Norwich City 1 – 0 Arsenal: Canaries grab first win of the season against lacklustre Gunners
Norwich City claimed their first win of the season against a poor Arsenal side who now lie ten points off leaders Chelsea. Grant Holt scored the only goal of the game after 20 minutes when he reacted quickest to a Vito Mannone fumble to slam home from close range.
The Gunners looked devoid of ideas and created very little throughout, with a late Mikel Arteta shot and a half-chance for Gervinho at the death all they had to show for their efforts.
The result means that Arsenal slip further behind in the title race, though manager Arsène Wenger will be more concerned at how poorly his side played in a game they were expected to win.
Arsenal were given a boost before the match as Jack Wilshere was named in the squad for the first time in 14 months, though the 20-year-old started on the bench as Wenger looks to ease him back into the first team picture.
Lukas Podolski went close with a long-range effort early on, but it was the Canaries who took the lead as Arsenal goalkeeper Mannone could only parry an Alexander Tettey strike into the path of Holt, who finished with ease.
That goal was expected to spark the Gunners into life but they failed to create any meaningful chances as the Norwich midfield did an excellent job of nullifying the impact of Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla.
It was Norwich who should have scored the second goal of the game as defender Michael Turner headed wide from a corner just before the break.
Wenger’s team talk at half-time seemed to have little impact as Arsenal continued to struggle to break down a resolute Norwich backline.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was soon brought on for Podolski but he only lasted nine minutes after suffering an injury, with Andrei Arshavin thrown on as his replacement.
The Russian midfielder created little of note, with the majority of chances being created at the other end as Norwich soaked up the Arsenal pressure and hit them on the break.
Holt wasted a glorious chance to make it 2-0 after he nicked the ball off Thomas Vermaelen on the half-way line and bore down on goal, only to see his chipped effort fall into the arms of Mannone.
Arteta had a decent strike from 25 yards well saved by John Ruddy before Gervinho was played clean through late on only to see his strike well blocked by Sebastian Bassong.
Wenger expressed his disappointment at the result, with the Frenchman claiming it was their worst performance of the season.
“You can always find excuses when you lose a game but, overall, you have to stand up and say Norwich wanted it more than us,” he told BBC Sport.
“I believe we have to put that behind us and focus on our next game and realise that what we produced against Norwich was not good enough.”
Arsenal will be looking to get their season back on track on Wednesday when they host Schalke in the Champions League.
Laurence Taylor, Football Correspondent