Arsenal leapt into the Europa League qualification places after a 4-0 thrashing over bottom of the league Norwich City. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bagged a brace, Granit Xhaka found the net and there was also a debut goal for second-half substitute Cedric Soares. The Portuguese full-back made an instant impact in his first appearance for the Gunners since his January move to North London from Southampton.
Arsenal Creep Into Europa League Spot But Norwich City’s Struggles Continue
A Convincing Success
The Gunners were convincing and secured their third successive win after what was a dreadful return to Premier League football. This was their first game back at the Emirates and they will be happy that they were able to maintain the momentum picked up in their last two outings. With a difficult run of fixtures to come, this will give them confidence and a belief to kick on and have a good end to the season.
As for Norwich, they were masters of their own downfall once again this evening. Goalkeeper Tim Krul gifted Arsenal their opener after the Dutchman lost possession at the edge of his box to an alert Aubameyang. He stroked the ball into an empty net just after the half an hour mark. Another error from Josip Drmic provided the Gabonese forward with his second after the break. They were two easy finishes for the man who today became the quickest Arsenal player to 50 Premier League goals and joint top goalscorer this season with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (both on 19).
Xhaka got Arsenal’s second completing a well-worked move. Cedric then made an instant impact with a great strike which sealed a big win for Arsenal in their return home.
The Canaries were not entirely hopeless, however. They hit the woodwork early on through Ben Godfrey and had a handful of chances, but by half time the game looked all but over. A positive beginning to the second half was ruined by self-inflicted errors.
Arsenal Building Momentum
After this result, the North London side overtook rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the table and now find themselves in the European qualification places, something which seemed highly unlikely just a matter of games ago.
This was a much more convincing performance than those against Southampton and Sheffield United. The Gunners were also able to rest key men Nicolas Pepe and Bukayo Saka. The pair will likely be crucial if Arsenal have any hope of success in their upcoming fixtures, as they look to secure European football for the 2020/21 campaign. Even without these two, they were capable of a convincing performance.
They will also be pleased to see Aubameyang back on the score-sheet again. His two goals today were his first since the restart and they will hope this can kick-start some form for the backend of the season.
The Gunners travel to Champions League-chasing Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend. Arteta’s men will know how much of a challenge the trip to Molineux will be. Their fixtures in the coming weeks include games against two of the top three, and a trip to North London rivals Tottenham. If the Gunners are to have any chance of securing European football next season, they will have to have some big performances and pick up a few wins, it will be an extremely difficult task for a side who by their standards have had a woeful campaign.
Positive Signs for Arsenal
Mikel Arteta seems to be slowly getting a grip on his squad. The Gunners showed great fight and resilience late on in their FA Cup quarter-final trip to Bramall Lane last weekend. Also, they seem to be a lot more defensively resolute under Arteta; the Gunners have kept six Premier League clean sheets since his arrival.
As well, the Spanish head coach appears to have club-record signing Pepe firing, and the squad have the added bonus of Saka signing a new deal. Arsenal will benefit from the certainty this contract brings, and the Hale End Graduate, now with his future committed, will be settled and looking to continue his great form.
The Gunners will also hope Aubameyang can be persuaded to stay, especially if they can extend this form and have a good end to the season. With an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley to come, and European qualification still achievable, there is still much to play for. This comes as quite a surprise as after their 2-1 defeat against Brighton & Hove Albion, and the fact they are eliminated from the Europa League, their season seemed all but over.
The North London side travel to Molineux only six points behind sixth-placed Wolves. A win could even reignite the Gunner’s Champions League hopes, as far-fetched as that may sound.
Norwich’s Relegation Looms Closer
The Canaries’ survival hopes are hanging by a thread. With just six games remaining, Norwich sit six points adrift at the bottom of the table. They had their moments in this game but do not look like a side capable of completing what seems like mission impossible.
As Project Restart edged closer, Daniel Farke claimed his side needed five wins to have a chance of preserving their top-flight status. Yet, Norwich have failed to register a point since football’s return. With trips to Stamford Bridge and the Etihad still to come, there appears to be no sign of them reaching their five-win target.
Norwich have a more favourable run of games in the coming weeks. They face three sides also desperate for points and in the relegation scrap. Two home games against Brighton and West Ham United, as well as a trip to Vicarage Road to face Watford may breathe a little hope into this Norwich squad. Regardless, they seem destined to be playing Championship football season.
Even maximum points in these next three games will not guarantee their safety or even take them out of the relegation zone. It will be a huge ask for what is an incredibly young, inexperienced and injury-hit squad.