domingo, 20 de octubre de 2013

Arsenal 4 Norwich City 1 - match report -

The fond suggestion, of course, has always been that Arsenal would kill to achieve the perfect goal, one effectively walked into the net after a series of beautiful threaded flicks and passes.

Here, the Emirates' wish was their command. After a stultifying first quarter of an hour, they delivered so sweetly, this move was so brilliant and intricate, it was as if it could not initially be computed by the brain. Certainly, not by the visiting defence's combined brain power at any rate.

Sixty thousand seemed stunned. When Wilshere side-footed home, it was not greeted by complete rapture but almost with a touch of hesitancy. Was it almost too perfect? No. Surely it was going to have to be chalked off for, say, Wilshere being offside? No chance. Norwich's players just stood there, mystified as to how their packed ranks could have been so amazingly undone.

This is how: Mathieu Flamini battled to win the ball in his own half, Wilshere took over, finding Kieran Gibbs down the left flank, who in turn sent Santi Cazorla marauding inside.

Then it got complicated, as if the edge of the Norwich box turned into a giant pinball machine: Wilshere to Cazorla to Wilshere, via Olivier Giroud, to Wilshere, to Giroud, and finally Wilshere yet again to slide the ball past a befuddled John Ruddy.

To make it more extraordinary, these had not just been run-of-the mill touches; Wilshere's second had been flicked instantly with the side of the foot and Giroud's back-heel and then the back flick which finally set up the goal as Wilshere burst through the offside trap were wondrous.

Top that! For a spell, Arsenal tried but, with Norwich sticking to their game plan of having practically only Gary Hooper ahead of the ball, the home side found it harder to find another magical route through. When they did, Ruddy made a fabulous stop even while diving the wrong way.

When Flamini had to come off before half-time, concussed after an earlier knock which could yet keep him out of this week's Champions League date with Borussia Dortmund, this formidable artisan was initially missed among the artists as Norwich began to peep out of their shell, encouraged enough for Leroy Fer to have a decent dart from long range.

Arsenal temporarily lost their glue and even when another scintillating five-touch move, which started just outside their own box and ended with Özil heading home Giroud's cross, eased their concerns, Norwich still made them pay for a careless clearance from Per Mertesacker and poor closing down from Gibbs as Jonny Howson slapped one back. It was as if Norwich had poked a bees' nest as Arsenal swarmed all over them, playing dazzling, high-pace football for the last 20 minutes, capped by a brilliant, slaloming individual goal from Flamini's irrepressibly confident replacement Aaron Ramsey, before the Welshman provided the beautiful cushioned touch which allowed Özil to slide home the fourth.

It was all so enjoyable that somebody even dared mention the word 'Invincibles' to Wenger, leaving him to smile it was not even Christmas yet.

Still, it was noticeable he was not exactly pooh-poohing the comparison as his men made it a dozen games unbeaten since that opening day reverse to Villa. Which seems an awfully long time ago.

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