Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored Arsenal’s first goal of the season which was just enough for the Gunners to edge past Norwich 1-0 and ease the pressure on Mikel Arteta.
The Arsenal boss came into the game under the spotlight after starting the season with three defeats on the spin without scoring, and the tension was growing further inside the Emirates Stadium until Aubameyang struck after 66 minutes. In the aftermath, Arteta hailed it as “the best week of my career” as the Gunners got their season up and running.
It was a goal that survived a VAR review as the striker had looked offside when turning in from close range after Nicolas Pepe struck a post, but the replays showed the ball had come off Norwich goalkeeper Tim Krul’s leg into his path.
Somehow, Arsenal only managed the one goal despite registering 30 efforts on the Norwich goal and had to come through an edgy final few minutes to earn their first three points of the season.
Sarcastic chants of “we are staying up” rang around the home stands at the Emirates, while Norwich’s return to the Premier League has now started with four straight defeats.
Arsenal: Ramsdale (7), Tomiyasu (7), White (7), Gabriel (8), Tierney (7), Saka (7), Lokonga (7), Odegaard, (6) Maitland-Niles (6), Pepe (7), Aubameyang (7)
Subs: Smith Rowe (7), Soares (7), Partey (7)
Norwich: Krul (6), Aarons (7), Omobamidele (7), Hanley (6), Williams (7), Lees-Melou (6), Dowell (6), McLean (6), Rupp (6), Tzolis (6), Pukki (6)
Subs: Cantwell (6), Rashica (6)
Man of the match: Gabriel
How Arsenal climbed away from the relegation zone…
Arteta’s side produced an improved performance after their opening three defeats with Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu handed debuts after joining this summer.
Aubameyang, who looked rusty in the first half, fired wide on 10 minutes and was denied in the 20th by a superb save from visiting goalkeeper Tim Krul before the lively Tomiyasu volleyed over the bar for the hosts.
- Mikel Arteta made seven changes in total from their defeat at Manchester City. Debuts were handed to Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu, while Ben White and Gabriel are partnered at centre-half for the first time. There was a surprise start in midfield for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was preferred to Thomas Partey.
- Daniel Farke made some surprise changes of his own with Ben Gibson, Todd Cantwell and Billy Gilmour dropping to the bench. Andrew Omobamidele and Christos Tzolis, both 19, made their Premier League debuts.
Daniel Farke will have been satisfied with the way Norwich contained Arsenal’s passing and his side nearly took a surprise lead when Kenny McLean headed wide following a Max Aarons cross.
A timely intervention by left-back Brandon Williams kept out a Pepe sitter for Arsenal shortly after the break as the pressure started to grow on Norwich, who handed a debut to impressive 19-year-old Andrew Omobamidele. He and Grant Hanley were just about coping with the constant play in their direction but on 66 minutes Arsenal got the goal their rising shot-count deserved.
Pepe twice hit the post within a few seconds from a flowing move and the second rebound fell kindly to Aubameyang, who was perfectly positioned to tuck the ball into an empty net. Norwich appealed for an offside but the last touch unfortunately for them came off Krul despite Aubameyang standing ahead of the play.
The Gabon international had a fine opportunity to wrap up the points but shot straight at Krul, who then provided a fine stop to prevent Emile Smith Rowe from doubling the lead during his impressive cameo from the bench.
Arsenal almost were made to rue those missed chances in stoppage time when a low cross into their box fell to Teemu Pukki but the returning Gabriel Magalhaes – the man of the match – was on hand with a last-ditch challenge.
The result lifted Arsenal to 16th place on three points from four games while Norwich, who are still looking for their first point of the season, slipped to the bottom of the table.
Man of the match: Gabriel Magalhaes
Arsenal’s start to the season has been defined by an inability to defend their box properly. Brentford, Chelsea and Manchester City all managed to bully their way through the Arsenal lines to victory – but Norwich found no way through today. The main reason for that was because Arsenal had a defender playing who relishes such battles. Gabriel has missed the start of the season – and too much football in general – due to a knee injury but his presence was obvious here alongside Ben White, who seemed to play with more comfort knowing he had proper defender doing more of the dirty work.
The Brazilian’s authority in defending his box was summed up perfectly in injury-time when deflecting a Pukki effort over the bar. Ramsdale didn’t have a serious save to make all afternoon, much of that was due to Gabriel’s marshalling of potentially dangerous situations.
Have Arsenal turned a corner? What the pundits said…
Clinton Morrison on Soccer Saturday:
“I wouldn’t say Arsenal were convincing.
“Norwich did put up a fight. They defended well, but in attack they weren’t convincing. They didn’t really create any clear-cut chances. It was comfortable for Arsenal.
“Meanwhile, Arsenal dominated possession without creating any real clear-cut chances in the first half. In the second half, once they got the goal, they did start to get opportunities, but they just weren’t ruthless enough.
“All in all, for Arsenal’s first Premier League goal of the season I don’t think Mikel Arteta or the Arsenal fans will care how it came. It was just about getting the three points.
“Have Arsenal turned a corner? No, because this is a game you expected them to win without a shadow of a doubt and it should have been two or three, but you do have to credit Norwich.
“These aren’t the games where Arsenal will be judged, no chance. They should beat a team like Norwich. The amount of money Arsenal have spent, they should be beating them convincingly.
“I don’t think Arsenal have turned a corner. If you ask me in six or seven games’ time I may change my mind, but what I will say is that when you win football matches it breeds confidence and getting the three points will give them a big lift.”
- In their first win of the Premier League season, Arsenal mustered 30 shots against Norwich, their most in a league game since attempting 33 against Manchester United in December 2017 (33).
- This is Norwich’s worst-ever start to a league campaign after four games (0 pts, -10 goal difference) and just the third time they have started a season with four league defeats (also 1938-39 and 1963-64, both in the old Second Division).
- Tomiyasu is the 10th Japanese player to appear in the Premier League (Inamoto, Toda, Nakata, Miyaichi, Kagawa, Yoshida, Okazaki, Muto, Minamino) and just the second to do so for Arsenal after Ryo Miyaichi in 2013.
- Ramsdale is the first English goalkeeper to appear for Arsenal in the Premier League since David Seaman in May 2003.
A trip to Burnley is next up for Arsenal next Saturday (3pm kick-off), while Norwich are back at Carrow Road for the visit of fellow Premier League newcomers Watford (3pm kick-off).