Arsenal left it late but took an invaluable three points against Norwich at the Emirates today as they ran out 3-1 winners.
Arsene Wenger made changes from the team that beat West Brom. Thomas Vermaelen came in for Per Mertesacker at centre-half, Kieran Gibbs replaced Nacho Monreal at left-back while fit again Jack Wilshere started in place of the injured Tomas Rosicky.
After a fairly uneventful opening, in which Arsenal probed well and had to cope with a Norwich side that got 10 men behind the ball at all times, the Gunners had their first real attempt on goal in the 23rd minute. Bacary Sagna crossed from the right hand side, Olivier Giroud’s near post header went just over the bar.
Gervinho had a chance when Arsenal won the ball back high up the pitch, but looked a bit like his old self when he overran it in the box, and the Ivorian was then put clean through by a brilliant Cazorla pass. He went around the keeper but pushed it a bit wide, before his shot rolled across the Norwich goal with no Arsenal player following in for a tap-in.
Bacary Sagna then drilled in a low cross from Giroud at the near post but the Norwich keeper made a block from the Frenchman’s smart touch. Gervinho then fired in a great cross but the rest of the Arsenal players were standing watching.
Santi Cazorla fired in a left footed shot from distance in the 40th minute but it was routine for Bunn, and after a series of late corners, an Olivier Giroud header was deflected wide as the teams went in level at the break.
There was early second half danger from Norwich as Arsenal scrambled to get a corner clear, and there were shouts for an Arsenal penalty as a Wilshere shot looked to hit a hand after good build-up from Ramsey and Gibbs.
Norwich then took the lead after being given a debatable free kick on the corner of our box. Snodgrass clipped it in, Turner had a free header and nodded home inside the near post to give the visitors the lead.
Arsene Wenger then brought on Theo Waclott and Lukas Podolski for Gervinho and Wilshere, and the England man should have had a 65th minute penalty when he was clearly pushed inside the Norwich box but the referee waved play on.
Podolski had a chance when a Sagna cross landed at his feet, but he looked like a man who hasn’t played much and his first touch was heavy. When Arsenal did work some space down the left hand side, the delivery from Gibbs was poor, and referee Mike Jones seemed allergic to giving Arsenal free kicks whilst handing them out to Norwich all day long.
Lukas Podolski thundered a shot off the bar in the 78th minute after a clever chest down by Giroud, before Arsenal made their final change bringing on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in place of Bacary Sagna.
Arsenal were then awarded a penalty when Giroud was hauled down in the box from a corner, the assistant flagged as the referee played on, and Mikel Arteta sidefooted home despite Bunn getting a touch to equalise. 1-1.
Arsenal went ahead a couple of moments later. Brilliant running at the Norwich defence from Oxlade-Chamberlain, he played a 1-2 with Podolski inside the Norwich box, got to the byline, played it across goal and Giroud stabbed home from close range, except it was actually an own goal. 2-1.
Norwich kicked off and almost equalised straight away but for a great Fabianki save, followed by another good stop from the resulting corner. It was vital from the Pole as Arsenal extended their lead just moments later.
Walcott had the ball in the box, delayed the pass, eventually gave it to Lukas Podolski who took it, turned and curled a shot into the bottom corner to seal the game. 3-1.
It was late, it wasn’t exactly great, but you can’t argue with the three points.