Arsenal 3 Norwich City 1 match report: Arsenal deserved lucky break, says Arsene Wenger after controversial victory
Late goals see Gunners maintain push for Champions League
Rules are rules, whether you are Guan Tianlang, Tiger Woods, or Richard West. Leaving aside the fact they are actually laws, what irks sportspeople most is their inconsistent application. Thus the perception around Augusta is that Guan has been made a scapegoat while Woods was treated with undue leniency.
At the Emirates on Saturday the focus was on the official rather than the player. West is the linesman who, from 40 yards, spotted Kei Kamara tugging Olivier Giroud's shirt as the two tussled for a loose ball. Referee Mike Jones, 10 yards away, waved play on. Giroud himself made no appeal. On Match of the Day ex-Arsenal stalwart Martin Keown thought it a penalty, but neither Alan Hansen nor Everton manager David Moyes did.
But West was certain. He flagged, buzzed Jones over the earpiece, and signalled a penalty. At that point Arsenal were pressing for, and threatening an equaliser to Michael Turner's header, but with seven minutes remaining Norwich felt they would hang on. Mikel Arteta's spot-kick broke their resistance, Arsenal ran out comfortable winners enabling them to move up into third place and force the visitors to continue to look down the Premier League table nervously.
Their manager, Chris Hughton, one of the most measured of men, conceded there probably was a foul, but questioned why the linesman gave it and not the referee.
His counterpart Arsène Wenger, who one suspects would have been apoplectic had such a penalty been given against his team, said: "A deliberate foul in the box is a penalty. Can you give every pull of the shirt? I don't know. Probably not."
While keen to reduce the grappling that now permeates every set-piece a balance does need to be struck. Had West been officiating at the infamous Champions League tie between Celtic and Juventus in February, the Scottish champions would have been given a penalty every time they had a corner. Kamara's tug was mild by the standards of the modern game.
Wenger said he was pleased that Giroud did not complain about the tug. "Don't reproach me that my players don't surround the referee. Maybe it's a bit naïve, but when they do people complain as well," he said. "We don't do it. I never encourage that but I have seen in some clubs it's a real culture."
Norwich certainly complained once the kick was given, so vociferously it may have contributed to their subsequent collapse, Giroud and Lukas Podolski giving Arsenal a 3-1 win . "I won't level everything at the officials because I'm almost as frustrated we didn't show that calmness and composure to see the game out at 1-1," said Hughton.
If fortune was with Arsenal, Wenger insisted it was hard earned. "Luck is a combination of attitude as well. When you attack 10 times, one time you have luck, five times maybe it doesn't work, and one or two times there is bad luck," he added.
Arsenal will hope to take that luck, and the momentum gained in the closing minutes, into tomorrow's match against Everton. Before then Wenger must decide if Podolski and Theo Walcott, both of whom made a significant impact off the bench, have done enough to earn a starting pace.
Goals: Arsenal Arteta pen 85, Giroud 88, Podolski 90. Norwich City Turner 56.
Subs: Ars Walcott 7 (Wilshere, 59), Podolski 8 (Gervinho, 59), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sagna, 80). Nor Fox 5 (Johnson, 62), Jackson (Tettey, 90). Booked: Arsenal Sagna. Norwich Bunn, Snodgrass. Man of the match Cazorla. Match rating 6/10. Poss: Ars 49%. Nor 51%. Attempts on target: Ars 7. Nor 5.
Referee M Jones (Chester). Attendance 60,095.
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