Substitutes help save lacklustre Arsenal

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Lukas Podolski completes the scoring as Arsenal win 3-1GettyImagesLukas Podolski completes the scoring as Arsenal win 3-1.

It feels a bit like Arsenal got out of jail, but a 3-1 win against Norwich moves them into third place in the Premier League.

It was late and not exactly great, but the Gunners did enough in the end, and although obituaries were probably being written as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Arsene Wenger's men showed real guts to take the points.

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Let's be clear, they didn't play well all day. Against a Norwich side that got as many men behind the ball as possible when Arsenal had it, they struggled to create real openings, even if Gervinho probably should have put them ahead in the first half after a wonderful Santi Cazorla pass.

Jack Wilshere replaced the injured Tomas Rosicky and looked miles off the pace. The Englishman had a poor game, and it was no surprise to see him replaced shortly after Norwich went ahead. Aaron Ramsey -- excellent again -- worked hard to provide some of the energy Arsenal required, but his effort wasn't replicated by enough of his teammates. Despite the home side dominating the game in terms of possession, it was no real surprise when the visitors scored.

I think even the staunchest Canaries fan will admit they got lucky with the goal. Kieran Gibbs was penalised for a foul on Kei Kamara, but replays showed the Norwich striker tripped over his own feet. It wasn't the worst decision referee Mike Jones made during the game, but it might have been fatal for Arsenal, as poor defending allowed Michael Turner to nod Chris Hughton's team into the lead.

Wenger reacted by bringing on Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, to replace Wilshere and Gervinho, and the England international should have had a penalty when he was clearly barged inside the area. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then came on for Bacary Sagna, with Ramsey moving to right back, and eventually Arsenal's pressure told.

The assistant referee had a better game than the main man, spotting the fact that Olivier Giroud had been hauled back in the area after an Arsenal corner, and although Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn got a hand to Mikel Arteta's penalty, it wasn't enough to prevent the Spaniard from equalising.

Scintillating running from Oxlade-Chamberlain, and a clever one-two with Podolski, allowed Giroud to put Arsenal ahead before German international Podolski curled home the goal that sealed the win in injury time after a pass from Walcott.

The substitutions had a decisive impact on the game. Podolski made his return with a goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain ran directly at the Norwich defence, and Walcott will get an assist for the third goal.

If not quite a great escape, it was important that Arsenal won Saturday with a difficult fixture Tuesday against Everton. If we can criticise for the paucity of the performance overall, we have to give credit for battling right until the end and taking the three points.

We often hear that the measure of a good team is one that can win when not playing well. It's easy for heads to go down and to think the goals will never come, so at this point of the season it's worth focusing on the positive outcome rather than the frustrating 85 minutes that preceded it.

Wenger won't be blind to it. He'll want to ensure his team doesn't play like that against Everton, but it's worth considering that this is a game Arsenal might have lost last season; they slipped up in a similar fixture against QPR at this stage of the last campaign.

There's work to be done before Tuesday, but with three points under their belts and seven wins from their last eight Premier League games, it looks as if Arsenal have found momentum at the right time.

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