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    Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal


    November is historically the month where Arsenal's early Premier League pace tends to slow down and similar problems have once again resurfaced this season. After losing to West Bromwich Albion last weekend and snatching a draw at home to rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsene Wenger would have been keen for his side to take home three points from Carrow Road on Sunday evening. 

    Norwich themselves have had problems of their own recently, with five defeats in their last eight league games and they began the match just two points above the relegation zone. With Cameron Jerome and Dieumerci Mbokani struggling for goals, Wes Hoolahan and Lewis Grabban came into the starting line-up. The inclusion of Grabban would have raised a few eyebrows, not least as it was his first league game of the season after trying to organise a move away from the club in the summer, but also as it meant another week passing without Northern Ireland favourite Kyle Lafferty earning a start. Graham Dorrans also started for Alex Neil in a bid to bolster the midfield. Arsene Wenger made two changes from the side that lost at West Brom last weekend with Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini replacing Francis Coquelin and Kieran Gibbs in midfield as Arsenal sought the three points that would take them level on points with league leaders Manchester City.



    On a blustery early evening in East Anglia, it was Arsenal who had the first opening of the game when Alexis Sanchez hit a zipping snapshot just past the self-proclaimed 'out of form' John Ruddy's right post. Arsene Wenger's team have a wealth of players out injured currently and just 10 minutes into the game another name was added to that list as Laurent Koscielny limped off to be replaced by Gabriel. The visitors continued to attack in true Arsenal fashion as a neat passing move down the right edge of Norwich's box found Mesut Ozil unmarked just behind the penalty spot only to see his effort deflected wide by Sebastian Bassong. Nacho Monreal was continuing to find space up against Andre Wisdom and his driven cross was met by the stretching Olivier Giroud who could only turn the ball wide under pressure from a difficult angle. Santi Cazorla was beginning to get a hold of the game and a moment of magical quick feet took him past three Norwich players before sliding the ball to Alexis Sanchez whose driven effort was palmed away by John Ruddy. Pressure was mounting and Ruddy, who had been saying during the week how disappointed he is with his current form, kicked a poor clearance to put captain Gary O'Neil under pressure and the lively Alexis Sanchez nipped in to steal the ball and release Mesut Ozil who duly clipped the ball past Ruddy to give Arsenal a deserved lead on the 29 minute mark.

    Norwich had to respond and they gradually began to grow into the game with Robbie Brady forcing Petr Cech into his first save of the match five minutes before the break with a curling effort from just outside the area. Brady looked to be the most likely to make something happen for the hosts and he did just that only moments after his shot. A neat outside of the foot pass found Lewis Grabban who held off Gabriel in the box to turn and place the ball past Cech and get Norwich back into the game after rarely threatening in the opening 40 minutes. That goal certainly revitalised the crowd and the home side as they began to press forward and search for another goal. As the clock ticked into injury time, Andre Wisdom whipped an excellent ball across the corridor of uncertainty and found Wes Hoolahan unmarked but the Irishman could not keep his effort down. The teams went in level at half-time with both managers left with work to do. Arsene Wenger would have been furious that his side had thrown away a comfortable position and would have been fearing the same outcome as last weekend, whilst Alex Neil must have been concerned with how much room the likes of Sanchez, Cazorla, Ozil and Ramsey were finding in between his midfield and defence.



    Arsenal needed the break and they began the second-half controlling possession of the ball oncemore. They went close to restoring the lead on 52 minutes when a deflected cross from Alexis Sanchez almost caused John Ruddy further embarrassment when he flapped and completely missed the ball, only for Mesut Ozil's hooked effort to be blocked by the studs of Sebastian Bassong. Just as the visitors began to set up camp in the Norwich half, Arsene Wenger was dealt another injury blow as Alexis Sanchez pulled up with a recurrence of his hamstring injury and was replaced by Costa Rican Joel Campbell. The loss of the Chilean star and the subsequent reshuffle up front certainly affected Arsenal as they started to find it more difficult to create chances. It was Norwich who came closest to breaking the deadlock midway through the half as Martin Olsson's floated cross came off Gabriel, forcing Petr Cech into a fine diving save. The resulting corner was headed back by Ryan Bennett to Jonny Howson who hooked the ball over with his last kick of the game, before being replaced by the dangerous Nathan Redmond.

    As the game began to enter it's final moments, Graham Dorrans hit an ambitious strike from 30 yards over the bar, before Olivier Giroud headed a Hector Bellerin cross over the top at the other end. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Aaron Ramsey as Arsene Wenger seeked a winning goal. His side were getting plenty of the ball but could not find a way past a stubborn Norwich backline, whilst the hosts continued to look for opportunities on the break. Alex Neil freshened things up with five minutes to play, bringing on Cameron Jerome and Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe for goalscorer Lewis Grabban and the ineffective Wes Hoolahan but despite both teams huffing and puffing, the game filtered out for a share of the spoils. 



    The draw leaves both teams in the same positions as they started the game, with Norwich 16th and now three points above the relegation zone, whilst Arsenal stay 4th two points behind Manchester City at the top of the table. Both teams are out of the League Cup so will have a midweek break before Arsenal host Sunderland next weekend after a disappointing November, where they picked up just five points in five Premier League and Champions League matches. Norwich travel to fellow promoted side Watford as they seek just a second victory in ten games.

    Man of the Match: Robbie Brady
    Norwich could have easily wilted when they fell behind, but the Irish winger took the game by the scruff of the neck and set up an equaliser for Lewis Grabban. Brady continued to be the creative force for the home side and was at the centre of everything dangerous for his team.

    Match report by Chris Lincoln
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    Item Reviewed: Norwich City 1-1 Arsenal Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Chris Lincoln
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