Lazy Arsenal Were Punished for Their Arrogance Against Norwich City

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 21, 2012

NORWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Andrey Arshavin and Per Mertesacker of Arsenal look dejected in defeat after the Barclays Premier League match between  Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on October 20, 2012 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

When a team is missing its usual quality, it cannot afford to compound the issue with a lack of effort. That's a lesson Arsenal learned in Saturday's 1-0 defeat to Norwich City at Carrow Road.

The Gunners played without the creativity and style that have marked their best results this season. While that's certainly to be expected at times during a long campaign, it does not excuse or explain the general lack of effort that was also evident in their performance.

This lethargy blighted key areas of the team and served as a reminder of the worst traits of Arsene Wenger's squads during his long tenure at the helm. Arsenal have been notoriously poor following international breaks under Wenger.

That is a feeble excuse, but a harsh reality of Wenger's time in charge. Arsenal are a rhythm team under Wenger and suffer badly when their momentum is suddenly interrupted.

That's a hard truth for Gunners fans to bear, especially considering Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United all managed to win following the international fixtures and with slightly less preparation time than Arsenal.

One reason for this annoying disparity is that Arsenal don't have the knack for grafting their way through sluggish performances. The three key culprits yesterday were left-back Andre Santos and wide players Gervinho and Lukas Podolski.

Although it defies belief, this trio didn't seem appropriately interested in working to break down stubborn opposition in an awkward away fixture. Gervinho and Podolski appeared to be having a personal competition over which one could do the best Theo Walcott impression.

Both players were content to remain static in the safe sanctity of the wings for far too long, instead of moving around and involving themselves in the flow of play. Santos, meanwhile, confirmed every negative thought about his technique and willingness as a defender.

He was frequently out of position and made little or no effort to correct himself. He offered feeble resistance to any Norwich player who attempted to work the flanks and deliver a cross and was impatient or downright clueless in forward areas.

Arsenal simply have to learn that they can't afford to carry even one disaffected player in an English Premier League game. The presence of as many as three is certain to result in defeat.

The kind of arrogance that sees slip-ups against less-fancied opposition has been occurring far too often. Losing four points at home last season to Wigan Athletic and these same Canaries should have been enough to teach Arsenal that they cannot overlook any opponent, regardless of pedigree or reputation.

Random outbreaks of lethargy and conceit from Arsenal are part of a worrying dynamic that has gone on for far too long. It raises serious questions about the type of players Wenger recruits. It's part of the dark underbelly of the great man's career at Arsenal that he can be accused of often favouring technical ability over resolute commitment.

It's why Wenger and Arsenal haven't won as much as they should have and why yesterday's tame defeat won't be the last drab result of the Gunners' season.