Arsenal took care of business (once again), laying a 5-0 beatdown on relegation-bound Norwich City. Bukayo Saka netted a brace and Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe, and Alexandre Lacazette (pen) added goals as the Gunners cruised to three points. The win solidifies Arsenal’s hold on fourth place, and even with Spurs having several matches in hand, if the Gunners keep winning, it won’t much matter. Or at the very least, the “money in the bank” puts the pressure on the clubs trying to chase down Arsenal.
There really isn’t anything from today’s performance to be critical about, so I’m going to list a bunch of positives.
- Ben White (one loose pass aside) had an impressive performance at right back. Showed some recovery pace I didn’t know he had. He’s settled in at Arsenal quite nicely since a COVID-slowed, shaky start to the season.
- Kieran Tierney had his best match of the season. Brilliant finish on his goal - a striker’s shot to the far post. Should have had an assist but somehow a lovely cutback evaded five Arsenal shirts in the penalty area.
- Thomas Partey is playing much better, which is a bit of a bummer with him heading off to AFCON soon. Hopefully he returns with the same form.
- Granit Xhaka trapped a ball with his back for a bit of sauce today. And at one point, he was the furthest forward looking for a through ball. I’m not really sure what was going on, but I’ll take it. He also got a yellow card for, as far as I can tell, being Granit Xhaka.
- Alexandre Lacazette is playing well. That he’ll drop into deeper positions to link up the play has been quite helpful in turning around the attack. Along with Martin Ødegaard, he’s the best, most frequent presser on the team. And he broke the Gunners’ streak of three consecutive missed penalties in the Premier League, so that’s good.
- Gabriel Martinelli put in an especially good defensive shift against Max Aarons. Had a goal called back for offside. His energy and movement have been transformative.
- Emile Smith Rowe scored his fourth consecutive substitute goal (H/T @HarveyDownes92 for the stat). Set up Alexandre Lacazette to win the penalty. He’s in a great run of form.
- Bukayo Saka put in a blinder today with his brace, both of them really nice shots. If the finishing switch has finally flipped with him, watch out.
- Martin Ødegaard - Man of the Match. Since returning to the lineup, he’s been Arsenal’s best, most important player. He makes everything tick and hit some particularly nice passes today to set up chances and goals. One relatively innocuous moment sums up the biggest thing he adds: he came all the way wide right about 20 yards on Arsenal’s half of midfield to be an option for an under pressure Thomas Partey in the midfield. Ødegaard finds space and makes himself available as an outlet to teammates. It helps so much with ball retention and progression.
The Gunners are next in action on Tuesday against Wolves, a quick turnaround to be sure. Hopefully Mikel Arteta’s men keep up the current form and don’t return any additional COVID-positives (Calum Chambers, Cedric Soares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles all missed out because of COVID today).
This run of playing well, scoring a bunch of goals, and winning games is fun.