Alexander Tettey, a Ghana-born Norway international signed by Norwich from French club Rennes as a defensive midfielder, proved his confidence and quality on the ball, in an attacking sense, when he created Grant Holt's third goal in successive games with a powerful run and a shot too hot for the Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone to hold. Holt's previous goals had come in a 5-2 home defeat by Liverpool and a 4-1 drubbing at Chelsea; this time it was so different as Norwich at last got a Premier League victory on the board.
And it was a thoroughly deserved victory, too, as they all but matched Arsenal for skill and overwhelmed them with their energy and commitment. Norwich set off with serious intent and had their first goal attempt in the second minute when Anthony Pilkington cut in from the left to fire just wide from the edge of the penalty area. It was not long, however, before Arsenal were stamping their authority with a long spell of sustained possession orchestrated by Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta.
Norwich drew first blood in the 19th minute. Tettey, having been brought in to shore up the shaky defensive side of the Canaries' operations, moved forward confidently to hit a 30-yard drive that had too much swerve and power for Mannone who got down to the shot but spilled it at the feet of the in-rushing Holt.
Arsenal were causing the home side remarkably few worries for all their possession and might have fallen further behind when Michael Turner got a free header from a corner swung in from the right by Pilkington but could not direct it on target.
Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy was not exactly a spectator but he was never out of his comfort zone in the first half. His best "save" was made calmly with his head a few yards outside his penalty area as he prevented Lukas Podolski profiting from an untypical route one Arsenal attack. After such a satisfactory first half for Norwich, they began the second with confidence and Mannone had to be alert and strong to prevent Holt from getting a header to a deep cross from Javier Garrido.
It was little surprise when the ineffective Podolski was withdrawn by Arsène Wenger just past the hour, the England winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain being given the chance to pose Norwich a different problem.
Arsenal won a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the penalty area when Turner caught Olivier Giroud from behind, earning a booking; Santi Cazorla's shot over the defensive wall was taken easily by Ruddy, however. As Norwich sprang forward rapidly, the outstanding Wes Hoolahan combined at pace with Holt, whose left-foot shot beat both Mannone and his far post.
Oxlade-Chamberlain had been on the pitch just eight minutes and barely touched the ball before he in turn was replaced by Andrey Arshavin, having taken a knock. Arshavin, showing good touch and tenacity on the left, almost embarrassed Ruddy with a chipped cross that was close to dropping into the goal at the far post.
Holt could, and perhaps should, have wrapped it up for Norwich 10 minutes from time when he dispossessed Thomas Vermaelen inside his own half and sprinted clear. By the time he approached Mannone's area, however, he had apparently exhausted himself and could only shoot tamely into the goalkeeper's arms.
At the other end, as Norwich defended stoutly to preserve their advantage, Ruddy got down smartly to smother a shot from Arteta. In the 90th minute Sebastien Bassong typified that rearguard action with a vital block from Gervinho, and though the fourth official signalled that the game had another five minutes to run, City clung on for a hugely welcome win.
Wenger thought Arsenal got what thy deserved. "If you are not ready for the fight then you will always have bad surprises."
Norwich (4-2-3-1): Ruddy; R Martin, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Tettey, Johnson; E Bennett (Snodgrass, 79) Hoolahan (R Bennett, 90), Pilkington; Holt (Morison, 90)
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Mannone; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Ramsey (Gnabry, 83), Arteta; Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 65, Arshavin, 74); Giroud
Referee: Lee Probert
Man of the match: Tettey (Norwich)
Match rating: 8/10