Arsenal 3 Norwich City 1

This had all the markings of an Arsenal win, and based on the strength of their excellent form of late, few would have given Norwich City much of a chance against a side striving for Champions League football next season. But Chris Hughton is the master of wins over his once bitter club rivals, and has shown the way with the Canaries’ win at Carrow Road earlier this season. When Michael Turner stole in on a statuesque Arsenal zonal defence, to head in the opener, Hughton’s side were on course to torpedo the Gunners’ European ambitions. With five minutes left however, a Mikel Arteta penalty levelled for the Gunners, and the whole game dynamic was to change. Olivier Giroud put Arsenal into the lead on 88 minutes having taken substitute Lukas Podolski’s cushioned return. The Arsenal number nine then drilled home a third that sends the Gunners into third place in the Premiership.

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Arsene Wenger was pleased to recall Jack Wilshere for his first start since early March. His lack of first team football was certainly evident, as the England midfielder took time adjusting to the pace of the action. Some heavy challenges would have reminded Wilshere of what he can expect, but having lasted an hour, Wenger replaced him with another returnee, Theo Walcott.

Enjoying the majority of the early possession, Arsenal didn’t actually test Mark Bunn’s goal and that would come to cause concern amongst the nervous home crowd. Santi Cazorla had earlier earned cheers when he nutmegged Grant Holt, and perhaps with the pass of the half, set off Gervinho for what should have seen Arsenal’s opener.

The Ivorian continues with his ability for the unpredictable, but having reached Cazorla’s pass, took a heavy touch that although got him beyond Bunn, the angle was too acute for his effective shot on target, as the ball trickled wide. The Canaries were not to muster any shot on Lukas Fabianskis goal in the opening forty five minutes, but through Jonathan Howson, Kei Kamara and Robert Snodgrass were able to sit back and invite the play.

Cazorla and Gervinho switched wings, yet still the opening goal didn’t arrive. Arsenal carved open the Norwich rearguard though Cazorla and Wilshere. The latter’s pass to Aaron Ramsey was gathered by Bunn after twenty minutes, with the Welshman tantalisingly close to connect with the ball. Three minutes later, Sagna fired over a cross from the right that Giroud fizzed onto the top of the City crossbar. Wilshere’s confidence grew as the game progressed, and his defensive tackle on Bradley Johnson set up Gervinho. Having worked an opening, the Ivorian took too long and found his shot blocked.

Five minutes before the break, Cazorla let fly from 25 yards, but Bunn was right behind the strike, as the Gunners finished the half the stronger with three consecutive corners. But the half remained goalless.

Arsenal’s quest for a fourth consecutive Premiership win was seriously in danger after 56 minutes. Kieran Gibbs was adjudged to have felled Kei Kamara, a decision that Wenger would later question. However, Snodgrass clipped a free-kick that Turner was able to run onto and ahead of the Gunners’ massed zonal defence to head past a helpless Fabianski.

Goals change games, and Wenger knew he had to inject life into his side. Off came Wilshere for Walcott and Gervinho for Podolski. With their first touches Arsenal went close, but Walcott’s cross was just missed by Podolski who was adjudged to be narrowly offside. The momentum was building as the Gunners went in search of the equaliser. Gibbs got past his marker, and having played a clever pass to Giroud whose cushioned chest pass to Podolski to crash the return to beat Bunn, but not his cross bar.

Ten minutes before time, Wenger brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Sagna, and his pace was to terrify the tiring Norwich defence. The Gunners finally got the equaliser from the penalty spot. Turner had earlier appeared to have pulled down Giroud in the first half, but the offence seemed to have gotten beyond the glances of referee Mike Jones, as did Walcott getting clattered by David Fox. After 83 minutes however, Kamara’s pulling down of Giroud was seen by the referee’ s assistant Richard West. The raised flag instantly went across his chest and Jones was to point to the spot.

Up stepped Arteta after what seemed an age of Norwich protests, with Bunn being shown a yellow card for his troubles. The Arsenal number eight struck firmly and beyond the dive of Bunn for a deserved 1-1 scoreline, with his second consecutive penalty scored at the Emirates, and his sixth goal of the season.

Five minutes later and Arsenal took a lead they would not relinquish. Oxlade-Chamberlain powered his way to play a clever one-two with Podolski. The ball went close to an under pressure Sebastien Bassong, but Giroud got the final touch for the 2-1 lead, and the France striker’s nineteenth goal in his first season at Arsenal.

Stung into action, the Canaries could have levelled again thorough Jonathan Howson after Kamara charged forward, but assuredly for Wenger’s side Fabianski produced a fine save.

Wenger talks of the famed fitness levels of his players, and that would see the Gunners ultimately prevail. Into the second minute of the six for time added on, Walcott raced away, and passed to Podolski. The German marksman, who announced in the match day programme interview to be ” determined that the three points are staying in London today,” was true to his prediction. Podolski found himself seemingly in acres of space, and able to turn close on 360 degrees to power left footed past Bunn for his fourteenth goal in Arsenal colours.

The win means that Arsenal are now up to third place in the table, and could find themselves three points off second if other results go their way, and they produce another win when Everton come calling on Tuesday.