Norwich, not won a match all season, haven’t beaten Arsenal at home in well over 20 years. It’s when I hear stats like this before a game that I begin to worry, as we seem to have got into the habit in recent seasons of dropping points in games we should be winning with ease, and my fears proved to be well founded on Saturday. This was our worst performance of the season by a very long way, and probably the worst since last season’s thrashing at Old Trafford.
We hardly created any chances and generally seemed to lack any spark in midfield, with Cazorla, Arteta and Ramsey proving ineffective against the hardwork and determination of a Norwich midfield far less technically gifted but far more committed to the cause. Midweek internationals obviously played a part, but can’t be used as an excuse, Chelsea, Man Utd & Man City were all losing in their games but they all battled back and got the three points, and we need to start showing the same battling qualities and start to fight for the wins or we will, yet again find ourselves struggling to maintain our top four place this season, and with us already being ten points behind league leaders Chelsea a title challenge is looking very unlikely unless things change dramatically and very soon.
It’s easy to point the finger at Mannone’s mistake for the goal, but he’s our 3rd choice keeper for a reason, he simply isn’t good enough to be number one, but until Szczesny returns from injury there’s not much we can do about it. Our defence wasn’t the problem Saturday though, generally we handled the threat from Norwich pretty well, offensively however, we were very poor and rarely troubled a team that had conceded 17 goals in 7 games. I think when we play Giroud up front, we need to adapt our style of play a bit more to suit him. He can hold the ball up and wins a lot of headers but there’s never anyone close enough to him to take advantage of his knock downs, multiple times he goes up and wins the header, knocking the ball into space but there’s no one there looking for the second ball, I think we either need to start playing with two up front or one of the midfielders has to start anticipating him winning the ball in the air and get much closer to him.
Also we need to start putting more balls into the box, for years we’ve never really crossed the ball from out wide as we’ve never had anyone in there that was much of a threat but Giroud is exactly that, so we need to start putting in a few more crosses for him and as he showed for France in the week he is capable of scoring important goals with his head.
Credit has to go to Norwich, who clearly had a gameplan and carried it out to perfection, as soon as they got a goal you knew it was going to be very difficult to break them down, but to be fair to them they didn’t just sit on their one goal lead they kept pushing to try and make it two and looked far more dangerous than we did. They were the better team and fully deserved the three points, they worked hard, were committed and were willing to fight for each other, something one or two of our players should take a bit of notice of.
Nobody covered themselves in glory against Norwich, at best a couple of defenders did ok, apart from that everyone was dissapointing, Gervinho’s last couple of games have been poor and he is perhaps in need of a rest, personally I think Arshavin should be given another chance, as poor as he was last season he is still capable of that moment of magic, that defence splitting pass, or shot from nothing, and I don’t think he could perform worse than most of them did Saturday.
Jack Wilshere is due to play for the under 21′s on Monday, and without wanting to heap the pressure on him, he sure is needed at the moment, it will take him a while to get back to his best but Wilshere at 75% is still a better player than Ramsey for me. Presumably he will again be on the bench for the Schalke game on Wednesday, where hopefully with a home crowd behind them, we can play a bit more like the Arsenal we know and love and not the Sunday league lot that turned up at Norwich.