I spoke a while ago about how Mikel Arteta needed a blueprint and it looked like he’d found one against West Brom. However the much needed win over Norwich on Saturday suggests we may now have a new plan. Hope springs eternal and all that. I’ll come onto that later but firstly, boy did we need that. I’ve stated before that Norwich are the worst team in the league, my opinion hasn’t changed. I fully expect them to crash back down this season and to be honest, the scoreline flattered them a bit. That doesn’t mean however that they didn’t cause a few problems of their own. But fortunately it wasn’t enough.
My day began early and I woke up with that feeling of butterflies in the stomach. I traveled up to a glorious Islington and dipped in and out of my favourite pre-match taverns for some banter, beer and food. The events unfolding at Selhurst Park only added to what was an already excited mood. But that would only endure if we did what we needed to do on the pitch. And that was simply: win. By any means a win was needed.
The match started and Norwich proved that given half a chance they could cause problems with a header flashing wide of the post. As Arsenal grew into the game however the visitors shrank. The only surprise of the day for many was the AMN was selected ahead of Partey in the midfield and although he tried hard he found it a little tough going. But there were an eagerness and sharpness from the team and the fans were fully behind them. Aubameyang burst through on goal but was denied by an irritating Tim Krul. The best chance of the half arguably shouldn’t have been a chance at all. Tomiyasu, who had a stellar debut, flashed an acrobatic volley just over the bar.
Some have spoken of the half time frustration, I didn’t notice it and certainly didn’t feel it. It felt as if the goal was coming if we carried on. We huffed and puffed a bit but then Arteta made his subs and changed the formation. The match changed and within four minutes we took the lead. Pepe curled a shot off the post and after a bit of a goal mouth scramble Aubameyang poked it in. The Emirates erupted. Joy, relief, that ‘feeling’. Call it what you will it was everywhere and after a sceptical VAR check it was given. With Norwich chasing the game, we stretched the play and Emile Smith Rowe was denied by another good Krul save. Arsenal finished the match with 30 attempts at goal, our highest under Arteta at any point.
The Bottom Line
I’ve been highly critical of Mikel Arteta tactically so I must give credit where it’s due. His move to 4-3-3 with the introduction of Partey change the dynamic of the team. He’s spoken before about how its his preferred formation but without the players needed to play it he’s reverted back to the usual 4-2-3-1. With Ben White carrying the ball forward out from the back, Partey and co ahead of him able to pick a pass and Aubameyang in the middle with two either side we should be able to transition the player faster. The impressive Tomiyasu and the ever brilliant Tierney can drive forward and create overloads on the wings with Odegaard and Smith Rowe tucking in to provide options. It’s Guardiola 101 but it’s hardly a surprise considering Arteta’s tutelage.
The only thing that mattered on Saturday was winning, so despite the calls for more goals maybe it was fitting that it was 1-0 to the Arsenal. For me though, I saw more, I finally saw direction. For a brief moment, I saw the end goal. That gives me hope for the future.
On Saturday we go again at Turf Moor.