Arsenal Focus – Norwich showing gives Gunners a harsh reality check

Prior to the international break, the mood was sky-high at Arsenal Football Club. West Ham United had been dispatched in the latest of the Gunners’ impressive Premier League performances, new signings like Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski were settling into the English game and prodigy Jack Wilshere was nearing a return to the first team.

Two weeks later, that optimism is on hold after a gutless surrender to Norwich City at Carrow Road. Grant Holt scored the only goal of the game to give the struggling Canaries three points and leave Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger scratching his head at his team, which was unrecognisable from that of a fortnight ago.

It was a very Arsenal-like performance in so much as the visitors were expected, on paper, to comfortably see off their hosts – even at half-time when they found themselves a goal behind. However they failed to display the courage and incisiveness which the better teams – the Manchester Uniteds, Manchester Citys and Chelseas – can call upon in times of adversity.

Speaking after the game, boss Arsene Wenger told the official Arsenal website: “I hope [the defeat to Norwich] will have a positive impact. It was a shock to the system today. But you have to give credit to Norwich today. They played well, were completely committed and they deserved the win. Maybe we underrated the difficulty we would face.

“But the Premier League is the Premier League. If you are not ready for the fight then you will always have bad surprises. There is a big difference between the amount of possession we had and the amount of chances we created. That is down to the fact that Norwich defended well and we did not create a lot.”

After more than 15 years of managing in the Premier League, should Wenger still be ‘underestimating’ fellow top level teams? Indeed, would Sir Alex Ferguson admit to failing to properly prepare for a Premier League opponent’s threats?

Earlier in the week, Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone built up his side’s chances of winning the Premier League title. In short, the Norwich match highlighted the weaknesses which Arsenal have to try and overcome if they are to threaten at the top.

The team needs to develop a resilience. At Carrow Road, Arsenal shrugged their collective shoulders despite the fact they had plenty of resources to break down one of the weakest teams in the Premier League. Only when Arsene Wenger instils a higher level of hardiness and a more intense will to win will Arsenal be taken seriously.

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