By Richard Clarke at Carrow Road
Arsenal ended their Premier League season win a 2-0 victory at Norwich on Sunday.
A much-changed Arsenal side struggled early on but found their range and ran out worthy winners.
Arsène Wenger even had the opportunity to give Jack Wilshere his first run-out since the defeat at Stoke on March 1 while Abou Diaby returned after 14 months on the sidelines.
The win took fourth-place Arsenal to 79 points, seven shy of champions Manchester City.
Wenger’s men had led the table for around four months late last year and stayed in the hunt until the final few months.
The manager believes a couple of big away defeats had proved crucial. He’s probably right.
As ever fourth place is the minimum requirement but Arsenal did at least achieve that once more.
And the voices of the travelling supporters – who had been exceptional once again this season – suggested the side had showed enough to suggest they can offer a stronger challenge next term.
But, of course, this campaign is not over.
It can still conclude with silverware next weekend at Wembley.
SETTING THE SCENE
With the FA Cup looming and the fate of both teams almost entirely assured, Wenger was always likely to make changes.
There were five.
The start was lively and dominated by Norwich. They may have been relegated but they began with drive and determination this afternoon.
In the 10th minute, Russell Martin’s overlapping run saw him get around the back of the Arsenal defence and Laurent Koscielny cleared from inside his own six-yard box.
In the 18th minute, Nathan Redmond cut in from the left and his angled, dipping shot was pawed away by Fabianski.
In between those chances, an offside Lukas Podolski drove wide of the far post. It was Arsenal’s only sight of goal in the first 20 minutes.
Five minutes later, the same player was denied by Ruddy in the same position. This time he was not flagged.
In conditions alternating between sun and rain, Arsenal finally found their feet. Olivier Giroud tried to find the top corner but Ruddy made another excellent save; this time with his finger tips.
A couple minutes later, Ramsey weaved through to the edge of the area only to see his shot blocked.
As half-time approached Arsenal were now the superior side. A lack of sharpness in front of goal had been the Achilles heel for Norwich all season. The first half had been clear evidence of that.
The visitors struggled to settle but had gradually assumed control.
In the final stages, Giroud pirouetted on the edge of the area and sent a curling effort towards the top corner. Once again Ruddy repelled the opportunity.
Without the Norwich keeper, Arsenal would have been ahead at the interval.
Both Arsenal full-backs, Gibbs and Jenkinson, were denied after the restart. It looked like more of the same - Arsenal domination.
In the 52nd minute, Ramsey put the visitors ahead with a stunner. Giroud picked him out at the far post with a delicate cross, the Welshman’s right-foot volley was both brutal and emphatic. It flashed across Ruddy and found the top corner on the far side. It was his 15th of the season.
Jenkinson, on the other hand, had never scored for Arsenal.
He toe-poked home a scruffy goal in the 62nd minute. It meant little in the course of the season but, as a life-long Arsenal fan, it was a massive personal achievement. He celebrated with enthusiasm.
The rubber looked won but Arsenal continued to look for goals and, for a game with little importance, it was still surprisingly lively.
Substitute Jamar Loza tested Fabianski with a drive and Elliot Bennett stumbled when he had a clear sight of goal.
Yaya Sanogo came on and nearly snaffled a goal in the dying minutes.
But Arsenal had their final-day win.
Now for Wembley.
- Jenkinson Goal!
- Ramsey 63 Goal!
- Rosicky 74
- Giroud 74
- Wilshere 63
- Diaby 74
- Sanogo 74
- Bennett Yellow Card
- Tettey 58
- Redmond 75
- Elmander 58
- Bennett 75
- Hooper 58
- Loza 58