Arsenal v Norwich: The Good, Bad and the Ugly

Mike Hewitt

:D, :?, >:-< from Saturday

Well, damn, that was fun! Well, the final 13 minutes, at least. I didn't much enjoy the first 83 minutes. They were kind of bleh.

The Good

  • Wenger's Subs: It was quite evident that things weren't great from the first half, when Arsenal didn't create much. Giroud's looped header was the closest they came, though the best chance fell to Gervinho, who, well, yeah. For once, Arsene Wenger reacted quickly to Arsenal going a goal behind; shortly after, Jack Wilshere and Gervinho were hauled off, and Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski were brought on. Arsenal, who hadn't really threatened to go behind Norwich's bus, finally looked dangerous, and the movement really improved. They could, and should've had a penalty when Walcott was bundled over, and Lukas Podolski hit the bar. The introduction of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, though, was decisive. The one-two he played with Podolski to open Norwich up for the second goal was superb, the type of play that Tomas Rosicky usually provides, and Jack Wilshere should've done. It was pace and movement and dynamism from the centre of the park and it exemplifies why Arsene Wenger sees this prodigious 19-year old talent as so much more than a winger.


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  • The determination shown by Arsenal. In January, or the months before, Arsenal would've lost this game. They weren't playing great, they went a goal down, and the pressure was on. But Arsenal seemed to almost play better in the face of adversary, which seems typical of this team this season. The celebration of the second goal was typical; Giroud may have scored, but the whole team, aside from Fabianski, who celebrated the third, ran over to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud.

The Bad

  • Jack Wilshere. In fairness, he only returned to full training on Wednesday after missing 6 weeks. But, in replacing Tomas Rosicky, he failed to do most things that he usually does, and most things Rosicky can do too. He was uncharacteristically loose in possession, and sluggish with the ball, slowing down several moves by making the wrong decision or killing the move altogether by giving the ball away. Right before Norwich scored, Arsenal had the chance to counter, but Wilshere, in possession on the halfway line, gave the ball away, and Arsenal never got it back. If Rosicky is fit, there should be no need for Wilshere to start; ease him back into the team. His future is so linked with Arsenal's that it seems foolish to rush him when he doesn't need to be.
  • Gervinho. It had to end at some point. After three very good games from Gervinho, he returned to the Gervinho we know all too well; showing no awareness of what is around him, being totally inconsistent with his touch and generally being of little use. He made a great run to get onto Santi Cazorla's through ball, and rounded the keeper, but a heavy touch took him too far. At that point, he should've looked up, where he would've seen Giroud at the top of the area with an open goal. Instead, he shot from a nigh impossible angle. He didn't provide Arsenal with the threat in behind that they needed, and will probably not start again this season if Theo Walcott is available.

The Ugly

  • Norwich's goal was particularly disgusting, down from the fact that Kamara tripped over his feet. Surprisingly, none of Norwich's aggrieved players bothered to mention that. Strange. Once the free kick has been given, though, Arsenal need to defend it, and they don't. Zonal marking is a system, but it is notable that Arsenal have been much worse defending set pieces using zonal marking rather than the amalgamation between zonal and man marking they used last season, where only one goal in League and FA Cup matches was conceded from a set piece after the debacle at Blackburn. On Saturday, the ball came into Thomas Vermaelen's zone, and the returning captain failed to jump with Michael Turner, giving the Norwich centre back a free header. It doesn't matter Vermaelen was marking someone else; the nature of zonal marking means he has to compete for the ball in his zone. He didn't. Would such a goal happen if Per Mertesacker was playing with Laurent Koscielny? It seems doubtful.

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