13 April 2013

Arsenal 3-1 Norwich: A bit of deus ex machina is a good thing

What a brilliant, brilliant eight minutes of football. Yes, it's true that about 93 minutes were played, we can rightly lay claim to having played only eight. In those eight, we scored three goals. In the other 85-odd minutes, we played some very casual, sloppy football, and we're arguably quite lucky to have won. If not for a "could have gone either way" foul, we'd probably be sitting on the short end of a 1-0 loss to an inferior team that outplayed usfor a second time in as many matches.

That looks like a foul.
The deus ex machina is a literary phenomenon whereby an impossible problem is miraculously solved through the intervention of a deity or through some otherwise inexplicable event. After Norwich went ahead, they sat as deep as they could and found every trifling way they could to fritter away time. Going into that 85th minute, I'm willing to bet the most of us were giving in to despair. This, after all, was to be the game that sees us finally and officially surpass Spurs. And then, not once, but twice  in minutes, we scored, and we found a third in stoppage-time. There will be controversy over that first one as Norwich will be sure to feel hard-done by on the penalty against Bassong in the box that led to Arteta's spot-kick, but there's little that they can say about the brilliant exchange between the Ox and Giroud or Podolski's strike. We showed some character, if not poise, at the end, and we claimed a very valuable three points.

Let's be honest. Norwich is a team that has no business holding us 0-0 for that long, and they certainly shouldn't go ahead on us in our house, even in their wildest dreams. However, for them to go ahead and defend that lead for nearly thirty minutes, as inconceivable as it should be, came to pass. They earned that lead; we showed little energy or passion for the game except in bits and spurts, and we conceded the kind of goal that has been enough to unravel us in the past. The way we stormed back is just immense, and it has to put fear into our rivals for the 3rd or 4th spots on the table.

First, let me get it out of the way my days as a prognosticator, at least for a pick to click, have suffered a setback. Ramsey had a quiet game but did not distinguish himself. He had a nice chance from a nifty loft into the box from Wilshere, but it was just too far, and Bunn was able to come out to nab it. Beyond that, he did what he does, which is to hustle and bust his butt, not enough for MOTM. Too bad. UPDATE: It appears I was too hasty. Arsenal.com listed him as its MOTM thanks to his overall performance. I may have missed it on the goals/assists front, but his hustle, defense, and versatility clinched it for him. Not that I'm not two for two, but let's call it a draw.

The goal we conceded came from nice work from Norwich but also a bit of sloppy defending from us as Turner was allowed to escape his mark for a solid header to the corner that no one could defend. Maybe we all thought Rosick√Ĺ was there to bail us out as he did last week. No such luck. From there, Norwich just packed it in and dared us to unlock their defense. It wasn't until Walcott came on that we started to open them up. Not that he was dangerous, but his pace stretched them out and created more space for us to work. From there, anything was possible, and the matched turned on its head because of the pressure we created.

Although Norwich will complain about the penalty that led to Arteta's penalty kick, there's not a whole lot to say, except that maybe the referee didn't see enough in it to make the call. However, the side-judge's job is to notice this kind of thing, and he saw enough to make a call. In the video, you can clearly see that Bassong pulls enough on Giroud's jersey to stretch the Arsenal badge halfway across Giroud's chest, and this perhaps gave him enough leverage to make the clearance, not to mention pulling Giroud to the ground. We've been victims of some dodgy calls, and we've seen our lads take a or dive or two, but I believe I'm objective enough to say that this was a decent call. Bunn almost made the save, and I think karma validates the original call. Had Bunn made the save, this might have been the universe's way of saying, "that wasn't a penalty".

From there, the floodgates seemed to fly open, as Ox assisted Giroud nicely three minutes later, and Podolski nailed it shut with the third in stoppage time. It was wonderful to see the German back on the pitch, and he really could have had a goal a few minutes earlier had it not been for a fingertip save from Bunn, just enough to cause a deflection off the woodwork.

At the end of the day, three points claimed, so I won't linger on the lackluster 84 minutes or so during which it seemed we'd be dropping two, then three. It was great to see a few tactical substitutions work outWalcott, Ox, and Podolski were key in changing the tempo and outcome of the game. Let's sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that we have a perch at 3rd place, thanks in part to Chelsea and Spurs not playing Prem games. 3rd place. It's worth letting that tumble around in the mouth a little.