Arsenal 4 Norwich City 0
Arsenal remembered, and not only how to win big. First of all, the images of many of the 47 fans lost to Covid-19 adorned the front cover of the matchday programme against Norwich City. Tribute was also paid to former Arsenal assistant Theo Foley with the teams wearing black armbands in tribute to George Graham’s former assistant.
On the pitch, Arsenal remembered too. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was gifted two goals in a 4-0 rout of Norwich City, with Granit Xhaka and a Cedric Soares thunder drive on his debut completing the rout. The Canaries came with a plan, however, bearing gifts will not have been in that plan. Not that Arsenal needed any help in that department as they won in style on their Emirates return.
Aubameyang scored Arsenal’s first goal and his 50th club goal in the Gunners 4-0 win over Norwich City at Emirates Stadium
The last time Arsenal played a Premier League fixture at the Emirates was almost four months ago. Alexandre Lacazette struck the only goal of the game against West Ham to maintain the Gunners unbeaten start to 2020. Then the positives disappeared, with Mikel Arteta’s testing positive for coronavirus expediting the Premier League lockdown.
Post lockdown, Arsenal have stuttered, suffering losses at Manchester City, and Brighton, with a win at Southampton and the FA Cup quarter-final win at Sheffield United, which suggested that Arteta had begun to turn his side’s fortunes around. So it proved at the Emirates.
To their credit, and despite their position languishing at the bottom of the Premier League, Norwich had come to play. However, their intentions to stop the influential Dani Ceballos from playing saw Lukas Rupp and Tom Trybull receive yellow cards. Having come through the initial exchanges unscathed, including Tim Krul denying Aubameyang in a one on one after ten minutes, the Canaries could have taken the lead when Ben Godfrey struck a 30 yard free-kick. Emiliano Martinez had to stretch to his right to push away at the expense of a corner.
Granit Xhaka celebrates after scoring Arsenal’s second goal during the Premier League match against Norwich at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday evening
But that proved to be as good as it got for the visitors in the first half. Arsenal took the lead through Aubameyang after 33 minutes. Krul is an experienced Premier League and international keeper, but why he chose to try to take on Aubameyang following a back pass, only he will know.
He messed it up, and Aubameyang had the simplest of chances to slot home for his 50th Arsenal goal in his 79th game. He becomes the fastest Arsenal player to reach that landmark. Four minutes later and Arsenal doubled their lead. This time a swift left sided move started by Kieran Tierney which cut through the Norwich lines. Aubameyang turned provider this time, to set up Granit Xhaka to sweep in for a 2-0 scoreline.
Without the 60,000 capacity Emirates stadium, the eerie solace from the terraces was as empty as you wouldn’t want it to be on a match day. But there were voices. Lots of voices. Arteta and Daniel Farke were clearly audible. “Wake up,” followed by an expletive the Norwich boss was heard to shout, while Arteta was articulating in at least three languages. “Allez Auba,” then “Vamos Dani,” before “Yes, Granit.” It was the best of the international Premier League.
Arsenal returned to the Emirates stadium for Premier League action for the first time since lockdown
Two goals to the good at the break, Arteta brought on Rob Holding in a straight swap for an injury to Shkodran Mustafi. One of Norwich’s changes was the introduction of the pacey Adam Idah. His strong hold up play and shot needed Martinez to save low, when it looked as if the Canaries had halved the deficit. Fellow substitute Onel Hernandez, the first Cuban to play in the Premier League was busy too. But his powerful shot flew over the target, and there was much uproar on the Norwich bench when Todd Cantwell fell under the attentions of Sead Kolasinac. A VAR check revealed it was no foul and therefore no penalty.
That seemed to remind Arsenal that there was still work to be done. Aubameyang’s cross from the left was mis-controlled by Lacazette, but the chance fell to substitute Joe Willock to strike high, but over. With their next move, Arsenal increased their lead. Again Norwich were complicit. Aubameyang pounced to beat Krul from ten yards out after substitute Josip Drimic tried clear from a throw in. Whatever fight the Canaries had had just disappeared as they retreated. Arsenal brought out their passing game.
Auba and out. Aubameyang celebrates after scoring his second, and Arsenal’s third goal during their 4-0 rout of Norwich City at Emirates Stadium
Cedric Soares came off the bench to make his Arsenal debut on 77 minutes, and four minutes later he had opened his Arsenal account. Norwich failed to clear from a corner, the loose ball fell into Soares’ path and without hesitation, the Portuguese defender rifled in a left footed stunner past Krul.
Krul to be kind. Tim Krul was complicit in Aubameyang’s opener for Arsenal against Norwich
Without Mesut Ozil to pull the strings, and Matteo Guendouzi seemingly in a teenage sulk, Ceballos has grabbed his chance to galvanise the Gunners midfield creativity. Arteta would naturally like to keep the on loan Real Madrid midfield player.
“Both clubs have been in communication. I really like Dani and what he brings to the team. When I joined he wasn’t available because he had a difficult injury, but he’s understanding what we’re trying to do really, really nicely and he has big personality to play and take the ball in any area of the field and give us the continuity that we need as a team to control the games better, but as well without the ball.
“The running that he’s putting in, the tackles, every time with the interceptions, his desire to win that ball back and help the team, he’s improved so much and he looks a really good player at the moment,” said Arteta.
Farke congratulates Arteta on Arsenal’s win at the final whistle
Daniel Farke refused to point the finger of blame at his keeper, Krul, but he accepted that his side were culpable in their own demise.
“Sadly, we made too many mistakes, especially in front of the goals. Arsenal were the better side in terms of scoring goals. We have to accept the loss because we didn’t reach 100 percent the level of performance and made crucial mistakes before the goals,” said the German coach
Arsenal now travel away to Wolves for Saturday evening’s kick off, while Norwich host Brighton in a must win game at Carrow Road in Saturday’s early kick off.