good fortune of some favorable calls, the Gunners were able to recover and take all three points at the Emirates.
Last year, according to the website Debatable Decisions, Arsenal had a lot-lot of refereeing decisions go against them. Well, you know the cliche about these things "evening themselves out", right? Here's how everything went down in North London today.
The first half was played by both sides at a pretty comfortable andante. Neither side generated so much as a chance until 19 minutes in, when Jack Wilshere touched a pass just a little too far for Aaron Ramsey to get to before Mark Bunn swept up. Arsenal's passing was not crisp and there was very little movement; Jack Wilshere's first game back was below average and Gervinho was having all kinds of issues completing passes after dribbling. In short, the first half was pretty much this year's model of Bad Arsenal. The only player of note in the first half was Ramsey, who covered a lot of ground in an effort to make things happen, winning tackles deep in his half before showing up in the attack a few seconds later.
The second half started about the same. Norwich won a dubious free kick on 56 minutes, though, right on the corner of Arsenal's area, and true to Bad Arsenal form, the kick came in, Michael Turner was unmarked, won a free header under no jumping challenge from Thomas Vermaelen, and the rest was easy. Norwich had duly punished Arsenal's lack of tempo and end product, and Arsene Wenger rousted his substitutes off the bench 60 minutes in.
Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski came on for Wilshere and Gervinho, and almost immediately Theo was pacing up the joint. Norwich weren't done winning free kicks, but Grant Holt strayed offside 63 minutes in. Walcott was pushed down in the area two minutes later, but Mike Jones denied him (rightly) the penalty, as Walcott was not really threatening to get the ball from the defender. Still, the non-call got the Emirates really up, as as Arsenal pushed for an equalizer, Lukasz Fabianski had to make a good save on a big counter for Norwich 72 minutes on.
Arsenal were looking and looking, and Podolski crushed a shot that Bunn pushed onto the bar. Time was running low, but in the 83rd minute, Aaron Ramsey's hard running won Arsenal a corner that wasn't actually a corner but man the assistant ref must've been impressed by the running hard. From the corner and resulting scramble in the box, Kei Kamara pulled, tugged, and hauled down Olivier Giroud on the 12-yard box. Jones wasn't interested, but his assistant ref was adamant, and the penalty was given. Many have complained that the assistant ref was too far away to see it (he wasn't) and that shirt pulling happens all the time (it does) and that that means it should not be called (it should be called). Norwich, and Bradley Johnson in particular, were not happy with the decision, to put it mildly. Still, Mikel Arteta stepped up, and although Bunn got a hand to it, the penalty went in, and Arsenal were level.
At this point, the Emirates was just about lifting off the ground, and Arsenal smelled blood. New arrival Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain prodded and prodded, and in the 88th minute, his cross made it past Bunn and a combination of Sebastian Bassong and Giroud prodded it home.
The Emirates erupted.
Norwich now were reeling, although they were still winning corners and putting The Fear into everyone. Six minutes of added time didn't help, but in the 93rd minute, it wouldn't matter. Walcott was offside as he collected on the right, but no call came in, and he took advantage to dribble inside and find Podolski, who took two touches to find his left foot and bury his shot at the near post from 18 yards. 3-1, game over, fightback complete.
With the win today, Arsenal moves to third place, a point ahead of Tottenham, who are now even on games played.
Next up: Everton, Tuesday, at the same venue.