It was probably the most difficult game I’ve watched, not for footballing reasons but because I’m currently at a campsite in the middle of nowhere with patchy internet. That meant I missed the first 9 minutes, and bits and pieces elsewhere, with the commentary also cutting out intermittently. Admittedly, that isn’t such a bad thing. such is the state of punditry in the UK but in the end I had to alternate between silence and French commentary as I tried to find the most reliable, lowest definition stream in the known world.
Thankfully, everything else was a cake walk because Norwich were horrendous and Tim Krul’s head is filled with putty.
It was another team selection with changes but nothing to raise eyebrows, though some of the substitutions leave room to read between the lines. I don’t think the team selection was at all responsible for the scoreline either, with Norwich seemingly hell-bent on capitulating one way or the other. The difference, as he has so often been since joining the club, was Aubameyang.
Imagine having the gall to try and Cruyff turn one of the best strikers in Europe, though. Okay, Aubameyang might have been going through a “dry patch” by his standards and I’m sure that’s not how he envisaged getting his 50th Premier League goal for the club but I would be surprised if Krul wasn’t aware of Nketiah’s goal against Southampton. Just in case he wasn’t, it’s not like Aubameyang isn’t world-renowned for being quite a pacey footballer, so I feel like my putty-head theory has some credence.
It was particularly sweet for me because I once had to endure a match at the Emirates when Krul was still at Newcastle where he was time-wasting virtually from kickoff. Thomas Vermalaen got a 95th minute winner and that really boiled his piss. A former unnamed player had also been at loggerheads with Krul, and that boiled his piss even more, so it was a good day. We also had the penalty rigmarole with him and Aubameyang coincidentally, so I’m sure it was a particularly sweet way to get his 50th.
The second came from unfamiliar territory; I don’t have the exact numbers but it’s not often you see Xhaka finishing off a move after blitzing into the box. The man has his faults but he does have a great left peg. It wasn’t the cleanest of hits – especially by his standards – but it was more than enough to fly through Tim Krul’s hopelessly slow legs. I’m definitely not bitter and karma definitely doesn’t come back to bite you. It would be a crying shame if Norwich went down, wouldn’t it Tim? Especially when you’ve been culpable for 100% of the goals. For a team bottom of the league at the start of the game, it really does break your heart doesn’t it? It would be be even worse if we also poached Cantwell, a self-proclaimed Gooner, in a position we’re looking to strengthen…
Besides a few Puskas attempts, Norwich didn’t give Martinez much to do. I thought the save for the free kick was good, if not a bit theatrical but he was probably just bored. In the end, it was another assured performance from him and I’m already feeling like he may be too good to be our backup keeper once Leno returns. I don’t like to see talent go wasted and he could well have another career like Fabianski.
For once, I’m going to give Mustafi the benefit of the doubt and remind you all that he’s played virtually every minute since the restart and it wasn’t quite his day in the first half, so Rob Holding was brought in to deputise.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were a struggle because the game just ground to a halt. Joe Willock’s introduction did little to address this and the goal was another complete gift. If the first goal wasn’t already, the third was a showpiece example as to why Norwich are anchored to the bottom of the table. Aubameyang’s always on the prowl and while he still had some work to do, it was lucky to fall his way rather than at the feet of Lacazette who once again seems to have forgotten how to shoot. His struggles are harder to explain – and justify – as time goes by; his hold-up play and ability to weave other players into our attacks is still plain to see but failing to score against a team like Norwich is definitely an issue as he wasn’t without chances. How much of an issue remains to be seen until Aubameyang’s contract is resolved, one way or the other.
Hector Bellerín has also noticeably struggled since the restart, because we know what he’s capable of. There was one occasion where he cut a particularly frustrated figure after trying to knock the back around someone and sprint past on the other side. His pace isn’t what it was and while it can still take time to recover, his technical shortcomings are more noticeable. It didn’t help matters when Soares came on and banged one in from outside the box on his debut either. We’re in a strange situation because we have a capable player returning from injury who’s short of the mark at the moment, another capable player who doesn’t want to play there and a player who’s just returned from injury (who Arteta also seems to rate) that we’ve just signed on a 4 year deal at the age of 28. I’m inclined to give Hector time to recover because he’s someone I like on and off the pitch but the question is where do you draw the line?
In the end, I thought the scoreline flattered us because we didn’t have to work for the goals, and yet, Norwich were that bad that 4-0 seems fair.
I’m not going to comment on our league position or the significance of out results until the dust of this season has settled, because everyone’s barometer of hope and/or delusion is different. That being said, results elsewhere in the league were kind to us on this occasion.
Thankfully, there were some standout performances that are worth talking about. Dani Ceballos’ resurgence under Arteta culminated in his performance against Norwich, which was perhaps buoyed by grabbing the winner against Sheffield. Having a virtuoso performance against a team like Norwich is by no means grounds to push the loan into the realms of a permanent deal but if he carries on like that against opposition that mean something, he may just win Arteta over. I wouldn’t be against it but consistency is something he needs to nail down because we know how ineffective he can be.
Granit Xhaka is also worthy of a mention, not only for his goal and the way he went about getting it, but for how he’s fought his way back into the team rather than throwing his toys out the pram as so many others have done.
And to round it all off, Saka signed da ting. It’s nice winning, and it’s the second time in Arteta’s reign that we’ve won three on the bounce, but securing Saka feels much more important than seeing out the rest of this season.