Arsenal 4-1 Norwich: Gunners Top The Premier League


Six first touches, three seconds and one goal. In a week when Arsène Wenger preached the importance of Arsenal's "values", his team delivered a valuable goal which will demand repeat viewings in the coming years, maybe even decades, should the Gunners commemorate their win over Norwich with a title in May.

These are heady days for Wenger. Eight games in, his team are at the summit of the Barclays Premier League and the football which preceded Jack Wilshere's opener was reminiscent of the Invincibles. Santi Cazorla was back to bolster Arsenal and their consistency in dismissing bottom-half sides, like Norwich, is one of genuine encouragement.

Tottenham are the only team in the top 10 Arsenal have beaten this campaign, yet that overlooks the brittleness which has festered in Wenger's teams for almost a decade. Norwich's pluckiness ensured the final result was not as routine as it suggested, and after years of hollow artiness it is perhaps the artisan triumphs which are most satisfying in north London these trophy-starved days.

Wenger said at Arsenal's AGM on Thursday the club is "respected all over world for our values, we are not artificial", and their opening goal was naturally artistic.

Wilshere scored it for his first ever league goal at the Emirates but it was immaterial given what preceded it. Cazorla and Wilshere exchanged passes, before Giroud replaced Cazorla as the foil with a couple of outrageous flicks off the outside of his boot, urging Wilshere to race into the area and finish past an awestruck John Ruddy.

What will have encouraged Wenger was the absence of Mesut Özil from the build-up and how Cazorla and Wilshere, two players who thrive centrally, floated into their preferred domain to carve out one of the memorable team goals. Wilshere has looked disenchanted with his wide role recently and his form suggested Wenger was shoehorning him into the XI, excused by Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's injuries. He started on the right against Norwich to accommodate the returning Cazorla, and although he is unlikely to remain there the 21-year-old has scored in back-to-back games for the first time in his professional career.

"On the ball" City were scarcely that in the first period. Ruddy made a fantastic save to deny the busy Giroud at the near post but Arsenal fashioned out few openings despite their dominance. Leroy Fer, comfortably the most accomplished opponent, fired a testing shot which Wojciech Szczęsny diverted wide.

Half-time did little to quell Norwich's momentum. Frustration has been absent at the Emirates since the opening day defeat to Aston Villa but it returned in the early stages after the pause, with Norwich's approach less reticent.

Fatefully, City's adventurousness culminated in them sieving a second. Fer's attempted through-ball was intercepted and in the space of 20 seconds the ball had travelled the length of the pitch to nestle in Ruddy's net. Giroud's selflessness was pivotal again, as he registered a second assist with a clipped cross for Mesut Özil, who headed in on the run.

Wenger immediately introduced the wilting Cazorla for Tomáš Rosický rather than protect the lead. He would doubtless cite the the club's attacking values, but Jonny Howson's brilliantly rifled half-volley halved the lead with 20 minutes remaining and consternation immediately spread through the fickle fans.

They needn't have worried. Aaron Ramsey, a first-half substitute for the concussed Mathieu Flamini, dummied a shot not once, but twice, to leave two Canaries knocked off their perch before majestically stroking the clincher in. To paraphrase the Times' appraisal of Ferenc Puskas 60 years ago, the Norwich defenders looked "like fire engines going to the wrong fire".

Ramsey also had time to assist Özil a routine second as belief intensified around the Emirates. "We are top of the league," is one of the terrace's most banal chants, but it's not been heard around N5 for a while.