Norwich City's brutal reality check is a heavy price to pay at Arsenal

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Aaron Ramsey scores Arsenal's third against Norwich City.GettyImagesAaron Ramsey scores Arsenal's third against Norwich City.

Norwich City's 4-1 Premier League defeat at Arsenal in the final painful analysis proved a deeply dispiriting experience.

Not simply for the fact the Canaries were, by the end, some way short of the table-topping Gunners, despite Jonny Howson's 70th minute strike briefly raising hopes of a stirring comeback after Jack Wilshere and Mesut Ozil had seemingly put Arsene Wenger's side in total command. The manner of Aaron Ramsey's brilliant individual third goal to eventually subdue an obdurate John Ruddy, followed by Ozil's close-range fourth rocked Chris Hughton's side to the very core.

Norwich, as Wenger readily alluded to with his unprompted post-match admission, had caused the title contenders plenty of anxiety either side of the interval. The swagger and the arrogance typified by Wilshere's sublime finish to a breathtaking team move for Arsenal's early opener had long since evaporated as Leroy Fer drove the visitors forward from midfield.

- Cross: Sublime strikes fire Gunners to victory

Wojciech Szczesny was still largely a protected species even in City's most dominant spell, but when Howson flashed a low strike past the Polish international to reduce Arsenal's margin for error there was an undeniable sense of unease sweeping around the Emirates.

City's toil and collective effort had raised the tantalising prospect of counter-balancing the Gunners' superior quality until the hosts' ruthless double salvo restored the natural order.

Norwich and their loyal supporters know the pitfalls of meeting the best in the Premier League on a good day, but it was still a chastening final quarter to witness the surgical precision with which Arsenal tore into the visitors. That latent menace was unleashed in a collective move through the gears by Arsenal which underlined the gulf that exists between the European aspirants and the rest.

As Ramsey slalomed his way through City's rearguard to slot a superb third and the unmarked Ozil held his station to roll home another vibrant attacking move moments later it was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for the Canaries. Bridging that inequality gap had never looked further away than in the final portion of a masterclass from Wenger's multi-national squad.

Ruddy had proved magnificently defiant in the second period whenever Arsenal had threatened to finally end Norwich's brave resistance, yet in the final reckoning the England keeper still shipped four goals. And there was a feeling it could have been much worse as Per Mertesacker's glancing header drifted fractions wide and Ramsey was denied numerous times.

The Canaries' Premier League survival prospects do not hinge on trips to Arsenal or Chelsea's similarly late onslaught to claim all three points last time out at Carrow Road. They will be defined by overcoming their next visitors to Norfolk, Cardiff City.

Hughton was again quick to reference a performance that deserved more, but that will not buy him any grace if his side fail to sweep aside the Bluebirds on home soil this coming weekend. The reality as Norwich stumbled away from the Emirates was that they remain mired in the bottom three with another bruising dent to their goal difference.

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