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Arsenal Perform the Old Smash and Grab

By Nicholas Spiller



Theo Walcott's pace was the deciding factor in the match between Arsenal and Norwich on Saturday(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Theo Walcott's pace was the deciding factor in the match between Arsenal and Norwich on Saturday(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Saturday’s victory for Arsenal over Norwich was exactly the kind of win the Gunners needed to inspire a late-season Champions’ League qualifying surge.  Down 1-0 in front of their home fans, the team was looking ragged.  Fuming over referee decisions while Arsene Wenger was bemoaning the clear time wasting by Norwich, the players needed a spark. With a final ten minutes of glory, the team found that and emerged victorious with a 3-1 smash and grab victory. 

The crucial spark plug on the day was Theo Walcott.  While returning Jack Wilshere was ineffective and rusty, Walcott came on at the hour mark and immediately injected a bit of pace into the Arsenal attack.  He made runs and received passes, and although Walcott hadn’t really established a goal-scoring chance, he gave the Gunners a more determined spirit and rattled the Norwich defense.

After Arsenal conceded, the minutes began ticking and it looked to be a sorrowful day when a missed opportunity to leapfrog London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham in the English Premier League table would go wasted.  I counted three opportunities for substitute Lukas Podolski when he received the ball near Norwich’s six yard box but couldn’t proper control it with his first touch.  But there was a semblance of hope when Podolski laced up a powerful shot that hit the crossbar.  It was a sign of things to come.

Then came the penalty.  The clock had reached 80 minutes, and desperation was full on.  A questionable Arsenal corner kick bounced around the box until Kei Kamara dragged down Olivier Giroud, and the side referee called for the penalty. 

The call was questionable to say the least, as Kamara seemed to use the pull to generate power for his clearance.  He probably could have made the kick and let go of Giroud’s shirt, but it did appear to be a fair call. Giroud had been pulled and the spot kick was awarded, which Mikel Arteta strongly dispatched to tie the match.

More good fortune fell Arsenal’s way as an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cross bounced off of Sebastian Bassong’s foot for the important game-winning goal, and the three points to Arsenal. 

But Arsenal finished the game with class when Podolski made a smart move and curled in a nice finish to seal the deal.  This was just after a scare when a Norwich player put a fine shot to goal that was saved by goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski to preserve the lead. 

In the end, it was all so inspirational for Arsenal, who has now put heaps of pressure onto Tottenham and Chelsea for that all-important Champions’ League position, which only two of the teams will earn. 

Additionally, the team must be benefitting from the morale accumulated with a big victory like today.  Late game wins are so great because they inspire the team and give them confidence to go forward. 

Arsenal has been excellent at late season runs, and they seem to pull a Champions’ League position out of the hat nearly every year.  This reason alone is probably why Arsene Wenger hasn’t been sacked considering a trophy drought that has extended to infinitum. 

Nevertheless, today marked a happy day for Arsenal fans as the team has shown a fighting spirit that has earned them a temporary spot at 3rd place in the table.  With six games left in their season, the race for the Champions’ League is truly well and on.