Two goals for Arsenal’s record summer signing Mesut Özil showed just what you get for £42 million off Real Madrid as the Canaries’ brave resistance at The Emirates ended in a 4-1 defeat.
With some ten minutes of a bright and lively contest to go, Chris Hughton’s men were still in the game at 2-1 after Jonny Howson stunned The Emirates with a low, 70th minute strike following earlier goals from first Jack Wilshere and then Özil.
Come the the final ten minutes, however, and it became the Aaron Ramsey show as Arsenal turned on the style and ripped a tiring Norwich open. Ramsey would score one; make the other.
The Gunners would duly glide back to the top of the table; the form side of the Premier League. Norwich, by contrast, would find themselves still stuck in the bottom three – albeit after another display that again belied their current league position.
A home game against crisis-torn Cardiff might offer some much-needed respite; it is the outcome of that contest that Norwich’s fortunes need to be judged on, not this one.
With City’s own record summer signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel absent from today’s trip to The Emirates, the stage was set for ex-Celtic hitman Gary Hooper to take centre stage as the Canaries looked to build on the performace – if not the result – of the home clash against Chelsea.
And for the first 17 minutes, things went according to plan as the hosts meandered along in second gear and caused the Canaries few, immediate worries.
But when the Gunners found their gear, boy did they find it. Give and go, give and go before Olivier Giroud delivered a superb, instinctive flick to wholly open up the Norwich back four and allow the on-running Wilshere to tap the simplest of opening goals home beyond a bemused Ruddy.
It was class telling. On their current run of form – not to mention the small matter of Özil’s big money arrival – Arsenal are strolling their way through their autumn fixture list. They are top for every good reason.
Opening day defeats by your Aston Villas are a thing of the past in North London.
By rights, Arsenal should have doubled their advantage eight minutes before the interval as Giroud found himself on the end of another slick move only for his first-time effort inside Ruddy found the Canary keeper at his instinctive best as he dug the ball out from by his right ankle and away to safety.
Memories of that second and decisive goal against Chelsea were fast fading.
In fairness to the Canaries, the ended the first-half with tails up as Leroy Fer twice tested Wojciech Szczesny from distance; a lurking Hooper almost cashed in on a thoughtless backpass from Bacary Sagna; Robert Snodgrass, fresh from his Scottish international heroics, would press and probe without any immediate reward.
It was all bright, positive stuff from the visitors; they were not rolling over as Fer , in particular, showed little fear on such an imposing stage.
He continued in a similar vein after the interval; driving forward with purpose before watching the ball fall to Snodgrass who would again test the Arsenal keeper from distance.
Norwich were neither being over-run nor over-awed. Whether they actually had an equaliser in them was, however, the $64 million question.
Or was until the 57th minute when the Gunners once again slipped up through the gears and – in theory – all-but ended the contest.
From one end of the pitch to the other in little more than an instant and there was Giroud floating the most inviting of crosses in towards the penalty spot where the fast-arriving Özil was on hand to guide a fine header away and beyond Ruddy’s despairing right-hand.
Bang, bang, goal. That simple. And once again Ruddy was left a spectator.
That should have been that.
Until Howson found himself with a little time and space on the edge of the Gunners box. City had pushed and probed their way down the left; the ball had been half-cleared and it was all the invite the City midfielder needed – a crisp, low drive into the bottom corner followed and the Emirates suddenly fell silent.
That was not in the script.
Nathan Redmond’s arrival for Anthony Pilkington had the expected effect as the teenager immediately had his opposite number on the back-foot and what was a walk in the park suddenly became more of a nervy slog for the would-be Premier League leaders.
Wes Hoolahan’s late arrival would also signal Norwich’s intent; that between Redmond and Hoolahan, one more moment of magic might yet unlock a famous point.
Alas that moment went to Ramsey seven minutes from time. Picking up the back in the inside left-channel, the Welsh international would find first Sebastien Bassong and then Michael Turner despairingly throwing themselves at his feet as he kept his head and drove the decisive goal through Ruddy whose all-round efforts deserved better.
Before the end and Ramsey had set Özil up for the fourth; the swiftness of both mind and feet undoing Norwich again.