Arsenal scraped through to a draw at Carrow road, making it three games without a win in the Premier League, spanning the entire month of November. Arsenal took the lead through Mesut Ozil, but Norwich grabbed the equaliser right before the break, with Lewis Grabban holding off substitute Gabriel before slotting home past Petr Cech for his first goal in the Premier League. It was a worrying evening for Arsene Wenger, as not only did they lose the two points, they lost two of their key players in Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny – adding to a growing list of injuries. Let’s look at some of the key takeaways from the game Norwich are a well organised team at the back
Norwich were compact in defence, and after the first half an hour of play, rarely allowed Arsenal with a peak at their goal. Even Arsenal’s goal came through a mistake by Ruddy, as the Gunners struggled to get their free flowing game going and failed to create clear cut oppurtunities. Credit has to go to Norwich who made it really hard for the Arsenal midfield to play their quick passes in the middle of the park, very efficiently breaking up play. Dorrans and their captain Gary O’Neil were superb in midfield and made it easier for their defenders to contain the threat of Giroud. Norwich came into the game with a good plan and barring the little error, executed it brilliantly.
Rejecting the three bids from Bournemouth for Grabban was worth the trouble for Norwich
Lewis Grabban grabbed the headlines for Norwich earlier, earning a suspension from the club for walking away from the team before a Capital One Cup match, but justified his position in the starting lineup with a fine performance. His pace and strength was difficult for the Arsenal back line to deal with, specially having lost Koscielny early in the game. It was his replacement, Gabriel Paulista, who failed to stop Grabban as he turned and scored near the end of the first half. Manager Alex Neil will clearly be delighted with his striker’s performance and both parties will hope that the past is behind them. Ofcourse, more such performances will only further intensify interest in Grabban, but he looks committed to helping his current club do their best at the moment and will play a huge role if Norwich are to stay in the top division.
Ozil is fast becoming a difference maker for Arsenal
Although having always been a quality player, Ozil has been criticised in the past for poor performances. Even as he improved upon those and started to play a key role in Arsenal’s run to FA Cup victory last season, he was rarely the player making the difference in tight matches, with Alexis mostly being the game changer for Arsenal. But over the last three matches, the three goals that Arsenal have scored in the league, have all come through Ozil – either in the form of assists or goals. Arsenal put up a tired display against Tottenham earlier in the month, but Ozil fashioned most of the chances in that match and eventually set up Gibbs for the equaliser. Even against West Brom, when Arsenal struggled, their only goal came through an Ozil free kick. And yesterday, most of Arsenal’s chances, and not surprisingly, the goal, came from the German international. Not the lazy uninterested image he once used to project, Ozil has become the heart of Arsenal’s midfield and has managed to turn up for Arsene Wenger’s side at times when others have failed to. With Arsenal suffering injuries left, right and centre, Wenger will hope that his talisman can keep up the good form and fitness.
Arsenal need to tighten up towards the end of the first half
Over the last two matches, Arsenal have capitulated and conceded as the first half has drawn to an end. In both matches, they took the lead before the half hour mark, but as the half closed, their defence crumbled under pressure. West Brom managed to grab two in this window, and Norwich also almost grabbed a winner as well, only for Hoolahan to blast over from a great cross. It’s becoming evident that they slow down a little as the first half winds down, and teams will learn to take advantage of this fact and put more pressure on them unless they mend their ways.
Arsenal have a very thin squad and it is beginning to show
Things could not have been worse for Arsenal, as they lost Laurent Koscielny and Alexis Sanchez to injuries. Santi Cazorla too suffered a knock and may face time on the sidelines, joining Coquelin, Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky as part of Arsenal’s injured midfield. In attack, Welbeck and Walcott are still out on the sidelines, although the latter is touted to return this month. One positive for Arsenal is that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Aaron Ramsey both returned and looked fit. But Arsenal looked weak without Coquelin in the centre of the park, often being run over and not being able to handle the pressure from Norwich, and Wenger knows that Flamini won’t be good enough if his team are to mount a serious title challenge. Injuries to the other players, as well as the poor track record some of the Arsenal players have in terms of injuries means that he will have to dig into his transfer funds and make some much needed signings. Wenger faced criticism for not buying a single outfield player in the summer, but his team has managed to pull through till December staying only three points off the league leaders, but he knows that reinforcements are much needed