In-depth Norwich v Arsenal Review – Aubameyang and Leno come to Freddie’s rescue

Aubameyang and Leno come to Freddie’s rescue as Arsenal drop more points despite improvements: By Alfie Cairns Culshaw

Norwich 2-2 Arsenal
Ultimately a disappointing result in Freddie’s opening game as a Football manager, but the immediate improvements in his system were encouraging. Whilst we almost certainly have two individuals to thank for picking up a point, and for picking up a large majority of our points this season, it was a team performance that contained much greater control over the game, some fluid attacking football, and a greater fighting spirit and positive attitudes.

Ljungberg opted for a slightly unconventional starting 11, which unsurprisingly provoked animosity online. Sead Kolasinac, Skodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka’s inclusions in particular, as well as Kieran Tierney and Nicolas Pepe’s omissions sparking outrage on Twitter as #FreddieOut began trending. Another example of the AFTV rage culture infiltrating an increasingly toxic fanbase.

One must assume Tierney was left out due to playing two full 90 minutes in quick succession, whilst the inclusions of Mustafi and Xhaka were perhaps to reintegrate them back into the side and thus “bring smiles back on faces.”

Whilst the formation appeared to be a diamond on paper, it soon became apparent Ljungberg was opting for a narrow 4-3-3 with Ozil and Aubameyang as inside forwards, with the onus on the full-backs to provide the width. This worked early on, with Calum Chambers in particular providing a constant outlet down that right-hand side, effectively linking up with Aubameyang on a number of occasions.

Mustafi, David Luiz and Xhaka sat deep and kept us ticking with their technical capabilities on the ball, which allowed us to maintain stability in possession, and Norwich struggled to attain any sort of control or authority. Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi’s dynamic runs from deep to support Lacazette proved to be a threat, and led to our first real opportunity, with Lacazette forcing Tim Krul into a reflex save after the Frenchman scuffed the ball into the ground following a smart run from Willock. This offensive threat remained throughout the early periods, as we penned Norwich back and decisively cut though them.

Chambers and Mustafi both had headers cleared off the line, whilst Xhaka wasted a good opportunity to play in Lacazette after winning the ball up high up after intensely pressing. This co-ordinated press was another positive feature of our first half performance, with Freddie clearly utilising his limited time with the players in training this week to introduce this system.

However, whilst our offensive play may have shown signs of improvement, our defensive deficiencies look far from being eradicated. Whilst in this first 45 minutes we inhibited Norwich to very little (evident in their mere 0.22 xG in this period), our passiveness when defending the edge of the box was as present as ever. Teemu Pukki found himself on the edge of our box, 20 yards from goal, and was met with Luiz and Mustafi dropping off him and allowing him to get a shot away. Whilst there was an element of luck about the deflection, the lack of responsiveness and urgency to close down the shot was a concern. This was again evident in Todd Cantwell’s goal later in the half when Chambers was caught up field and Mustafi switched off, allowing Cantwell to slot past Leno.

Sandwiched between this was another VAR controversy, which saw us equalise through Aubameyang’s retaken penalty. Norwich can have no complaints about either the awarding of the penalty or why it was retaken, with clear encroachment denying the Gabonese under the letter of the law.

Our second half display was far less convincing. Our control over the game withered as Norwich’s confidence grew, and we ultimately had Leno to thank for some outstanding reflex saves. Aubameyang’s emphatic finish from a set-piece marked the end of our dominance territorially and from that moment onwards Norwich sprung into life.
Leno superbly tipped Kenny McLean’s shot onto the post, stopped well with his foot from a Pukki drive, and reacted astutely after a shot deflected off Torreira and was diverted towards the top corner. However, Norwich’s efforts remained largely opportunistic and speculative, evident in the 0.88 xG they had managed by the full-time whistle.

We weren’t without our own late chances. Ozil had a flick blocked off the line, Torreira had a brilliantly connected half-volley blocked and Saka had a deflected cut-back flash across the face of goal. The underlying metrics suggested we were very unlucky not to pick up all three points (with our xG amounting to 2.42), although the media will fail to identify this as the scrutiny around the club builds day by day. Sky demonstrated their usual incompetence in the aftermath, with the pundits collectively agreeing we were lucky to pick up a point, despite having these same metrics available to them on a big screen to their right.

I can talk about these positives but the negative aspects of our game are too prominent to ignore. We remain awful when defending in the transition, with Norwich easily countering us when losing the ball on countless occasions. The lack of athleticism in our side, particularly in central areas, seems to contribute to this, but there is undoubtedly a structural issue there and one that could be fixed with a coach insistent on implementing a gegenpressing system. Thankfully, unlike Emery, Freddie acknowledged this problem in his post-match interview, stating that “we must work on the defensive transition.”

We lack decisiveness in wide areas going forward, although this issue does seem to be down to a matter of personnel. Ozil and Aubameyang aren’t your conventional wide players, and with Saka and Nelson developing, Pepe still settling and our first choice full-backs missing, I’d expect this to improve when the new coach settles and starts implementing his philosophy.

Overall, a strange day. A difficult result to take, given the implications of dropped points, but it was refreshing to talk tactically once again, rather than addressing the ongoing problems off the pitch and about the incompetence of our former manager. Freddie will have learnt a lot about the life of a manager, with this experience hopefully helping him in his future endeavours. For now, the board must move quickly to replace Emery, with more points likely to be dropped while this role is vacated. Vamos.


I’m sure you all already know Alfie from his previous reviews and podcasts, but now I am pleased to call this one a guest post, as this talented and astute young man has now started his own Arsenal blog. Please checkout WeLoveYouArsenal. You won’t be disappointed!


  1. Uzi Ozil says:

    I will be super happy the day Arsenal start defending like a premier league team again.

    If we can get defending right as a unit and team, then we can work wonders.

    1. ThirdManJW says:

      I agree, but unfortunately, a lot of our fans still prefer style, over substance. Our defending has cost us for about a decade now, and yet there are still many fans that do not want a defensive coach like Mourinho, Allegri, or Simeone. If fans that watch Arsenal play every week cannot/refuse to see this problem, then how can we expect the non-Arsenal fans within the hierarchy, that make all the big decisions, to spot this problem? Especially those haven’t been at the club long.

      I say we hire Adams, Keown, Dixon, and Winterburn, to sort this mess out…or Cygan?

      1. ozziegunner says:

        👍 Good defense is the basic solid platform from which attack can be initiated. Good defense wins games, good attack determines by how much.

        1. Diogenes says:

          Too much defensiveness gets you too many draws, rarely works out – just look at Atletico’s recent travails. Their goal difference is 16 – 10 after 15 matches and so even though they have the 2nd best defence (and 3rd best squad) they’re 6th due to 7 draws in 15 matches.

          What is needed is usually balance and in our case it’s glaringly obvious:
          1. no proper DM to help the defense
          2. defensively weak fullbacks – Chambers, Bellerin, Kolasinac are all weak in defense, and we’ll have to wait and see how good Tierney is.

          The current solution to 1. is playing either Torreira or Luiz as a DM instead of these two ball-watchers Xhaka and Guendouzi together. – one of them has to be dropped
          The solution to 2. right now is coaching and in the long run we need better competition for Bellerin

          Of course, our CBs are not good enough either as of yet, but letting them be exposed to 1 on 1 so often just doesn’t happen to top teams.

          1. ThirdManJW says:

            La Liga, Europa League, Champions League runners-up twice (extremely close to winning both times), and it isn’t working for Simeone? He’s also achieving all this whilst constantly losing his best players.

            The only reason they’re struggling at the moment is because they’ve replaced Griezmann with Morata. They’re also having to get used to life after Godin.

  2. Our defence is our weakest point. Mustafi looked like he was lacking match fitness, which is understandable, but both he and Louis could have done better for both our goals conceded. Auba and Lenno saved the day for us, specially Lenno for the his instinctive saves. All in all, looked a much better Arsenal than the one in previous games, given the xG factor and the percentage of balls played into the opposition area. Freddie needs some time to click with the players and his game plan and we as fans should give him that time. He deserves it.

  3. baba sagna says:

    who even put up that article about Leno success or something…I kept a clean mind with Leno but after the double save against son and sissoko last season,I knew we had a special keeper on board.. consistency makes a keeper great and world class but moments of madness makes them special…take Peter schmiechel and van der sar as example…never doubt Leno

  4. Sue says:

    OT.. FA Cup draw tonight

  5. SAGooner says:

    A pundit is a person who offers to mass media their opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (most typically political analysis, the social sciences, technology or sport) on which they are knowledgeable (or can at least appear to be knowledgeable), or considered a scholar in said area.

    Hahaha: see that part in brackets, the one about …can at least appear to be…., or the last part …or consudered to be….

    By whom, I wonder. Take the Jermaine Jenas example from a day or 2 ago, and many more, too many to mention. The rubbish they expouse is amazing. Why does anyone call them pundits?

  6. Siamois says:

    AFTV was mentioned in your article rightly so but comments were not better on this site, I’m sure you saw the negative comments about Auba and Freddie already and some people wants us to sell Auba,this has become ridiculous.

    1. Admin Martin says:

      The difference is the vile abusive language. We do not allow that on here. AFTV actively promote it.

    2. Admin says:

      Is EVERYBODY negative? Do our hundreds of comments from all over the world every day have the same opinions?
      I think you will find a whole range of points of discussion on here and many varying opinions, whereas AFTV hav every limited opinions to choose from…

  7. Griff525 says:

    Hi All

    I’ve been visiting this site for quiet some time now but this is my first post. I have to say some of the comments i have seen on here are crazy, people are saying #Freddieout after his first game, the man had two days to prepare the team for the game at the weekend and what do people expect him to achieve in two days? I saw a massive improvement in our attacking style of play, yes he got the team selection wrong and yes he might have used the wrong subs, but at the end of the day he needs more than two days to get his ideas across. The main thing is that he learns from his mistakes and makes better decisions for the next game. He does not have a magic wand to wave over our defense to make them better, that is going to take time. I will be happy to see us playing good football again because what i have seen so far this season has been hard to watch.

    Who ever the next manager is has a serious job ahead of him trying to sort the defense out hopefully they get the backing from the owners to buy the players we need but i am not so optimistic they are willing to come up with the money that is required.

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