Matt Macey got his first start of the season in goal with David Ospina still injured and Alex Iwobi played instead of Joe Willock, but otherwise the team was the same as the one which won 1-0 at Red Star Belgrade on Thursday night. There were plenty of players out there looking to impress the manager or at least that was what we hoped. Norwich were going to be no pushover though and they will be pushing hard for a return to the Premier League at the end of the season.
The less said about the game the better I suppose up until a point at least because Arsenal were wholly unimpressive for the vast majority of the game. Our defence was a mish-mash and it showed as Norwich found a way in behind us far too often for comfort. They took the lead from such a move when the impressive Josh Murphy ran right past the centre of our defence and finished with a deft touch in the 34th minute.
Try as we might we never really looked like getting back into the game and Norwich had the better chances on the break. There was no cohesion to our play and it seemed like more than a lack of effort on the part of some players. Jack Wilshere was clearly frustrated by the inaction of some of those around him, but he didn't exactly have the best game either.
As the game wore on and we searched seemingly in vain for an equaliser I resigned myself to the fact that we were going out of the competition. I just couldn't see a goal coming from anywhere and I considered how bad the Europa League must be if this team had a 100% record in their first three games. There was one thing I hadn't considered though and we had to wait until the 85th minute to see what that was.
Reiss Nelson was replaced by Eddie Nkietah as Arsenal were about to take a corner and he just jogged forward into their box and poked home from close range as the ball from the corner dropped at his feet. He was only on the pitch 15 seconds at that stage and he could not have asked or hoped for a quicker impact. Arsenal had been improving before that goal and they took control of the game as they went in search of a winner.
They didn't manage it in normal time, but six minutes into the first period of extra time that man Nkietah rose to head home a corner to give them the lead. I had said in my preview that players needed to take their chance to make an impression and Nkietah most certainly did just that. He's only 18 years old, but there can't have been too many players from our youth system who have made such an impression so quickly when the chance has come their way.
There were chances at both ends before the game ended and Norwich felt aggrevied not to get a penalty after Mathieu Debuchey raised his arm across one of their players to hold him off. I still don't quite understand how an arm raised across your face causes your legs to go from under you, but maybe that's just me. They were probably a little unfortunate not to get the penalty and also Mohamed Elneny was a little lucky not to get a red card for a foul in the first half when he was the last line of defence. They're the breaks sometimes though and Arsenal have had their share of decisions go against them in recent games.
I'm not sure what the manager will make from the performances of most of the players, but he cannot have failed to have been impressed by Nkietah. Whether he'll get any more game time or not is another thing because dropping Olivier Giroud or Theo Walcott from our second string would be a real insult to them and I can't see him doing that. I think he should get a chance after a performance like that though as he showed far more desire and willingness to make runs in his 35 minutes on the pitch than both them did between them throughput the whole game.
We're through to the quarter finals where we will play one of United, City, Chelsea, West Ham, Bournemouth, Leicester or Bristol City. The draw will be made tomorrow and the funniest thing is the lack of Spurs in the pot after they put out a strong team at home to West Ham and blew a two goal lead to lose 3-2. I still don't think the team we're fielding in this competition can win it for us, but making it to the last eight isn't too shabby.
I thing other clubs will probably play stronger teams with Wembley in their sights and it could make it difficult for us in the next round. For the moment though we can revel in the splendour of a great performance from a young man who is hopefully starting out on a long and illustrious Arsenal career.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.