RVP at the double
Saturday’s game against the Gunners was the first time that one of the so called Top Six Premier League clubs had come to Carrow Road this season, and whilst the fans responded by turning out in such numbers that while a new attendance record of 26,801 was set for the new all seater stadium, the team seemed slightly overawed by the occasion as they were beaten 2-1 and lost two consecutive league games for the second time this season.
The Great God of Mammon (aka Sky TV) had decreed that the match would kick off at 12.45pm so the Capital Canaries contingent were more than usually weary and bleary eyed as they met up at Liverpool Street station to catch the 9.30am train to the Fine City.
There was much discussion about the best way to attack Arsenal’s shaky defence and at the same time how to avoid our defence (with its propensity to concede) being cut to pieces by Arsenal’s flying wingers. What team selection would Lambert make? 4-5-1? 4-1-5? 4-2-4? In the event he dropped Holt and Bennett from the team that lost at Villa Park and brought in Fox and Crofts to strengthen the midfield. Adam Drury earned a place on the bench.
Arsenal made the early running and Walcott, and Van Persie both went close. In the 11th minute Russell Martin cleared off the line from Walcott’s shot with Ruddy beaten.
Four minutes later City’s biggest home crowd since 1984 saw Morrison score a fine individual goal. The huge but statuesque and slow Mertesacker should have cleared Tierney’s long ball, but dithered, allowing Morison to nip in, rob him, and score from close range. Prof Wenger looked furious, and remonstrated with anyone who would listen. He claimed that Morison had controlled the ball with his hand. I told him in French that I did not see the incident.
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The Norwich crowd was now as noisy as the Gunners fans were quiet. Both sets of fans were thinking the unthinkable. Was an upset really on the cards? The City goal led a charmed life as Martin twice more cleared off the line. But after 27 minutes Walcott beat Tierney and crossed. Gervinho tried a clever backheel which didn’t work, but Van Persie was on hand to score.
City were still level at half-time. And because of our early kick-off there were no other half-time scores to cheer or boo. Bennett replaced Fox at half-time. Ruddy made a good save from Gervinho after 55 minutes.
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After 59 minutes that man RVP struck again. This time it was the otherwise excellent Martin who dithered on the halfway line allowing Song to put Van Persie clear. 2-1 to the Gunners.
Pilkington went close after 65 minutes. Bennett was booked. Holt replaced Hoolahan. Ruddy made a couple more good saves. Holt fell over four times in the last 20 minutes, and earned two free-kicks and a booking for diving. Jackson came on for Pilkington with eight minutes left. But 2-1 it stayed. Prof Wenger praised the Canaries, confirmed that he had seen both of RVP’s goals, and denied that he had ever thought of leaving the Emirates.
City were by no means outclassed but it has to be said that Arsenal controlled the game. City battled hard and Lambert said he was proud of his players. It is no disgrace to beaten 2-1 by such a good team as Arsenal. We were never in danger of losing 8-2. But we will long remember Morison’s goal and wonder what might have been if only we had been able to hold onto our lead.
Unfortunately City are still beset by defensive errors and are the only Premier League team not to have kept a clean sheet this season. That in itself is no bad thing. I should be happy to win all of our remaining games by 2-1. Of course to win them all by 5-1 would be better. We are still in a respectable position in the league table. Surely at least one of our injured centre backs will be fit soon?
Lambert professes not to be worried because we have won none of our last four games. If he is not worried then neither am I. But the next game at home to QPR is rapidly assuming the status of a must win game. My daughter keeps reminding me that I haven’t seen Norwich win this season. But I am a Canary addict and I shall be there. In all our games in the Premier League so far we have played well with but scant reward for all our effort. Our luck has to change soon. Come on you Yellows!