Arsenal hit five to keep fourth place hopes alive

If people want statistical proof of Project Arteta’s progress, Arsenal were eleventh and fourteenth at the half-way stages of the last two seasons.

But on his two year anniversary in charge, it was the progress this season he highlighted, pointing out they beat Norwich 1-0 at home three months ago when they (Arsenal) were bottom of the table.

He summed up the half-term report: “The direction the team is taking, how we are growing, the understanding between the players, the unity we have been showing in general and the support we have been getting in every ground is very much linked with the way we can transmit and the way we want to play.

“That is what we are here for, to create enjoyment and if they enjoy it, I’m sure people will enjoy watching them play, they really like each other, they enjoy playing with each other and you can see that.”

ANR MoM – smooth operator in midfield setting up chances

Dean Smith didn’t want this game to go ahead due to Covid absentees and injuries.

The Norwich manager admitted: “This was just as flat a performance as we have had and it was littered with unforced errors. We’ve got to be better than that and we are better than that, unfortunately the standards have dropped off massively from the Manchester United game, there are reasons for that but I’m not here to make excuses.”

Holding came into the back four with Tomiyasu out. There were several changes for Norwich, with Gunn in for Krul and Dowell and Sargent coming in.

On six minutes Tierney broke up a Norwich move from a Kabak pass, and neat inerchange between five Arsenal players including Gabriel, Martinelli, Lacazette and Odegaard channelled the ball from left to right to Saka who shot under Gunn.

Soon after, Saka created a chance beating Williams for Lacazette, but he headed wide – emphasising the looming striker crisis.

Arsenal performed some flowing moves switching flanks throughout the half, but the final ball wasn’t 100% accurate.

And Norwich moves signalled that Arsenal needed another to justify their dominance.

And near half time, Martinelli passed to Odegaard in another switch of play and the Norwegian found the on-running Tierney who fired across Gunn in off the post for his fourth Arsenal goal.

But instead of calm, Xhaka came in with a sliding tackle – which set the Norwich crowd alight.

And a pumped up Placheta clashed with Ben White on the touchline and got a yellow.

At the start of the second, it was obvious that Smith’s instructions were to get physical with Arsenal and disrupt their rhythm. Williams took a swipe at Saka’s standing foot, followed by some retaliation by the Englishman.

Martinelli had some runs at the Norwich defence. And on one occasion he cut inside and found the net but deemed offside.

But on 66 Arsenal worked it across the pitch to Saka who cut in and fired low across Gunn.

Smith Rowe on for Saka played a classy reverse pass to Lacazette resulting in the Frenchman clattered by Kabak for a penalty.

In injury time Pepe’s pass was deflected into the path of Smith Rowe and the Croydon man poked it home for his fourth in consecutive games.

Arteta said: We looked sharp and committed and we dominated. We got the important second goal and the team pushed on.”

Dean Smith said: “There were a lot of unforced errors. We let a left footer on right come inside and score two goals.”

Premier League: Norwich 0 Arsenal 5

Norwich: 28Gunn, 2Aarons, 15Kabak, 4Gibson, 21Williams, 8Gilmour, 23McLean, 24Sargen (Substituted for Idah at 72’minutes), 10Dowell (Substituted for Lees-Melou at 66’minutes), 11Placheta (Booked at 41mins, Substituted for Tzolis at 75’minutes), 22Pukki

Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 4White, 16Holding, 6Gabriel, 3Tierney, 5Partey (Booked at 62mins, Substituted for Elneny at 75’minutes), 34Xhaka (Booked at 39mins), 7Saka (Substituted for Pépé at 78’minutes), 8Ødegaard, 35Martinelli (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 82’minutes), 9Lacazette