Tuesday 21 November 2017

Video: Potent Van Persie keeps Arsenal purring

On a day when Arsene Wenger offered a reminder that his vibrant era may be starting to approach its natural conclusion, with the Arsenal manager musing to a French newspaper about how he will review his future at the end of the season, his latest creation offered us a colourful glimpse of everything we will miss when the professor has finished spinning his dreams.

Exquisite passing, quicksilver counter-attacking, a striking predator working in perfect harmony with intelligent team-mates. Oh, and naturally a harum-scarum moment of absent-minded defending which nearly undid all the masterful work. Wenger's classic Arsenal.

Ultimately, though, however long the 62-year-old remains at the place he calls the "club of my life", he can only hope that Robin van Persie is there with him on the final leg of his adventure.

On a bright Carrow Road lunchtime, without Van Persie's cutting excellence, and more specifically the two goals that further enhance his claims to be the hottest striker around, this game might have turned into one of those maddeningly unfathomable afternoons for the Frenchman.

One was a tap-in; the other a supreme right-footed chip from a natural left footer. If he was not the best in the world right now, reckoned Wenger afterwards, then Van Persie was right up there. "He's exceptional. He has gifts you cannot give to people," the manager said.

It was not just the finishing, which has brought him 15 goals in 18 games. His support play and holding up of the ball was magnificent, as at times he unleashed Theo Walcott and Gervinho to rampage at will.

There is a calm assurance about the captain now he is fit and flying, which Arsenal really need. Especially after the start yesterday when they could have been about 4-0 up but found themselves a goal down in the 18th minute thanks to some comedy defending from Per Mertesacker.

Wenger has been at pains to say what a good signing the German has been but a man with 79 caps to his name was made to look like a bungling park puffer when, shielding a hoofed through ball, he was unable to deal with the muscular but none-too-subtle attentions of Steve Morison, who surged through to give Norwich the lead.

For a while, it began to look like another frustrating afternoon for Arsenal as they carved out countless chances only to be denied by some remarkable defending from Russell Martin, not once but three times, including a flying volley to deny a Walcott effort that was curling into the net.

Arsenal's relief was palpable when the English winger scooted down the right flank, embarrassing poor Marc Tierney with his pace and skill, before crossing low for Van Persie to tap home. Gervinho, with a bizarre Riverdance routine which suggested he had tried to back-heel into the net, fortunately missed the ball which allowed Van Persie to profit.

Sadly, Martin, after all his first-half heroics, went and spoiled it all by getting caught in possession by Alex Song on the halfway line and leaving his backline completely exposed. Song's ball to Van Persie was sweet and the finish a dinked delight.

It means that since losing to Spurs, Arsenal have now won five straight league matches and Van Persie has scored the winning goal in every one. "I was OK, not great," shrugged the Dutchman, ruing his misses. Heaven help the rest when he finds his best, then.


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