Norwich City (0) 0 Arsenal (2) 5
Carrow Road, Norwich NR1 3JE
Sunday, 26th December 2021 Kick-off time: 3.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Kieran Tierney; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Gabriel Martinelli; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Emile Smith-Rowe, Nicolas Pépé, Nuno Tavares, Pablo Marí, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Charlie Patino.
Scorers: Bukayo Saka (6 mins, 67 mins), Kieran Tierney (44 mins), Alexandre Lacazette (84 mins), Emile Smith-Rowe (90+1)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka, Thomas Partey
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 65%
Referee: Graham Scott
Assistant Referees: Richard West, Derek Eaton
Fourth Official: Dean Whitestone
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Lee Mason; AVAR Simon Long
For this Boxing Day match in Norfolk today, Mikel Arteta has made one change from last week’s win over Leeds United having fielded a much-changed side for the Carabao Cup victory over Sunderland. Sadly, our flying full-back Takehiro Tomiyasu has had to sit out today’s match with Rob Holding being recalled, whilst there is still no place in the squad for much-talked about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
A fairly strong start by the lads in this freezing cold Boxing Day fixture at Carrow Road, and after just six minutes, we warmed up by opening the scoring with a superb strike from Bukayo Saka, who received the ball from Martin Ødegaard after some good interplay between the lads. He received the ball on the right hand side, switched the ball to his left foot and hit a low, sweet strike past the Norwich goalkeeper. The early goal buoyed our confidence, and we started to dominate proceedings carefully and confidently. The home side appeared to wake up and started to bring the game to us, but our defenders were able to neutralise their strikers adequately. We manged to pin Norwich City back into their own half, with strong play that followed some good goalscoring chances from Martin Ødegaard and Gabriel Martinelli that unfortunately came to nothing. After twenty-seven minutes, having already scored, Bukayo Saka weaved some real magic out on the right wing before delivering a great cross for Alexandre Lacazette who was inside the Norwich City six-yard area, but he headed the ball wide. Our England striker is having the time of his life on the right wing, beating players at will, before supplying crosses for our strikers to run in on. A few minutes after Granit Xhaka was booked for a pointless disagreement with Max Aarons, we grabbed a second goal, just a minute before the break. Martin Ødegaard placed a beautiful through ball into open space for Kieran Tierney to run onto from the left wing, and with a beautiful low left-footed strike, he scored our second goal of the first half, ensuring that we went into half-time two goals ahead.
We kicked off the second half in a composed and controlled manner, and we continued exactly where we left off at the end of the first half, confident and alert. The match started to get a wee bit scrappy when some unsavoury challenges were being dished out by both sides, all of which were passed over by referee Graham Scott and the VAR team. The scrappiness of the afternoon appeared to fire up the home team, who started to look dangerous, but overall it was nothing that our defenders couldn’t handle. Gabriel Martinelli scored a seemingly beautiful goal on the hour, but it was disallowed for offside. Thomas Partey was booked for a professional foul, and by now the match appeared to level out somewhat with failed attempts from both teams. After sixty-seven minutes, some intelligent jinking from Bukayo Saka on the right-hand side of the Norwich City penalty area led to him scoring our third goal of the afternoon with a deceiving low shot that had goalkeeper Angus Gunn beaten all the way. Thomas Partey was replaced by Mohamed Elneny with twenty-eight minutes of the match remaining, and as the game was levelling out, Bukayo Saka was substituted for Nicolas Pépé four minutes later, followed by Emile Smith-Rowe, who replaced Gabriel Martinelli after eighty-one minutes on the clock. Almost immediately, the class of Emile Smith-Rowe was there for all to see, when a clever ball into the Norwich City penalty area found Alexandre Lacazette, who was pushed in the back by Ozan Kabak. A penalty was awarded, and Alexandre Lacazette coolly slotted the ball away with some aplomb. Martin Ødegaard was unlucky not to score when his dipping shot from a free-kick just outside the home side’s penalty area went over the bar. Emile Smith-Rowe scored our fifth goal of the afternoon with a simple tap-in from close range in the first minute of injury time, and after that, the match wound down to its natural conclusion.
An excellent Boxing Day win here at Carrow Road, in which we looked professional, ruthless and slick against a hapless Norwich City, who looked completely lost at sea for large sections of the game. Our strikers were superb, the midfield dominant, and the defenders had very little to do. Perhaps the Wolves match in forty-eight hours will give us a better indication of our progress, who knows? Either way, at the time of writing, we are fourth in Premiership, just three points behind Chelsea. A very statisfying afternoon indeed.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: who knows?. Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.