Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Sagna, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud
Subs: Szczesny, Monreal, Wilshere, Kallstrom, Flamini, Diaby, Sanogo
Arsenal concluded the Premier League season with a fifth consecutive win as they beat Norwich City 2-0 at Carrow Road to consolidate fourth place in the table. Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson grabbed the goals in the second half as Arsene Wenger’s men took their points tally to 79 points, they’re highest total since 2007/08.
The boss sprang something of a surprise ahead of kick-off opting to rotate a couple of players but certainly not as many as might have been expected ahead of the FA Cup final. At the back Wojciech Szczesny and Per Mertesacker were rested with Lukasz Fabianski starting in goal, his first league appearance of the season, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson back on full-back duty and Bacary Sagna partnering Laurent Koscielny in the middle. Aside from the returning Tomas Rosicky, starting in place of Santi Cazorla, the midfield and attack were the same that started against West Brom last weekend.
As you might expect from a dead rubber, the game resembled a training exercise from the off. Norwich, needing to win by a bazillion goals to stand any chance of staying up, appeared resigned to their fate while the men in red and white strutted about in second gear making the occasional pass and tackle but little else.
The first shot in anger came on 17 minutes as Redmond stung Fabianski’s palms before Arsenal awoke from their slumber to step up the pace in the pouring rain. In a 20-minute spell that saw Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey pulling the strings with nonchalant ease the Gunners squandered three great chances, John Ruddy first blocking a Podolski effort at close range before making two spectacular stops to deny Giroud.
At the other end Sweden’s answer to Grant Holt, Johan Elmander, did little to win over the frustrated home support as he spectacularly deflected wide a Robert Snodgrass effort with his sizable arse just before the break.
The Gunners continued to press for an opener after the break and within eight minutes finally got their goal. Great work by Olivier Giroud culminated in a fine dinked ball over the Norwich defence where Aaron Ramsey, arriving at the back post, angled a textbook volley into the top corner. The strike was a thing of beauty and a worthy rival to Wilshere’s pass-tastic goal of the season contender against the Canaries back in October. (1-0)
Just past the hour mark, Arsenal doubled their lead. Kieran Gibbs bombed down the left and cut back to Podolski in a crowded box. The German’s effort was deflected into the path of Carl Jenkinson who bobbled home his first ever goal in a Gunners shirt. It wasn’t the prettiest of strikes but as a boyhood Gooner he celebrated like he’d won the World Cup. Good on him. (2-0)
Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Yaya Sanogo all got run outs in the aftermath of the goal as Ramsey, Rosicky and Giroud earned breathers before Wembley. The return of Diaby, on his 28th borthday, was greeted by particularly raucous noise by the travelling fans who delighted in reminding the world he once ‘knocked John Terry out’.
In the final 15 minutes Fabianski stopped Norwich’s young striker Loza and did well to close down Snodgrass, Arteta had a deflected free-kick saved and Sanogo, desperately attempting to break his duck, was also denied by the impressive Ruddy.
So a routine victory, seemingly achieved without injury complications, draws a line under another league campaign. It started horrifically, improved dramatically and in the blink of an eye was ripped to shreds. In the end the bare minimum, Champions League qualification, has been achieved but before we analyse whether this season marks progress or not there’s an FA Cup final to look forward to.
What did she wear?