Norwich 0 Arsenal 2 match report: Jack Wilshere eases in as Norwich slip away
Ramsey and Jenkinson give Gunners momentum ahead of their FA Cup final as Wilshere returns from ankle injury
Sunday 11 May 2014
There was not much drama or trauma at Carrow Road on Sunday, as Norwich City slipped quietly out of the Premier League. They did not make up a 17-goal swing over West Bromwich Albion – in fact they lost 2-0 to Arsenal – and there was never any doubt how the story would end.
Resignation, rather than anger, was the feeling from the stands. The Norwich players were applauded off at the end even after a performance which Neil Adams described as “flat”. Adams should find out this week whether he will be in charge in the Championship next season, taking the team on trips to Brentford and Bournemouth.
Arsenal, secure in fourth, can look forward to Milan and Madrid again next season. They played, quite understandably, as if they had at least one eye on their FA Cup final next Saturday. As brilliant as Aaron Ramsey’s opening goal was, the most important development – for Saturday and for the World Cup – was the return of Jack Wilshere after nine weeks out with a broken foot.
Wilshere played almost 30 minutes and looked perfectly comfortable, reassuring Roy Hodgson ahead of this afternoon’s squad announcement.
“The World Cup is in one month so there is plenty of time,” Arsène Wenger said. “There is no problem for him to be available.” Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, missing again here, will train this week and should be fit for the important matches ahead.
John Ruddy, though, is likely to be on Roy Hodgson’s seven-man standby list, but he made a persuasive case for a place on the plane here. Ruddy, who could well still be a Premier League goalkeeper next season, was Norwich’s outstanding player making two brilliant first-half saves.
Arsenal were nowhere near their best but did create a few first-half chances, all of which Ruddy kept out. The first was when Olivier Giroud backheeled to Lukas Podolski, only for Ruddy to dart off his line so quickly he blocked the shot. The next was even better; Giroud exchanged passes with Podolski and had time to pick his spot but Ruddy, off his line, reached high enough to turn it over. A third, from Giroud, high and diving to his right, was important too.
Clearly, Arsenal needed something special to beat Ruddy but that is precisely what they produced eight minutes after the restart. Giroud floated a square cross to Ramsey, to the right of the goal. Ramsey back-pedalled into position and volleyed through the ball so perfectly that it flew straight past Ruddy and into the opposite top corner, in off the angle of post and bar.
It was one of the goals of the season, and deserved a game far more significant than this one. Some of the Norwich fans applauded and understandably so; they might not see many that good next year.
The second goal, nine minutes later, was not quite as artistic. Özil played in Kieran Gibbs, overlapping down the left. He pulled the ball back to Podolski, whose shot was blocked, but the ball fell to Carl Jenkinson, who stabbed the ball into the net before celebrating his first Arsenal goal with the fans of whom he is one.
Wilshere came on soon after – as did Abou Diaby, after 14 months out injured – but there was very little else in a game that had ceased to matter.
Norwich City continued to play and Lukasz Fabianski even had to make two saves, from substitute Jamar Loza and then running out to deny Robert Snodgrass, Norwich’s player of the season and another who is probably too good to stay next season.
That was as much as Fabianski had to do. Wenger, who confirmed again that this would not be his last league game as Arsenal manager, would not be drawn afterwards as to whether his selection meant that Wojciech Szczesny will start at Wembley instead.
It is a difficult decision for him but one that Norwich, of course, would like to have.
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