Arsenal vaulted to the top of the Premier League on Saturday, October 19 with an impressive 4-1 win over Norwich at the Emirates Stadium. The three points sees them sitting on top of the table all by themselves with 19 points, two clear of Liverpool, who were held to a 2-2 draw at Newcastle. Defender Bacary Sagna and midfielder Santi Cazorla were back in the lineup with the goals coming courtesy of midfielders Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey and a pair from Mesut Ozil. Jonny Howson replied for Norwich. It was the Gunners 12th straight game without a loss.
As they’ve done so often this season, the Gunners scored a relatively early goal to take the lead when Wilshere found the back of the net in the 18th minute. Cazorla started an excellent passing play from the edge of the 18-yard box by feeding the ball to Wilshere, who in turn passed it over to striker Oliver Giroud. The striker and Wilshere then went on a give and go mission which put Wilshere into the six-yard box and he drove a low shot past keeper John Ruddy.
Midfielder Mathieu Flamini was replaced in the 38th minute by Ramsey as the Frenchman’s head had collided 10 minutes earlier with the head of Norwich’s Alexander Tettey. Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny had a couple of saves to make during the first 45 minutes, but the teams trotted into the halftime break with the Gunners hanging onto their 1-0 lead.
Norwich came close t leveling the score early in the second half on a free kick when the ball was headed from Michael Turner down to Russell Martin, but he sent it wide of the net from about 15 yards out. Norwich continued to press, but the Gunners doubled their lead after 58 minutes. Cazorla carried the ball into Norwich’s half and then laid it off to the right side of the pitch to Giroud. He then chipped it into the penalty area and it was met by the head of the onrushing Ozil and ended up in the far corner of the goal.
Norwich didn’t roll over and play dead though. They clawed their way back into the game a dozen minutes later when Howson hammered the ball home at the near post with a low, hard right footer from just inside the 18-yard box. The goal came when the Arsenal defence failed to properly clear a left-wing cross from Martin Olsson. The Gunners realized it would be in their best interest to take their two-goal lead back and Ramsey and substitute Nicklas Bendtner came close to achieving it, but Ruddy was in position to hold them at bay.
Ramsey finally allowed the Arsenal supporters to breathe a sigh of relief in the 83rd minute when he weaved his way into the six-yard box and beat Ruddy. Ozil added his second of the match just five minutes later when Ramsey gathered a cross from the left wing by Tomas Rosicky and pulled the ball back to the German international who tapped it into the net at the far post.
The final score may have flattered the Gunners slightly, but they fully deserved the three points. Their next match comes on Tuesday, October 22 when they meet Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in a Champions League clash at the Emirates.
Arsenal Player Ratings-Sat. Oct. 19
Arsenal 4-1 Norwich –Premier League Match 8
Wojciech Szczesny – 7
He might have done better on the Norwich goal, but he made some good saves whenever the Canaries threatened during the rest of the match.
Bacary Sagna – 6.5
Played well in his first match back after injury. His crosses from the right wing could have been a bit better.
Per Mertesacker – 6
It wasn’t one of Mertesacker’s best games, but it was far from his worst. His poor clearance ultimately resulted in Norwich’s goal.
Laurent Koscielny – 6.5
A solid game by the French defender with some timely tackles.
Kieran Gibbs – 7
Gibbs played a steady game, especially in his own end of the pitch. He covered his men well and helped out offensively.
Mikel Arteta – 6.5
Arteta seemed to slow down a little after Flamini was taken off due to injury, but then picked up the pace and had a good game overall.
Mathieu Flamini – 6.5
Flamini was playing well until he had to be substituted by Aaron Ramsey after 38 minutes. He clashed heads with Alexander Tettey 10 minutes earlier.
Mesut Ozil – 8.5
Ozil was red hot today with a pair of fine goals and a great performance overall. He always seems to find the pen spaces.
Jack Wilshere – 7
Wilshere scored a beauty after a mesmerizing passing play in the Norwich penalty area. He was creative when he had the ball and put in a good effort.
Santi Cazorla – 7
Cazorla was also coming back from injury after being out of action for a month. He played as well as could be expected and helped set up the first goal by Ozil. Was replaced by Tomas Rosicky after 59 minutes.
Olivier Giroud – 8
Giroud might not have scored, but he did everything else well. He set up a couple of goals with some sublime passing and was a force to be reckoned with. Came off after 78 minutes and was replaced by Nicklas Bendtner.
Aaron Ramsey – 7.5
Came on after 38 minutes for Flamini and was a force once he got going. He scored a magnificent goal and set up another.
Tomas Rosicky – 6.5
Came on after 59 minutes for Cazorla and fit in well. Helped set up the Gunners’ last goal.
Nicklas Bentdner – 6
Came on for Giroud after 78 minutes and had a decent chance that was saved by Ruddy.