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Arsenal 3 Norwich City 3

I have maintained anxiety in the race for third for a number of weeks now. Sans Arteta and Walcott the side doesn`t appear to function the same, other key players have been stretched to braking point whilst many a squad player has barely had a kick. Still, Arsenal`s destiny stayed in their own hands. But the "mind the gap" gloating by a good portion of the fan base over the last few weeks had plenty of potential to back fire. Counting your chickens can lead to egg on your face. Still, the build up was relaxed enough despite the dreary November weather. A pre match conference with girlfriend and mother ensuring that.

But the Gunners got off to the best possible start inside just 2 minutes. Tomas Rosicky sprayed the ball to the left, finding birthday boy Yossi Benayoun. Kieran Gibbs made a deceptive overlapping run, which Benayoun used to shimmy his way past Martin before bending a delicious curler into the top corner. It should have been the platform for a comfortable afternoon, instead it was merely an excuse to sit back as, once again, this team committed the cardinal sin of believing they had accomplished well before time. It`s become an endemic and disturbing part of this side`s make up. Norwich began to dominate possession in the midfield. Ramsey`s legs looked heavy as his attempts at closing down were weary. But they bested Song`s "effort", which screamed "the big I am." The Canaries might have levelled when Jackson crossed for the left; Szczesny was in no man`s land as Holt headed the ball just over.

The warning signs were there but not heeded. Only a superb last ditch block from Kieran Gibbs prevented Hoolahan from equalising from close range. But Elliott Bennett found Naughton`s over lapping run from right back, which went untracked. His low cross picked out Hoolahan, who was unmarked, and his shot squirmed through Szczesny`s grip and into the net. But if that goal was an example of comedy defending, there was an unpleasant hint of arrogance in the concession of the second. Vermaelen galloped forward from centre half completely needlessly. Below me Kieran Gibbs, at left back, bellowed himself hoarse to Alex Song to cover. Song looked around but ignored his junior teammate. None of this defending lark for the mighty through ball king. The result was inevitable Norwich broke. Vermaelen barely jogged back, Ramsey jogged, Song ran then stopped. Holt found Hoolahan on the left with only Gibbs and Koscielny attending to their defensive duties, Hoolahan then teed up Holt whose shot deflected in off the sole of Gibbs` boot. It was a well deserved lead.

The Gunners barely looked threatening with the visitors more likely to stretch their lead on the counter, given Arsenal`s total disregard for tracking back. Gervinho did smuggle his way past Martin in the area and pulled back for Gibbs, but his reluctance to do anything at all with his right foot saw him drag the shot wide with his left. The players left the field at half time with the boos ringing in their ears. One imagines Wenger`s boot awaited all of their backsides. It appeared to work as the Gunners quickened the tempo. They still had a hard time breaking through, hence the introductions of Chamberlain and Chamakh- who looked livelier than he has at any time during the last 18 months. Chamakh`s arrival at least occupied the Canaries defenders and freed up van Persie- though he did screw a right footed shot wide.

Arsenal eventually found their equaliser when van Persie found Rosicky in the area, he missed his shot and the ball fell to Chamakh, whose effort was blocked. The ball wormed its way out to Song, who attempted his sixth through ball of the game. It proved to be the sixth time lucky as he found van Persie on the back post, who beautifully cushioned the ball past Ruddy. But with Chamakh in the area for the cross, Norwich all of a sudden had more than one player to mark. Arsenal scented blood and moved ahead minutes later. Gervinho found Rosicky, who moved the ball into the area. Chamberlain tried a flick which ricocheted fortuitously to van Persie. The Dutchman made no mistake, sweeping the ball in via the underside of Ruddy. Referee Anthony Taylor then unbelievably chided Szczesny for time wasting having tolerated Ruddy`s for a good hour previously. One wondered whether he was deliberately taking the piss.

Now all that was required was a little professionalism and solidity. It was a forlorn wish. Norwich could have equalised when Coquelin- on for the injured Sagna, tried to head the ball back to his keeper and made a hash of it. Wilbraham pulled back for Hoolahan, who skied his effort. Then slapstick came right back en vogue. Song had the chance to lay off a simple pass in midfield. But Billy Big B******s syndrome blighted him once again, hilariously overcomplicating the issue before tamely giving possession straight back to Norwich. This is a young man who is totally forgetting himself. Howson lifted the ball into Steve Morison. Where Vermaelen was at this point was a total mystery. But then much of the Belgian`s defending has been for the last 6-8 weeks. Good will and the immense form of Koscielny has masked him from criticism. Morison took a touch, set himself, before slamming the ball into the far corner. 3-3.

Still there was time for more drama. Referee Anthony Taylor watched Wilbraham nail Koscielny with two elbows in the space of a minute. One yellow card the result. Unreal. Arsenal might have moved back into the lead when Rosicky`s dinked through ball found van Persie onside, but his finish was well blocked by Ruddy, Chamakh headed the rebound agonisingly wide. But Anthony Taylor saved his best party piece for last. Chamberlain`s low cross was flicked on by Gervinho leaving Robin van Persie, double player of the year and golden boot winner elect with an open goal, a yard out in the last minute. Naughton desperately shoved van Persie and immediately, in his panic, turned to the referee waving his arms. A pretty sure sign of guilt apart from, you know, the laws of gravity, which determined that RvP ended up in the back of the net. Goal kick said Taylor. Arsenal haven`t won a single penalty at home in the entire league season. It`s hard to say anything about Taylor`s decision without inviting libel, it was that shocking. Almost as shocking as Arsenal`s defending had been all afternoon.

Still there was time for more as Song flicked Chamakh`s cross goalwards only to be denied by Ruddy. Gervinho`s cross found Vermaelen unmarked on the back post, but he lost his head and just smashed the ball across goal. Koscielny then crossed the ball back into the area, Gervinho flicked back across goal and Gibbs stole in, looking certain to net the winner, only to find Ruddy in inspired form with a brilliant stop. Though we can grumble at the referee, it`d be far more productive to grumble at the team. The lack of commitment to defending, the lack of tracking back. We obviously have more gears to go through despite the fatigue, because we showed it in the second half. Then having hauled ourselves back into the game, we inexplicably lost our heads and surrendered it again. The overcomplication in simple situations, the team sprint to attack but barely muster an amble when it comes to defending. Norwich deserved their draw with an enterprising performance that could have put them out of sight before half time. Only by virtue of Spurs slipping up at Villa does our destiny stay in our own hands. But I wouldn`t crack out the St. Totteringham`s Day champagne yet. This team shows a complete lack of resilience to pressure. Next Sunday is going to be an arse clenching kind of day. LD.

ARSENAL: 13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA (39.Coquelin `33), 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS, 17.SONG, 16.RAMSEY (15.Chamberlain `63), 7.ROSICKY, 27.GERVINHO, 30.BENAYOUN (29.Chamakh `69), 10.v.PERSIE(c). Unused: 9.J-Y.Park, 11.A.Santos, 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski.

NORWICH CITY: 1.RUDDY, 25.NAUGHTON, 19.LAPPIN, 6.R.BENNETT, 2.R.MARTIN, 8.JOHNSON, 14.HOOLAHAN (11.Pilkington `75), 24.HOWSON, 17.E.BENNETT, 9.HOLT(c) (21.Wilbraham `81), 10.JACKSON (5.Morison `69). Unused: 3.Fox, 4.Ward, 5.Surman, 13.Steer.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday May 6 2012

Time: 7:34PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
*****ign team of ********.. Totally *****ing off. Vermaelen and Szczesny and Song the worst offenders. Thing is that they are crowd favorites and exempt from any criticism.
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06/05/2012 19:49:00

It took a while to get the balance of the side right but with Arteta, Walcott and now Sagna we seem to have lost it again. The biggest loss has been the defensive awareness of Arteta - defensive midfielders needn't be crunching ball winners they just have to know where to be and when. Sadly we don't have anyone else to do that as well as Arteta does.
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06/05/2012 20:09:00

I'll forgive Szczesny as he is still young and just had a bad day at the office, but Song is just *****in infuriating, sometimes appearing as though he lacks the intelligence and concentration to be a truly top player. For me, our first choice midfield trio next season would be Arteta, Wilshere and Rosicky. I think you have to give Norwich great credit for their performance, though. As for us, our steady decline continues and yesterday was further evidence that we are a one-man team.
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06/05/2012 20:14:00

I read somewhere that we haven't won a game this season with a side that didn't feature Arteta. Not sure how true it is, but I wouldn't bit surprised at all if it were. Arteta is the player of the season for me.
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06/05/2012 20:15:00

You read right Rocky. Our record without him is P8 W0 D4 L4
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06/05/2012 20:53:00

I assume that the players watch a re-run of games, and that tactical and individual errors are discussed - there has been much need for that this season - and these are sorted out on the training pitch! What will it take to drum some sense into the likes of Song? So another "get out of jail" card has been played; I doubt they'll be that lucky next weekend. If they don't win, can only hope that they finish fourth, rather than fifth - I'm assuming that should the unthinkable happen in the Champions League final, 4th place would mean no European competition? I'd rather that than Europa League! Can someone confirm/deny please?
Frozen'ard Gunner
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06/05/2012 21:27:00

yep frozen, chavs win 4th is worthless.
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06/05/2012 21:34:00

actually i see your question now, would assume that the whole placement for europah moves up a notch so 4th is start of the europah places.
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06/05/2012 21:35:00

Thanks niko, that's a strange kind of relief to me. It's gonna be a long week though. By the way, I feel like I know you all, I've been visiting the site daily for a couple of seasons, just haven't gotten round to making a comment.
Frozen'ard Gunner
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06/05/2012 21:40:00

I assume that 4th-6th will get europah frozen may be wrong tho. Welcome anyhows mate.
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06/05/2012 21:47:00

Oh, okay, I replied to your first reponse. So it's win or well and truly bust. And now I'm chewing on my fingernails again! Funny thing is, when I first started to go to Highbury regularly, in 1976, finishing in the top half of the table was an achievement. We've all been spoilt since!
Frozen'ard Gunner
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06/05/2012 21:52:00

You can't put it all down to one player, but the minute Arteta went off against Wigan we were in trouble ( they even scored whilst he was being treated!). Without knowing, I suspect that his influence on the team is more than just good passing and alert defensive play. Let's hope that they can drag themselves over the line, next week. I bet Podolski is feeling comfortable with his decision!
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06/05/2012 22:01:00

Maybe, although the geordies have to go to everton which is far from a given and sp*rs can choke at will so a draw may still be enough, we could lose 3-2 and still be third if both sp*rs and n'castle draw 1-1. Fair play for the europah phobia I'm with you but knowing us we'd just treat it as a european carling cup to give the pre- pubescents a run out.
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06/05/2012 22:04:00

Podolskis just come from riots and relegation grouville, will be a picnic here compared to koln!
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06/05/2012 22:05:00

Welcome to the fold Frozen, it's nice to have you commenting sir!

Mikel Arteta is so economical with the ball, he hardly ever gives it away. I'm sure he has the highest success rate for passing the the PL. It's his maturity and class that makes it work. Because he's so disciplined when Song goes on his forays it's not as dangerous, but when it's Song, Ramsey and Rosicky and then we have Vermaelen and Song going on walkabouts it just leaves us wide open. I used to love Vermaelen's swashbuckling runs from CB, but now I just see it as an unavoidable danger.
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06/05/2012 23:37:00

Vermaelen has been too much shielded from criticism because of his attacking prowess. When he was injured people were using it as an excuse for our losses saying, "We played without our best defender". But he was not our best defender even then. He made mistakes even before the injury. Got too close to people too many times and sometimes too overzealous in going forward. It was only his scoring exploits that saved him the pain and raised him to a pedestal he did not deserve for his defending. If he can cut out those mistakes, however, I believe he can be our best defender. At the moment Koscielny's our best defender by a mile.
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07/05/2012 05:45:00

Theres no excuse for a below par performance at the Hawthorns. Wenger absolutely has to ensure the players go into this match knowing the consequnces of not giving 110%. No post match nonsense about playing with the handbrake on. As manager he has to make sure the fecking thing is off and his foot is hard on the accelerator. If we cant get up for a match like this with so much riding on it then we don't deserve being anywhere near the champions league.
Wyn Mills
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07/05/2012 07:48:00

The lack of competition to Song is not good and may be the reason for his complacency. That, and all the attention he gets for his through balls. With Rosicky and Ramsey in the side, the onus should be on Song to cover the defence. Vermaelen should also get some flak, he has his poor moments and is just not consistent enough to be a world class defender. I'm not sure this team can win next week, so we'll need another round of favours from Spurs, Newcastle and Chelsea to finish 3rd.
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07/05/2012 17:39:00

If these boys can't rouse themselves for one full 90 minutes of complete concentration and commitment for one more game this season then I'm going to be very disapointed. Barring some major balls up by the ref next week I fully expect us to win, because if we can't win this game for the obvious reasons then it doesn't bare thinking about.
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07/05/2012 18:18:00

Rocky, as you know, winning away from home is never easy and I don't feel confident that we'll deliver at west brom. I expect us to draw. IMO we should drop Ramsey and play coquelin in centre midfield just to provide some protection given that song now thinks of himself as our playmaker. Like prits I feel we'll need others to help us. Can only hope the same lack of pressure that helped Norwich to perform will be the case for fulham, but can't see them getting anything.
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07/05/2012 18:50:00

I refuse to live in a world where we blow this after all we've been through. These sort of things should only happen to Tottenham. So going by that, we are going to win 2-0.
Report Abuse
07/05/2012 21:03:00

Rocky, topping yourself sounds a little extreme...there's always next season.
Wyn Mills
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07/05/2012 21:09:00

I second that, Rocky!
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07/05/2012 21:58:00

What in Saturday's performance makes you guy's believe that we will win on Sunday, Hodgsons last game? The WBA will want to send their manager off to his new job with a win and this shower of ninnies we call our team will wither and die at the first onslaught. The only way we will have a chance is that someone feeds the WBA players some Lasagne before kickoff!!
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08/05/2012 08:56:00

Wenger's teams choke, that is an inescapable fact that we Gooners now have to live with. Only one team has lost more cup finals than we have in the last 15 years and that is Utd. The difference is they've won a s**t load more as well. How often have we choked when well set these last 7 years? I don't think it's a case of Gooners being spoiled more a case of "so close, so often, so bloody predictable". It wouldn't surprise me if they leave their cahones at home when we play WBA. We have recent history of doing that there already no?
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08/05/2012 11:32:00

Armory - What makes me believe we will win on Saturday is that I believe it's impossible that we're going to f*** it up again. The amount of shivering and bottling requiried to balls this up does not exist in this universe. Therefore the result can be nothing else other than a win. You see.
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08/05/2012 16:22:00

Lol! Armory. Then bring out the Lassagna!
Report Abuse
08/05/2012 18:31:00


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