Result: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Competition: Premier League
Date: 1 July 2020
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Starting lineup: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Xhaka, Ceballos, Tierney, Nelson, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Subs: Macey, Sokratis, Holding, Cedric, Maitland-Niles, Willock, Saka, Pepe, Nketiah
A brace from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and strikes from Granit Xhaka and debutant Cedric Soares secured a 4-0 win for Arsenal against Norwich that takes the Gunners up to seventh in the table.
In what was arguably the most polished performance of Mikel Arteta’s time in charge, the Gunners played some very tidy football and most importantly punished the visitors for their errors.
Poor defending gifted Aubameyang either side of the break, the move that led up to Xhaka’s strike was a throwback to the good old days and Soares’ screamer just moments after coming on as a sub was enough to bring a smile to the face of even the most curmudgeonly Gooner.
All in all, an enjoyable night at the Emirates for the players and not a bad one for the rest of us at home.
Bukayo Saka’s reward for signing a new contract was a place on the bench. To be fair, after four consecutive games he deserved a break. Reiss Nelson took his place in the starting lineup. The only other change from the side that started at Sheffield United was Dani Ceballos’ presence in the centre of midfield in place of Joe Willock. Surprisingly, David Luiz, who limped off at Bramall Lane with a knee problem, was fine to play.
For the first time in a long time, Arsenal played a half of football that they genuinely seemed to enjoy. Buoyed by a couple of consecutive wins, back in familiar surroundings after four away games and facing the Premier League’s bottom side, we looked confident. If you squinted your eyes, we even looked like we had a bit of swagger about us.
The passing was crisp, the formation effective and the movement quick and incisive. By and large, it was 45 minutes of attack versus defence. Granted, the Canaries did have a couple of potshots at goal – Godfrey hit the post from 35-yards and McClean forced Martinez into a smart stop from a free-kick in stoppage time – but other than that, it was all us.
Dani Ceballos was particularly eye-catching. The Spaniard has too often been a passenger in games this season but here he was threading balls inside the Norwich full-backs with aplomb and showing forward intent at every opportunity. Norwich got so frustrated, two of their players, Rupp and McClean, both resorted to hacking him and ended up in the book.
Up front, Aubameyang pulled wide like Thierry to support Tierney’s touchline hugging position. Our captain stung Krul’s palm with an early effort and was also fed in nicely by Nelson on 19 minutes. After four games without a goal, he looked desperate to get on the scoresheet. He wasn’t to be denied.
On 32 minutes, Auba chased down Krul who dared to take him on. The Dutchman couldn’t get the ball out of his feet, had the ball stolen off him and with then had to watch our striker roll the ball home into an empty net. It was the Gabon international’s 50th goal in 77 appearances; the quickest any Arsenal player has reached that milestone. (1-0)
We consolidated our advantage five minutes later. Again Aubameyang was involved. This time laying off to Xhaka to crash home on the run. The move had started with Luiz spraying a lovely ball to Tierney. (2-0)
Both sides made changes at the break, Rob Holding coming on for Mustafi and the visitors bringing on three players. One of new faces, Adam Idah, immediately tested Martinez with a low effort that forced a terrific save from our keeper. Hernandez fired another shot over the bar not long after.
Nelson’s evening ended before the hour mark as Arteta tinkered with his set-up to counter Norwich’s threat. Willock came on to play in front of Ceballos and Xhaka.
With nothing to lose, the visitors kept pushing forward and VAR was forced to check a possible penalty when Kolasinac tumbled Cantwell. Had it been in the box, it might have been given. As it turned out, the nudge was at least a yard outside so nothing was given. It was a very dopey 15 minutes for the Gunners.
Thankfully, Norwich were the masters of their own downfall again. A suicidal pass played blind across his own box by Drmic fell straight to Aubameyang who had the simple task of tucking home past Krul for his second. It was calamitous defending. Quite Arsenal, in fact. Auba jogged to the touchline to celebrate with Saka who was warming-up. (3-0)
With 15 minutes remaining, Cedric Soares came on for his Arsenal debut. 152 days in the making, he took over from Bellerin. Would you believe it? He only went and netted a screamer inside five minutes. After a corner was cleared to him on the edge of the box, he nudged the ball onto his left foot and crashed home a sweet striker. (4-0)
Willock and Pepe both tried to add a fifth late on, but we settled for four. What a treat, all the same.
The three points lifts us above Sheffield United, Burnley and Sp*rs; a welcome move up the table before a tough run of games against Wolves, Leicester, Liverpool and our north London neighbours.