Sublime strikes fire Gunners to victory

Posted by John Cross

Mesut Ozil notched Arsenal's second at home to Norwich City.GettyImagesMesut Ozil notched Arsenal's second at home to Norwich City.

The scoreline makes it look like it was a walkover. Arsenal's 4-1 drubbing of Norwich, however, was anything but. In fact, the Gunners looked vulnerable at times and Norwich nearly got themselves back in the contest.

But this was not about Arsenal's performance. It was all about the quality of the goals. They were from the top drawer.

Jack Wilshere's opener was a near perfect team goal. Intricate passing between Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs, Santi Cazorla and then a beautiful exchange and best flick contest with Olivier Giroud. All finished off with a beautiful, neat, right foot volley from Wilshere.

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Then, in amongst two outstanding Mesut Ozil goals, was a superb solo effort by Aaron Ramsey. Two dummies, turning defenders inside out and then a composed finish past Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy. Sublime stuff.

In all honesty, it could have been 8-1; Ruddy, part of the current England set up and hoping to make the plane to Brazil 2014, made save after save. Arsenal's forward play and passing was simply breathtaking at times.

And yet, Norwich had long spells of possession and looked dangerous, particularly after defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini went off injured before half time.

Once that happened, Arsenal's defence looked vulnerable because their midfield offered the back four little protection.

Jonny Howson got Norwich back in it, to make it 2-1 after 70 minutes, and Anthony Pilkington had a great chance. But Norwich couldn't quite find the finishing touch.

It was a bizarre game as 4-1 flattered Arsenal in many ways. Yet the quality of the goals were sensational. And Arsenal could have won more comfortably. In form striker Giroud did not score but his all round play was outstanding.

The Gunners definitely need Flamini in that midfield anchor role as he combines passing with steel. But Ramsey, due a rest after his schedule, came on and made the difference to win the game.

Arsenal have so many options in midfield but it is only Flamini who offers a real defensive role. Mikel Arteta is terrific at what he does, but is not a defensive midfielder. Ramsey wants to drive forward. Wilshere and fit-again Cazorla are also midfield creators, not destroyers.

So this game taught us three things: Arsenal need Flamini as a fixture in this team, the Gunners have immense quality going forward and the approach play is superb and finally, they are in the title race for the long haul.

Yes, they've had an easy start in terms of opposition. You could even accuse them of being flat track bullies. Arsenal play Crystal Palace next Saturday, but then they have a hard run, including Liverpool, Chelsea in the Capital One Cup and Manchester United.

But if they play as well as they did against Norwich going forward and have Flamini to help shore up the back then the best will struggle to live with them.

Arsenal are in this title race.


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