Arsenal leave their fate in the hands of others

Arsenal 3 Norwich City 3: Lacklustre hosts see grip on Champions' League berth loosened by Norwich

the emirates stadium

This game, which could be Robin Van Persie's last at this ground, told the story of his and Arsenal's season. After watching so many dismal minutes he was very close to personally transforming failure into success. Van Persie's efforts, though, were not enough. The draw against Norwich City means that Champions' League qualification is no longer in Arsenal's hands.

Van Persie must have despaired. He was little more than a spectator for 70 of the worst minutes of football seen here this season, as Arsenal were outrun by Norwich before two more of his goals turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. It seemed to have delivered three crucial points, which would have secured Arsenal's hold on third place. But Steve Morison's strike, with five minutes left, ended that.

"It was frustrating because we were very poor in the first half, not switched on," said Arsène Wenger, who had more to worry about with the news that Bacary Sagna has broken his leg after a challenge with Bradley Johnson and will miss France's European Championship campaign. "The quality of our first half was absolutely not at the level of how we want to play in a game like that, a decisive game. It's surprising because recently we were quite good, but I feel that today defensively the whole team was very very poor. In the end we got punished for our mistakes."

But this was not just a gift from the Arsenal manager's side, as Norwich were excellent. Between Yossi Benayoun's second-minute opener, and Van Persie's equaliser 70 minutes later, the visitors were far superior.

"It was not just battling," Paul Lambert pointed out. "I thought we were excellent, the football was marvellous, as good as it has been in my time here. I am as proud as anything of them."

Given everything that happened afterwards, it was a surprise how the game started. In just the second minute, Arsenal scored a goal of such class and ease that a routine win felt likely. Benayoun, cutting in from the left, made space with a flash of his feet and curled the ball into the far top corner.

To start like that should have brought comfort and confidence to Arsenal, but it had the opposite effect they played nervously and fretfully.

Norwich just eased their way into the game. Grant Holt, as ever, was their reference point, having a shot blocked by Kieran Gibbs and beating Wojciech Szczesny to a cross, which he headed over. Jonny Howson was the best midfielder on the pitch and he started the move that brought Norwich level. He shuffled past a challenge, and passed to Elliott Bennett, who played in the overlapping Kyle Naughton. Wes Hoolahan, having found space, side-footed Naughton's cross in through the arms of Szczesny.

Fifteen minutes later, Hoolahan was allowed to make another goal. Running unchallenged through the middle, Hoolahan played the ball to Holt on his right, who deflected a shot in off Gibbs. The lead was no more than Norwich deserved, and on a kinder day could have had two penalties before half-time.

Knowing that more was required in the second half, Arsenal started to push men forward. Benayoun headed a free-kick at John Ruddy, while Van Persie also shot at him. Frustration grew but Van Persie ran on to Alex Song's chip and volleyed past Ruddy. Arsenal poured forward; Marouane Chamakh headed over and Van Persie stabbed another shot at Ruddy. Eventually the pressure told and Rosicky's pass broke to Van Persie, who put Arsenal back in front. It should have been enough, but when Howson chipped through Morison, the substitute, whipped the ball into the bottom corner.

Arsenal could have had a penalty when Van Persie was pushed by Naughton. "It is not in our hands any more," sighed Wenger. "We have to see where it leaves us."

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny; Sagna (Coquelin, 33), Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Ramsey (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 63), Song; Gervinho, Rosicky, Benayoun (Chamakh, 69); Van Persie.

Norwich (4-3-1-2): Ruddy; Naughton, R Bennett, Martin, Lappin; E Bennett, Howson, Johnson; Hoolahan (Pilkington, 74); Jackson (Morison, 68), Holt (Wilbraham, 81).

Referee Anthony Taylor.

Man of the match Ruddy (Norwich).

Match rating 8/10.

French tears: Sagna misses Euro 2012 after breaking his leg

Bacary Sagna will miss the European Championship after breaking his leg yesterday. The France and Arsenal right-back broke his right fibula during the 3-3 draw against Norwich City, a recurrence of the injury which put him out for four months this season.

"It was from a kick and I don't know how long he will be out for," Arsène Wenger said after the game. Sagna received a heavy tackle from Bradley Johnson, tried to play on and soon had to go off. "He tried to play on but went down. The guy closed him down and walked on him. I don't know if it was deliberate."

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...