Arsenal went clear at the top of the Premier League once again with a comfortable 4-1 win over Norwich at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Jack Wilshere scored a stunning goal to give the home side the lead after 18 minutes. The Englishman started the move with his tenacity. But the culminating one-touch interplay with Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud was a sheer delight.
It was arguably the best goal to grace Emirates Stadium since it opened in August 2006.
In truth, Arsenal never quite kicked on after that and their second, via the head of Mesut Ozil midway through the second half, came against the run of play.
Jonathan Howson drilled home a low shot shortly afterwards to open the door for Norwich once more.
But the home side would soon slam it shut.
Aaron Ramsey scored a stunning solo strike to make it 3-1. The irrepressible Welshman then set up Ozil to grab his second just before the end.
In truth, Wenger’s men had been a little patchy in periods but sumptuous finishing had secured another stirring victory.
When it mattered Arsenal were efficiently lethal.
And that is a quality title-contenders tend to possess in abundance.
SETTING THE SCENE
Just before kick-off, Liverpool had gone to the top of the Premier League table with a 2-2 draw at Newcastle. The home crowd arrived expecting their side to respond.
The manager sprung a surprise by leaving out Ramsey, arguably Arsenal’s Player of the Season so far.
However his omission allowed Cazorla to return for his first game since the north London derby on September 1.
It was the first time the Spaniard and Ozil had played together. Emirates Stadium licked its lips at the prospect.
The other change from the draw at West Brom a fortnight ago saw Bacary Sagna replace Carl Jenkinson.
Arsenal began with understandable confidence though Norwich were resolute. Despite persistent pressure, the home side only had two sights of goal in the first 15 minutes – Cazorla’s low shot and Giroud’s blocked effort.
But, the first time they cut through, they created a masterful goal.
Wilshere started and finished the move. In the 18th minute the Englishman glided past a couple of opponents on the edge of his own area before laying it off.
Seconds later he was just outside the Norwich box and, after the most delightful one-touch interplay between himself, Cazorla and Giroud, volleyed the ball into the corner.
It was Wilshere’s first Premier League goal at Emirates Stadium.
The strike gave Arsenal a cushion and, in truth, Norwich showed little sign of causing them trouble. As a result, the home side cruised.
Eight minutes before the break, they woke up with a start. Kieran Gibbs robbed Russell Martin and crossed to the near post. Giroud’s first-time shot was low and crisp but John Ruddy made a fine save.
Immediately after that chance, Mathieu Flamini went off. The Frenchman was perhaps still groggy after a clash of heads with Alex Tettey. Ramsey came on.
Before the break, Ruddy also saved from Sagna’s volley.
But Norwich ended the half with a spell of pressure and they tested Wojciech Szczesny for the first time when Leroy Fer had a dip from distance.
Mikel Arteta went close to making it 2-0 within seconds of the restart with a couple of efforts from range.
However Norwich would respond with arguably their clearest sight of goal so far.
Michael Turner nodded the ball down for the unmarked Russell Martin on the penalty spot. But the defender shanked his effort wide.
Norwich seemed to be squeezing Arsenal now. They pressed forward with Robert Snodgrass and Martin Olsson having a go from long-range.
So Arsenal’s second was somewhat against the grain. The home side broke swiftly after the second of those Norwich efforts led to a corner.
Ramsey led the charge. He fed Cazorla who, in turn, found Giroud on the right. His clipped cross was glanced a header into the far corner of the net by Ozil.
It was the Frenchman’s fourth assist of the season – one more than the whole of last term.
Norwich were stung by the goal. They did not deserve to concede a second at that point.
In the 70th minute they changed they game when Howson drilled a low shot past Szczesny at the near post.
But Arsenal responded positively; Ramsey twice testing Ruddy with powerful efforts from distance.
Nicklas Bendtner then did likewise a couple of minutes after replacing Giroud.
Arsenal now had the bit between the teeth – and Ramsey was gripping the hardest.
The Welshman weaved one and then the other before firing home a gorgeous third goal seven minutes from time.
It was 11th strike of the nascent season for club and country.
Ramsey then provided the touchback for Ozil to slot home his second and Arsenal’s fourth.
Wilshere nearly added another and Ozil had a strong shout for a penalty.
However Arsenal’s quality at crucial times had seen them home with something to spare.
- Cazorla 59
- Ozil Goal! Goal!
- Wilshere Goal!
- Flamini 38
- Giroud 78
- Rosicky 59
- Ramsey 38 Goal!
- Bendtner 78
- Howson Goal!
- Tettey 78
- Pilkington 71
- Redmond 71
- Hoolahan 78