Arsenal’s comprehensive 4-1 victory over Norwich at the Emirates on Saturday gave the home fans a masterclass of mouthwatering team and individual brilliance.
The Gunners demonstrated their verve and tenacity as a team in the first half via Jack Wilshere’s sensational goal, working in tandem with Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla to combine for a spectacular Arsenal goal 18 minutes in. Manager Arsene Wenger praised Wilshere’s opening goal as ‘one of the best’ in his 16-year reign in North London – and he should know.
Mesut Ozil doubled the Gunners lead after half time, on 58 minutes, with a header meeting a cross from Giroud after the German record signing had sprinted from deep inside his own defensive half to get on the end of the move – a display of commitment and determination, as well as physical prowess on the part of the playmaker not well-known for his aerial ability.
The third came from Aaron Ramsey (who came on for the injured Mathieu Flamini in the first half) in what was a moment of individual brilliance – the Welshman demanded the ball from his colleague Wilshere just inside the opposition’s penalty area and, upon receiving the ball, skipped past the first defender sliding in on him, feigned his shot to deceive the second, dummied again, got his head up, picked his spot and made the finish past the goalkeeper and the incoming third defender - simply breath-taking stuff.
The pundits on BBC’s Match of the Day compared Ramsey to Zinedine Zidane and there really isn’t much higher praise one could offer a young midfielder – I don’t know if he was quite at that level but he was certainly, in that game with that confidence, in that vein of form and with that technique not too far off the French master.
The fourth goal was another clever little finish from Ozil on 88 minutes, by which point the Gunners had pretty much put the game to bed – the backlash Norwich dealt them for about half and hour each side of the interval had been completely swept away by Ramsey’s goal and the North Londoners were back in complete control of the game for the last ten minutes.
The German fed the ball out wide to Nicklas Bendtner (who had come on for Giroud) and the Dane dragged the ball inside off the channel to back-heel a pass to Tomas Rosicky (who had replaced Cazorla) who spotted the run of Ramsey towards the byline at the back post, picked out the Welshman who dinked it back in with one touch into the path of Ozil who guided it into the back of the net past the keeper.
It was a game of one touch football at it’s best – slick assured passing, an homage to total football at times, as others have commented, but along with the technical ability and audacity of the football Arsenal’s played over the course of the 90 minutes, they were also resolute, committed and focused defensively too (apart from Norwich’s one goal which could be accounted for perhaps tighter marking and more courageous blocking from Kieran Gibbs perhaps as well as a better clearance from Per Mertesacker, if we’re being picky).
Even without Flamini they were self-assured, protected themselves well and completely dominated the game – even under pressure from the visitors they never really looked like coming unstuck and getting nervous the way that have in recent seasons.
Of the goals I think it’s obviously got to be the opener from Wilshere et al or Ramsey’s and, I suppose it boils down to whether your personal preference is for individual or collective brilliance.
Personally, I have to agree with Wenger in that the opener was just magical and we rarely see goals as impressive as that in England – perhaps only Barcelona or Spain could and would score a goal like that – where as, although Ramsey’s was magnificent in and of itself, I do remember Theo Walcott doing something relatively similar against Newcastle earlier this year. It was a fantastic individual goal that epitomizes his season so far but it was not quite as unique as the first goal which just left everyone in the stands with their mouths agape.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald