It’s been a trying opening few weeks for Arsenal fans, defeats to Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City have left a stale taste int he mouth for some time. However, the closing of the transfer window, which saw Arsenal just about bring in Japanese defender Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna, has given the place a slight boost.
Heading into their game against Norwich, Arsenal fans were perhaps cautiously optimistic with the refrain “The season starts against Norwich” being the constant reminder Arsenal needed.
There were already a few changes abound for Arsenal. Number 1 Bernd Leno was dropped in favour of new boy Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White and Gabriel Magalhães played their first game as a defensive pair, Ainsley Maitland-Niles (fresh off the back of his Instagram outburst) partnered Albert Sambi Lokonga in midfield, while Emile Smith Rowe dropped to the bench.
Arsenal started furiously. They pressed Norwich hard and high. It was the kind of high-pressing game that Mikel Arteta has been begging for his team to play more often.
Such was the intensity of Arsenal’s press, that they began to force some errors from Norwich, none more so than Tim Krul, who seemed to crumble whenever Arsenal strayed too close to him.
However, in typical Arsenal fashion, the team took their collective foot off the gas and allowed Norwich more breathing space. Norwich slowely began to creep back into the game and by the time the half-time whistle had blown, Norwich had had more shots than Arsenal (though most were off target) and Arsenal looked like the break hadn’t come soon enough.
Arsenal again started brightly in the second-half. Norwich looked a little more worse for wear and although they too created chances and began to hurt Arsenal, it was always the home side who looked to be in total control.
Soon enough, Arsenal managed to find their breakthrough! A slide rule pass allowed Nicolas Pépé loose with the ball, and he galloped into the penalty area, only for his shot to cannon off the post, his follow-up was blocked by Brandon Williams and the Ivorian’s tumbling foot managed to connect with the ball, drifting it into Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s path who will never have an easier tap-in.
VAR looked at the goal, but Michael Oliver gave it and Arsenal had their first goal of the Premier League season.
There were still a few scares to come from Norwich before the half was out and soon enough, Arsenal had just about managed to scrape through intact and with a cleansheet to boot.
It hadn’t been the prettiest performance from Arsenal on the day, but they won’t care a win is a win and the three points were all that mattered.
Arsenal could have had plenty more if they had had their shooting boots on. Nicolas Pépé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Martin Ødegaard, Bukayo Saka and substitute Emile Smith Rowe could all have had goals if they’d been a bit better in front of goal. Smith Rowe’s shot in particular looked gilt-edged.
There was however a very promising performance from new boy Takehiro Tomiyasu. Initially though to be too soon for the Japan international owing to visa and work permit issues, he was thrown into the team immediately and looked like he’d been there all along.
Tomiyasu’s performance was stunning. He looked a real threat going forward and was a very competent defender when Arsenal needed him, winning 5 out of 5 aerial duels in the first-half. His substitution will perhaps raise some eyebrows, but it’s understandable why Arteta would want to keep his new boy fit and ready for Burnley next weekend, especially given his cramps towards the end.
Meanwhile, the performance of Ainsley Maitland-Niles will raise some eyebrows. Despite his baffling progressive passing rate of 6 (the joint-highest in the team), the youngster did not look comfortable in midfield, and it would perhaps be welcome to see Thomas Partey back in the mix next weekend, though, in Maitland-Niles’ defence, he hasn’t played for Arsenal in a Premier League match for some time and would perhaps have needed a bit more time to bed in.
It’s a monkey off the back for Mikel Arteta and co., but Arsenal need to keep their feet firmly on the ground as they travel to Turf Moor next weekend.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
18.) Takehiro Tomiyasu (Smith Rowe 62′)
4.) Ben White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
3.) Kieran Tierney
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Cédric Soares 82′)
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga (Partey 62′)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
8.) Martin Ødegaard
7.) Bukayo Saka
14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
1.) Bernd Leno
22.) Pablo Marí
21.) Calum Chambers
17.) Cédric Soares
20.) Nuno Tavares
5.) Thomas Partey
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
9.) Alexandre Lacazette
Norwich City team:
1.) Tim Krul
2.) Max Aarons
5.) Grant Hanley (c)
44.) Andrew Omobamidele
21.) Brandon Williams
7.) Lukas Rupp (Idah 80′)
20.) Pierre Lees-Melou
23.) Kenny McLean
10.) Kieran Dowell (Cantwell 62′)
18.) Christos Tzolis (Rashica 69′)
22.) Teemu Pukki
Norwich City subs:
15.) Ozan Kabak
4.) Ben Gibson
8.) Billy Gilmour
16.) Mathias Normann
17.) Milot Rashica
19.) Jacob Sørensen
14.) Todd Cantwell
35.) Adam Idah