I had the pleasure of being invited to the Emirates Stadium to witness the game between Arsenal and the Canaries. I don’t want to focus too much on the big decisions from the match, but evaluate the things Norwich did and didn't do well.
Overall, it was a game that most Norwich fans would have expected defeat from, but it was the manner that the defeat came about that irritated a lot of supporters. Nevertheless, we should be careful not to blame the entire defeat on the officials.
So, grab a hot beverage and join me as I go through some of the finer points from the game.
The Canaries did a pretty good job of nullifying the Arsenal threat in the first half. However, the Gunners still enjoyed plenty of the ball, and better quality in the final third could have seen them hold a comfortable lead at the break. But you do have to give credit to Norwich for their defence.
Nevertheless, there is certainly an argument that it was a risky strategy from Hughton as Norwich played 45 minutes of football without registering a single shot. It was clearly a job of containing Arsenal, and it would have been interesting to see how matters would have changed had the home side managed a breakthrough.
Chris Hughton certainly ran the changes for this game both in terms of formation and personnel. Steven Whittaker, Grant Holt, Alex Tettey all returned to the side, but Wes Hoolahan was left out. I wasn’t overly impressed with the performance of Holt, but the other players coming in seemed to do a solid enough job.
Hughton will now have to decide if the front three of Snodgrass, Holt and Kei Kamara is the way he wishes to continue for the rest of the season. I did feel that Elliott Bennett was unlucky to be dropped following a strong performance against Swansea, and it should be noted that Anthony Pilkington is fit for selection again.
I would have to conclude that the changes did work for 80 odd minutes, and that’s not a bad achievement to take to a team currently jointed at the top of the form table. That’s certainly something that can be used for inspiration for the matches that follow.
Goals from set pieces this season has been a bit of a mixed bag. It’s certainly fantastic to have a statistic that Norwich are performing so well in; however, the other side of that is the severe lack of goals from open play this season. And the Arsenal game was yet another instance where an open-play goal hasn’t been scored.
It was good to see Michael Turner scoring with his head, which helps to spread the goals around the team. This is something that is very much needed considering the lack of a player with a decent tally this season. But Norwich fans will be hoping that Ricky van Wolfswinkel can change all that at Carrow Road next season.
There is a lot within the Arsenal game to grumble about, not least the decisions that went against the team. However, perspective tells us that it was always a long shot to get anything out of the game. Norwich fans have left the Emirates Stadium seeing their side put on one hell of a show.
Important games lay ahead against Reading, Stoke and Aston Villa. These are the sort of games that the Canaries must take points out of. I would add that a win against at least one of them should be seen as a minimum requirement.