Arsenal vs. Norwich: 6 Things We Learned
Jack Wilshere opened the scoring with a goal after truly brilliant interplay between him and Olivier Giroud. Mesut Ozil headed in the Gunners' second, and after Jonny Howson pulled a goal back for the Canaries, Aaron Ramsey sealed the victory with an absolutely astounding individual goal. Ozil added a fourth in the late stages.
Everything worked for Arsenal in their most cohesive and technically brilliant display of the season.
If they can carry this exceptional play into their midweek Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund and beyond, they will be favorites for the trophies that have so eluded them in seasons past.
Here are six things we learned from the match.
Olivier Giroud Is Amazing
We know by now that Olivier Giroud is an excellent goalscorer. But this season, he has truly become an elite striker.
Combine Mesut Ozil's superb technical ability with the brute strength of Grant Holt and you get Giroud. His brilliant assist for Jack Wilshere's goal exemplifies what makes him such a special player.
While holding defenders off at the top of the box, he had the wherewithal to notice Wilshere's run into the box and execute a deft flick of his boot to find the Englishman in perfect stride.
The goal perfectly demonstrated Arsene Wenger's footballing philosophy, and Giroud's exceptional quality made it all possible.
Arsene Wenger Does Not Want to Rotate His Squad
With arguably the most difficult match that Arsenal will have played this season coming up on Tuesday, it would have made a lot of sense for Arsene Wenger to rest a few of his regular starters and keep the half-fit Bacary Sagna and Santi Cazorla on the bench.
So much for that. Arsenal will now host Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday with virtually the same exact squad that played against Norwich.
Aaron Ramsey is the only plausible starter who Wenger tried to give a breather, but he was quickly called into action when Mathieu Flamini complained that he was seeing double. Cazorla, who Wenger described before the match as "not match-fit," started the game.
One would, therefore, think that it would be difficult for him to be at his best twice in four days, but Wenger knows his players better than any of us do.
Aaron Ramsey's exclusion from the starting XI was the most surprising lineup decision that Arsene Wenger made. Ramsey used Mathieu Flamini's cranial injury to stamp his influence on the game.
His overall play was excellent, as usual, but all that really matters is the goal.
The goal. Certainly Arsenal's goal of the season thus far. A nugget of sheer individual brilliance that entailed picking the ball up in the box, tricking two players at once, sending another to the ground a second later and stroking the ball past John Ruddy.
That was not enough, of course. He later unselfishly set Mesut Ozil up for Arsenal's fourth. What a player Ramsey has become.
Mesut Ozil Can Do It All
I'm not sure that Arsene Wenger spent £42.5 million on Mesut Ozil so the German could be used as a target man, but Ozil is perfectly capable of scoring with all parts of his body.
He finished Arsenal's second goal with a deft flick of the head, but the effort and awareness needed to be close to the goal in the first place were remarkable.
Before Arsenal had advanced the ball past the center circle, he recognized that an excellent chance was materializing.
He intelligently sprinted past snoozing Norwich players on the left flank, and when the ball fell to Olivier Giroud on the right side of the box, Ozil was perfectly positioned to head the ball in the bottom corner.
That merging of footballing intelligence and innate ability are what you get in a player as elite as Ozil.
Jack Wilshere Can Play on the Wing
He just has to be playing on the right wing.
When Arsene Wenger first tried putting Wilshere on the flank to fit Arsenal's glut of midfielders into one team, Wilshere was isolated and struggled to have an impact on the game. He simply is not the sort of player who will go racing down the wing to add width to the team.
What Wilshere is comfortable doing, however, is cutting and darting and weaving through the opposition's midfield and defense. Because he is left-footed, playing on the right wing gives him the opportunity to do that.
While Wilshere is still more effective in the middle of the pitch, Wenger should be comfortable using him on the right if he wants to use as many midfielders as possible.
The International Break Took Nothing Out of Arsenal
One might think that when players don't play for their club team for two weeks, some of the side's momentum is drained. That was a worry for Arsenal after they had stormed through their Premier League schedule to rise to the top of the table.
Yet from the opening whistle against Norwich, it was clear that the Gunners were picking up right where they had left off.
The most telling sign of how Arsenal will do in a match is whether they press the opposition after losing possession. On several occasions, three or more players chased down a Norwich City man after an attack had broken down.
Then, the Gunners would return to their usual swashbuckling style and tear the Canaries apart.