Wasteful Arsenal finally get up and running with victory over Norwich
Arteta hails 'another step' in Gunners' recovery but only one goal from 30 shots
11 September, 2021 — By Richard Osley at Emirates Stadium
FA Premier League
ARSENAL 1 (Aubameyang)
NORWICH CITY 0
A GOAL! Yes folks, Arsenal have broken their duck with their first strike of the league season courtesy of some penalty area pinball and an open net tap-in. They all count (after VAR) no matter how they go in and after five and a half hours without one, Gunners manager Mikel Arteta will have been more than glad that this little beauty squeezed in.
One from the 30 Arsenal attempts against newly-promoted Norwich City isn’t the greatest return, however. It is a moot point whether the wastefulness underlines the problems that the club faces in turning around its fortunes, or the ‘three points is the main thing’ vibe should prevail.
With nothing getting past Tim Krul, and the Canaries keeper wasting time almost from the off, there must have been a brief moment when Arteta was thinking the game could drift away to a stalemate, or worse.
Maybe it isn’t the evening to be too negative because Arsenal played much of the match on the front foot. Granit Xhaka was missing in the midfield through suspension following his red card against Manchester City last month – he has contracted Covid in Switzerland so would not have been able to play anyway – and, happily, the reshaped line-up looked forward rather than sideways.
Martin Odegaard and Albert Sambi Lokonga are talented passers and should grow into important first teamers. The new signing Takehiro Tomiyasu, meanwhile, brought some first day verve to the side, almost scoring at one stage with an acrobatic volley.
A host of chances were created but each time it was just a little beyond someone, a cross swung in an inch too high, a through ball too late.
Norwich were uninspiring, searching for that draw with the slow play and the tough back line. Given the pundits had said they should be looking to win at a ‘club in crisis’ like Arsenal, their attitude was suffocating. If they do this too often, they will deserve to be relegated.
Arsenal sang, jokingly we must assume, ‘we are staying up’ once Aubameyang scored on 66 minutes. Bukayo Saka and Nicolas Pepe had been involved with the woodwork harmed as the ball rolled across to the centre forward. There were complaints about handball and offside but the officials decided Aubameyang had actually been found by an accidental Norwich touch. One to debate all night.
Aubameyang could have had more, rattling Krul’s ankles when well-placed. The substitute Emile Smith Rowe was thwarted by an even better save. It might have been expected to have been precarious for Arsenal, given recent form, but Norwich lacked the imagination to make things nervy.
Arsenal too looked a little tougher at the back with Ben White partnering Gabriel, and new keeper Aaron Ramsdale looking confident after being chosen ahead of Bernd Leno. The warmth he received suggested the fans already have chosen their new favourite number one.
“I want to see how they perform,” said Arteta afterwards about his keeper options. “We need to win football matches. Whoever gives the better performance, whoever transmits more confidence and whoever is reliable is going to play.”
He added: “I was so pleased that we won the game and that’s it. I think everybody was probably inside themselves. Obviously today you saw a different team, with different names, with different qualities. Just different. We want to change things, we want to evolve things and we know what we want to get. Today was just another step.”
ARSENAL: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu (Smith Rowe 62), Tierney, White, Gabriel, Maitland-Niles (Soares 82), Lokonga (Partey 62), Odegaard, Saka, Pepe, Aubameyang
SUBS NOT USED: Chambers, Lacazette, Leno, Mari, Martinelli, Tavares
NORWICH CITY: Krul, Aaros, Williams, Hanley, Omobamidele, Lees Melou, Rupp (Idah 80), McLean, Dowell (Cantwell 62), Tzolis (Rashica 69), Pukki
SUBS NOT USED: Gibson, Gilmour, Gunn, Kabak, Normann, Sorensen