Another two points dropped for Arsenal, but of far more concern is the dreaded injury curse shows no sign of abating.
The match began so well for Arsene Wenger’s men. Ozil latched onto a superb pass by the lurking Alexis Sanchez and an impudent finish from the German put Arsenal a goal up.
But, Arsenal’s alternate jersey is still winless as Lewis Grabban aptly grabbed an equaliser and in all honesty, comfortably saw out the rest of the game.
Arsenal had Aaron Ramsey start his first game since his return from injury and displaced Joel Campbell on the right. More distressing news for Gooners was the fact Arsenal had chosen to go with the alternate jersey which oversaw the embarrassments of Sheffield Wednesday and Bayern Munich. Hopefully, this would just be hokum….
The Gunners also had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench to boost a flagging squad but would this be enough to dispel the ongoing November hoodoo that has hounded Arsene in his tenure? An average of 1.6 pts earned in this month under his stewardship shows that November represents the wobble in the league that befalls most teams, but the general opinion was that this game would see Arsenal return to winning ways.
The first half an hour saw Arsenal retain possession well and pose some threat to John Ruddy’s goal, but Laurent Koscielny clutching his hip on the fourteenth minute had Gooners everywhere cursing the lack of luck our team has in terms of fitness. Gabriel was the ready made replacement for the Frenchman and with no pressure on our rearguard at first, it looked like it would not affect the outcome too much.
Then, John Ruddy attempted to clear the ball and Gary O’Neil couldn’t control quickly enough to avert the ball falling to a rampaging Alexis Sanchez, who took the bobbling ball and despatched it to Mesut Ozil, who made a run into the box and chipped it over an onrushing John Ruddy and into the net.
It was incisive, it was rapid. It was enough to carve open the Canaries and give us the lead.
Then, the moment we feared occurred. Alexis, who had just begun to regain the form he is capable of, pulled up clasping his thigh. So often the signature of another diminutive South American – Sergio Aguero – Alexis on the deck is never a sight any self-respecting Gooner wants to see. The man never wants to miss a minute so to see Sanchez trudging off was testament to the severity of the injury. The clouds began to gather.
Then, the sucker punch. A good ball from Robbie Brady should have been routinely dealt with by Gabriel, but instead he let Lewis Grabban get the wrong side of him and no amount of pressure would deny Grabban the chance to put the ball past Cech.
1-1, and the game had swung. From there, the game was there for Norwich to take but mercifully the half time whistle blew.
The second half is normally where any fugue is removed in the dressing room and Arsenal come out with renewed vigour, but Norwich remained in the ascendancy. Chances weren’t exactly coming in a glut, but it appeared as if the Canaries would be the team to grab a winner if any were to be scored.
Our midfield were sluggish and any counter attack was often rendered moot by sideways passing or a lack of zip on the ball or attacking reinforcements. Many will blame Olivier Giroud for a lack of threat, but he could do nothing with the lack of service he received. There was little for Giroud to work with and when a ball did come into the box that he could work with, he applauded vigorously.
There was the odd decision in which Gooners vented at the match official, in particular when Alexis was shoved into the concrete photographer pit a la Mathieu Debuchy versus Stoke last season and when substitute Joel Campbell was manhandled when attempting to connect to a cross, but Arsenal were their own worst enemy, with virtually no pressing for possession.
Santi Cazorla was also hobbling on one leg by the end of the game, but by this point, all three substitutes had been made and he was forced to grin and bear whatever pain he had.
When the whistle blew to end the game, there was little to complain of. Norwich shrugged off the good start from Arsenal and applied a game plan which worked.
This wasn’t anything like the West Brom disappointment. In the game against the Baggies, we could count ourselves unlucky to lose any points as we created much and it was only profligacy which cost us dearly.
In this game, we simply didn’t turn up for sixty minutes.
As always in my match reviews, I always look to the positives at the end, regardless of the result. I certainly have some we can latch onto.
The next game will see the dreaded cup jersey banished. November will have ended as well.
Still just two points off the top spot amidst our recent malaise in the league, we can count ourselves very lucky.