New look Arsenal grateful for small mercies

Arteta fielded five of summer signings – three in defence – Ramsdale, Tomiyasu and White, with Lokonga, Ødegaard in midfield joined by Maitland Niles in his preferred position. Saka, and Aubameyang were joined by Pepe up front.

Norwich made four changes from their last match including new faces Omobamidele and Greek forward Tzolis.

It is hard at the best of times to integrate new players into the side. But to do it when bottom of the table adds to the pressure.

Arsenal won around two thirds of possession in the first half hour creating eight chances – notching up 30 during the course of the match. But their attacks were either thwarted by blatant fouls on players running on, or inaccurate final balls or crosses into the box.

Tomiyasu caps a fine first half with a flying volley

White had a good home debut, showing accurate distribution, with short and long passes, which David Luiz would be proud of. Tomiyasu was Arsenal’s best player in the first half nearly capping it off with a flying volley which went just over the bar. When he rose and won a header, the crowd cheered loudly – greeting it as a symbol of increasing security at the back.

Aubameyang looked to have a different attitude – chasing lost causes and running the channels – and deserved his goal.

After half an hour, Arsenal slacked off and Norwich came into it more. White tackled Pukki bravely in the box. Then the Finn had a chance on the stroke of half-time but was blocked.

One issue was that Arsenal’s pressing was not that co-ordinated with Maitland Niles joining the forwards in the high press, leaving a risky gap in midfield.

And Arsenal were reminded of potential defensive deficiencies when Aarons drove in a toe poked cross to the on-running McLean who headed over – showing Norwich did have a threat on the counter.

In the first twenty-five minutes of the second half Arsenal’s intricate moves were starting to get some fortuitous rebounds leading to the feeling a goal may be coming.

And when Smith Rowe and Partey came on – Arsenal’s performance went up a notch.

Partey sent a line breaking ball to Saka who found Pepe. The Ivorian’s shot hit the far post and rebounded to him – hitting the other post, and in the melee the ball hit Pepe’s foot and ran across the goal-line to Aubameyang who tapped it in.

Aarons had a chance when Gabriel missed a cross, but he hit it wide. A quality striker may well have finished it off – again reminding Arsenal defensive improvement is needed. That was emphasised all- the-more when it looked like Pepe tripped Williams in the Arsenal area soon after.

Arsenal seemed they were trying for a Jack Wilshere goal to finish the game off – but the intricate passing broke down before the decisive final pass. Pepe had the right idea driving directly at the Norwich defence and shooting and then setting off again finding Aubameyang on the left for a shot.

Smith Rowe had a chance in the area – saved by Krul and then Saka shifted it, shot – but was a foot wide.

Mikel Arteta said: “We are really happy. We knew it was a really tricky game and we got what we wanted which was to win the match and to get points on the table. We had to suffer but I knew to win the game it would be like this.

“We have to improve in a lot of things but today we made seven changes and already it looked different.”

Arsenal 1 Norwich City 0

Arsenal: 32Ramsdale, 18Tomiyasu (Substituted for Smith Rowe at 62’minutes), 4White (Booked at 88mins), 6Gabriel, 3Tierney, 23Sambi Lokonga (Substituted for Partey at 62’minutes), 15Maitland-Niles (Substituted for Cédric Soares at 82’minutes), 19Pépé, 8Ødegaard, 7Saka, 14Aubameyang

Norwich: 1Krul, 2Aarons (Booked at 42mins), 44Omobamidele, 5Hanley (Booked at 48mins), 21Williams, 20Lees-Melou, 7Rupp (Substituted for Idah at 80’minutes), 23McLean, 10Dowell (Substituted for Cantwell at 62’minutes), 22Pukki, 18Tzolis (Substituted for Rashica at 68’minutes)