Arsenal made it four straight wins in the Premier League as Mikel Arteta celebrated his two-year anniversary as Gunners boss with a thumping 5-0 Boxing Day win at Norwich.
Bukayo Saka gave Arsenal the perfect start, stroking the ball past Angus Gunn to give the Gunners a sixth-minute lead.
Kieran Tierney extended their lead just before the break (44) with a composed finish, before Saka, who gave Norwich a torrid afternoon, rounded off his impressive display with a fine strike from the edge of the penalty area (67).
Bukayo Saka has been involved in nine goals in his 19 Premier League games this season (five goals, four assists), one more than he managed in 32 appearances last season (five goals, three assists).
Alexandre Lacazette, who continued as captain in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scored from the penalty spot (84) after being fouled by Ozan Kabak, before substitute Emile Smith Rowe just about stayed onside to add the finishing touch (90+1) to another super display from Arsenal.
Victory sees the Gunners secure a fifth straight win in all competitions for the first since 2018 under Unai Emery. Arteta, who took charge of Arsenal on Boxing Day in 2019, sees his side stay fourth, and despite having played more games than the sides around them, the win sees them open up a six-point gap to fifth-placed Spurs.
Meanwhile, Norwich stay bottom of the table on goal difference after a fourth straight defeat.
How Saka inspired Arsenal to thumping win at Norwich…
Ahead of kick-off, Norwich boss Dean Smith reiterated his unhappiness about having his side play two games in 48 hours with the difficulties of Covid, and his mood would have not improved when Arsenal took a sixth-minute lead.
Ozan Kabak’s slack pass was picked off by Tierney before Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli combined before the Brazilian picked out Martin Odegaard. The Norwegian had time and space to slide the ball into the path of Saka, who shifted it onto his left foot before striking a low effort past Gunn and into the bottom corner.
The game threatened to get away from the hosts as Arsenal attacked with menace, but the visitors missed chances, Lacazette planting a header wide, while Gunn had to be alert to keep out Martinelli’s long-range effort.
Norwich: Gunn (5), Aarons (6), Kabak (5), Gibson (5), Williams (5), McLean (6), Gilmour (5), Sargent (6), Dowell (5), Placheta (6), Pukki (6).
Subs: Lees-Melou (6), Idah (n/a), Tzolis (n/a).
Arsenal: Ramsdale (7), White (6), Holding (6), Magalhaes (7), Tierney (8), Partey (7), Xhaka (7), Saka (9), Odegaard (8), Martinelli (7), Lacazette (8).
Subs: Elneny (n/a), Pepe (n/a), Smith Rowe (n/a).
Man of the match: Bukayo Saka.
Norwich did grow into the game and Smith’s side go their press going, making life difficult for Arsenal as they looked to pass out from the back. However, Norwich still failed to create any chance of note and were second best for much of the half.
Some battling challenges towards the end of the half did get the home fans behind them – only to be silenced by a second goal, Odegaard again providing the assist for Tierney to finish low past Gunn.
There never looked like being an inspired second-half comeback for Norwich as the pattern of the first half continued early in the second.
- Norwich showed three changes from their home defeat to Aston Villa last time out with a number of positive Covid cases among Dean Smith’s ranks. Angus Gunn made his first Premier League start for the club in goal while Josh Sargent and Kieran Dowell were recalled.
- Arsenal made one change from their last Premier League game as Rob Holding replaced Takehiro Tomiyasu for their Boxing Day clash at Norwich. The Gunners had made nine alterations for their Carabao Cup win over Sunderland, but Mikel Arteta reverted back to a more recognisable line-up as the likes of Aaron Ramsdale, Thomas Partey, Bukayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette returned. Arsenal were also missing Calum Chambers, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Cedric Soares and Tomiyasu due to Covid.
Saka’s second goal in the 67th minute was a fine finish as the England winger cut inside Brandon Williams before striking from the edge of the box to wrap up the win.
Arteta, whose side host Wolves in less than 48 hours, looked to his bench to freshen things up with the game secure, but it did not stop a late flurry from the visitors.
Lacazette was played in by Smith Rowe before being bundled over in the box by Kabak six minutes from time and the Frenchman picked himself up to tuck away the resulting penalty before Smith Rowe got the better of a tight offside call to score off the bench for the second league outing in succession.
What the managers said…
Norwich boss Dean Smith: “I have used a tennis terminology in the dressing room to describe our performance – it was littered with unforced errors. We gave two soft fouls away for two soft goals at the end. We cannot drop our standards from two games ago against Manchester United to today’s showing.
“We got beat 3-0 at Spurs and 1-0 against Manchester United and I accept that because we played well in those games. We’re not making the most of the big chances. I can stand here like every other manager and say we have had illnesses and injuries. But we have to be better than we were today.
“We have been beaten 5-0 at home and the coaching staff and I now have to try and lift the players. I’ll have a debrief with them about this game and make sure we are ready for the next game.”
Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta: “It’s a very satisfying result because in this festive period we have to keep performances to a high level.
“We looked really sharp and committed. It’s a big win for us. I am really pleased. The number of chances we create is pleasing.
“We go to every ground to try and impose our game. Today was a really good example. The unity we have around the club and with our fans is very pleasing.”
Man of the match – Bukayo Saka
So often Arsenal’s bright spark this season, the England international delivered again.
We know all about Saka’s pace and trickery when operating from the right flank, but he has been challenged to get more goals by Arteta, and he delivered at Carrow Road.
He produced two fine finishes to cap another really impressive display.
10 – Bukayo Saka (20 years, 112 days) is the second-youngest Arsenal player to reach 10 Premier League goals for the club, after Nicolas Anelka (19 years, 225 days). Gooner. https://t.co/ADKd8m2pmP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2021
Opta stats: Arsenal’s goal glut continues…
- Arsenal have scored more goals in their last two Premier League away games (9) than they managed in their first eight on the road this season (6), while this is the first time the Gunners have netted 4+ goals in consecutive away games in the competition since April 2009.
- Norwich extended their record of most Premier League games on Boxing Day without ever winning, with the Canaries losing seven of their eight such games in the competition (D1).
- This was Arsenal’s joint biggest margin of victory away from home in a Premier League match, level with 6-1 victories at Middlesbrough in April 1999 and Everton in August 2009.
- Arsenal’s Martin Odegaard has been involved in six goals in his last six Premier League games (3 goals, 3 assists), two more than he had in his first 25 appearances in the competition (2 goals, 2 assists). Today was the first time the Norwegian provided two assists in a single Premier League match.
- No side has scored more Premier League goals via substitutes than Arsenal this season (5), while Emile Smith Rowe is the player with the most goals off the bench in the competition this term (3).
Arsenal face Wolves on Tuesday in the Premier League; kick-off 12.30pm.
Meanwhile, Norwich face a trip to Crystal Palace, also on Tuesday; kick-off 3pm.