Gunners fan Patrick Wiseman reports on Norwich’s visit to the Emirates:
Arsenal played host to Norwich at the Emirates Stadium in the late Saturday kick off, both sides needing three points for their respective ambitions. Like last week, however, it was the team we played against, rather than ourselves, that were in much greater need of the three points. Given that, out of the three teams still scrapping for their lives, Norwich, Sunderland & Newcastle, Newcastle won, beating Crystal Palace 1-0, and Sunderland rescued a point with a late penalty against Stoke, score ending 1-1, it was imperative for the Canaries that they bagged a result of some sort here, be it one point or all three. Before the game Norwich had won only one of their last 14 Premier League matches against the Gunners, drawing 6 and losing 8, so it wasn’t going to be an easy task for them.
Norwich, however, started the brighter of the two teams, a start which perhaps gives their fans a glimmer of hope that a Houdini-esque escape act is possible. Petr Cech stopped Nathan Redmond’s effort on in the sixth minute, and then Cameron Jerome wasted a chance from deep inside the area following some woeful Arsenal defending.
Hardly the start Wenger wanted then, as the 12th minute approached and with the planned ‘time for change protest’ – make what you will out of what exactly needs to change; for what it’s worth, I’m a firm believer that change at the top is needed – Kroenke’s got to go – although sadly I can’t see that happening.
The protest, however, only served to increase the split between the pro-Wenger and anti-Wenger factions at the club. The anti-Wenger protestors, a small but passionate band, held up the ‘time for change’ posters, but it was a damp squib, as it transpired that the planned protest was only carried out by a smattering of supporters here and there across the stadium – probably less than a thousand posters, if that. The supporters who desired change were drowned out by chants of ‘One Arsene Wenger’, showing Wenger still has his loyalists at the club, although in spite of Saturday’s showing of support that number appears to be dwindling at a quickening rate.
One thing I saw at the game from a Wenger-supporter particularly angered me, however, and this was the banner proclaiming ‘proud of Arsene, ashamed of “fans”’ – fans who desire change care just as much about the club as those who want to stick with Wenger, and to state otherwise is a sure sign that Arsene has managed to create a cult of personality among some of the fans, and surely that in itself for those who can see it is a sure sign that it IS time for change. No man is bigger than the club, and all fans would do well to remember that.
Wenger may believe that the notion of mass supporter dissent and disillusion is a myth conjured up by social media – a claim that would seem to be backed up by this showing of evidence – but outside of the fans who attended the match there is a growing groundswell of anti-Wenger sentiment, as fans tire quickly of no title in twelve years, consistent choking, and inactivity in the transfer market to name but a few.
Back to the game. Arsenal were toiling, failing to force Canaries ‘keeper John Ruddy into a single save in the first half, in spite of having 7 shots. Arsenal were toothless and lacking creativity – words that capture Arsenal’s woeful season. The teams went in at the break with the deadlock not yet broken, the score 0-0.
Early in the second half the Arsenal injury curse struck again, Per Mertesacker limping off with a suspected hamstring injury to be replaced by Gabriel, highlighting Arsenal’s need for a centre-back in the summer window, although the chances of that happening are probably very slim.
Like the first half, Arsenal dominated the ball but were doing nothing with it. Wenger replaced Iwobi with Welbeck to the dismay of the fans, boos ringing out across the stadium. Many feel he should have withdrawn Olivier Giroud, whose form has been simply abysmal, with no goal in 15 games.
Surprise surprise, when you shoot you can score! It’s a common consensus among gooners everywhere that we don’t shoot anywhere nearly enough, and and Welbeck’s first shot – shots seem to be becoming a rarer commodity with each passing game – opened the scoring on 59 minutes from 12 yards.
Norwich, however refused to lie down and kept plugging away, Gabriel making a brilliant last-ditch tackle in the 70th minute to deny Mbokani.
Again on the 78th minute – 78 being 12 minutes before the end, 12 years since we last won the title – another ‘time for change’ protest, but this one was an even less ineffectual than the 12th-minute one.
Alexis Sanchez stormed off the pitch after being subbed – a worrying omen for gunners who feel he may look to leave the club in the summer.
The game ended 1-0 to the Arsenal, giving us three points and seemingly confirming Norwich’s relegation. Arsenal may have won, but the performance will have done little to placate fans calling for change. Our last two games have been victories against woeful sides who in truth have nothing to play for, and we barely scraped a 1-0 win against a Canaries side fighting relegation. The performance on Saturday was as drab and lifeless as any I have seen this season, and hardly worth celebrating given that our season is over, with nothing worthy to fight for.
Next week we face Man City at the Etihad, a game which I am dreading. I hope we come away with some sort of result, but on the evidence of this game and throughout the season, I’m not optimistic. Some fans in their delusion are claiming that St Totteringham’s Day is still possible – in truth we’d be lucky to get the top four.
Follow Patrick on Twitter – @WisepPatrick