Arsenal 3-3 Norwich City: It's Out of Our Hands Now

We are all Bayern Munich supporters now.

Before I begin, fair warning - if you're looking for optimism in the wake of this result, you've come to the wrong place. I cannot see any way that we finish third now, and I don't see why Robin van Persie would re-sign with this club. I mean, honestly...would you? If you could get enough money to support your family for the rest of your life and theirs, and get to play on a team with a hope in hell of winning things, why on earth would you stay with Arsenal and continue to desperately fight for 3rd/4th place every season?

You can just see Chelsea fluking a win in the Champions' League final too, can't you?

Anyway, as is my custom, I missed the first ten minutes of the match. In that time, Yossi Benayoun scored a peach of a goal, and Wojceich Szczesny showed that he is human.

It was just the second minute when Benayoun received a pass from Tomas Rosicky, and from the sideline, cut inside to the corner of the penalty area. There were three yellow shirts in attendance, and how Benayoun had that much room to shoot, I'll never know. Thankfully for us, the placement was perfect - right in the upper 90. John Ruddy didn't move in the Norwich goal, and I don't blame him.

To their credit, the Canaries held their nerve and got straight back into the match. The first danger sign was ignored by Arsenal when Grant Holt beat Szczesny to a header, only to see it flash over the crossbar. They kept at it, and found themselves level in the 13th minute.

Kyle Naughton (on loan from our nearest and dearest, for the record) was played in down the right wing, with Kieran Gibbs nowhere near him. Naughton was allowed to cross in to the completely unmarked Wes Hoolahan, who was dead central in the penalty area. Whatever Szczesny's failings were here, the fact that the Irishman was left alone in such a dangerous area is absolutely criminal. Hoolahan badly under-hit his shot, but it hit Szczesny's knee and bounced into the net. It was an unforgivable goal to concede as a team, from first man to last. Just disgraceful.

The Gunners didn't completely go to pieces from there, as they have so often in the past. Robin even came close with a shot over the crossbar. But, Norwich was not going away, and a rasping effort from Holt was brilliantly palmed over the bar by Szczesny before being called back for offside. The cracks in Arsenal's defense were beyond evident, and unsurprisingly Norwich were ahead in the 27th minute.

The play was a disaster for multiple reasons, the most glaring of which was Gibbs once again displaying a complete ineptitude towards the basics of defending. Like, say, it helps when you're standing close to the man you're marking. The whole thing started with Norwich on the counter, having repelled an Arsenal attack. A long ball was played in, and the men in yellow had a 2-v-2. This is not something that should have been difficult to defend, but for some reason Gibbs got caught much too far inside, leaving their one serious goal threat with time on the ball. The young fullback did get over to Holt eventually, but all he could do was deflect the shot over Szczesny (who was well off his line to cut off Holt's shooting angle - this was correct on his part) and into the net.

Essentially, the scoreline here was Arsenal 1-2 Arsenal's Shambolic Defending.

Oh, but there was still more to come. In a total one-car accident, Bacary Sagna broke his leg and will miss all of Euro 2012. All the best to the Frenchman for a speedy recovery.

His replacement, Francis Coquelin, was called into action almost immediately as once again Norwich were running rampant in our penalty area. His sliding tackle from behind had to be absolutely perfect, and thankfully for us it was. A rare moment of competence from our backline, to be sure.

That took us to halftime, and I suppose it was a vain hope that the manager would try and get this lot to buck up their ideas (I won't bore you with my usual screed here - I'm sure you can picture the 5-minute rant about how we need fresh blood in charge of this team, and we can move on). Instead, Norwich continued to have much of the ball and to fashion some half-chances. Luckily for us, Simeon Jackson made a dog's breakfast out of a good chance, his effort tamely finding its way into Szczesny's hands.

We weren't completely out of it, with Benayoun sending an open header into Ruddy's arms. But, Aaron Ramsey - who accomplished nothing else on the day - absolutely should have been sent off by Anthony Taylor for a hideous tackle on one of their lot. Not only was it probably a straight red, but he was on a yellow already so even a caution there would have sent him to the bath.

Ruddy, in the meantime, preserved the lead for his side with a great save on RVP. The rebound came out to Ramsey with the goal gaping, but no prizes for guessing how that ended up. I know it sounds like I've been beating him up the last few weeks (because I have), but it's down to a player having to play too many games coming off too bad an injury because this squad doesn't have any depth. It's hardly all his failing. Up the other end, a colossally-lazy clearance from Szczesny was chased down by Holt, but luckily for us it bounced away to safety.

Yes, kids, This is how the team plays in a must-win game with our Champions' League future on the line. The mind, it boggles.

At the very least, Arsene made changes early enough for it to possibly have an effect. Ramsey was withdrawn for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, while Benayoun was removed for Marouane Chamakh. It was the latter who helped us get the equalizing goal soon after he came on. Anyone who saw that coming, please write in with your lottery number picks because you clearly have a gift.

His shot was cleared by a brilliant sliding block from the excellent Elliott Bennett, and it looped out of the penalty area. At that point, the Norwich defense collectively fell asleep, like someone hit an off switch. Alex Song did well to recognize this and looped a perfectly-weighted pass over the statues in yellow. Robin, doing what he does best, timed his run to perfection and volleyed past a helpless Ruddy.

At this point, the visitors were clinging by their fingernails to a point. The Gunners had their tails up now, and we all felt like a third goal would come if the opportunity presented itself. Gervinho, who seriously upped his game after the halftime interval, started the move that indeed got us that third goal. He slashed into the penalty area, and kicked it out to Rosicky, who in turn laid it off for Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young Englishman tried to pass it to the right side of the area, but it clipped off of a defender's leg and came straight to RVP. He was never going to miss from there, and Arsenal had a lead that we probably didn't deserve.

With that in mind, perhaps we can't complain too much about what came next.

It all looked so harmless, even when Johnny Howson skipped past Rosicky's sliding challenge. He played it over the top for the substitute Steve Morison, who was somehow completely unmarked. He technically should have been covered by Laurent Koscielny, but I can't beat him up too much because the whole team was playing far too high up the pitch.I shouldn't be as upset as I am because we're never going to stop being this naive as long as this manager is in charge, but I'm furious that we couldn't hold this lead.

So, Morison was in alone, and he finished with aplomb into the far corner. On the face of it, it didn't look like a saveable shot, but there are two factors that would be ignored there. First, as a goalkeeper, you have to come off your line there. You just have to. Yes, the defense let him down once again and he definitely wasn't mentally right after the first goal, but I'm surprised Szczesny would be so timid in that situation. Second, even if he was going to stay on his line, his angle wasn't quite right. He was positioned a little too close to the near post, giving Morison a little more to shoot at than he would have had otherwise.

Szczesny's not completely at fault for the third, but he sure didn't make it difficult for Morison, either.

The worst part - the very worst part - about this is that we still should have won the game. Norwich were a bit out of sorts after the equalizer, as if they thought that the job was finished already. Instead, Arsenal marched right up the field, and Rosicky's brilliant through-ball sent the captain in alone on Ruddy. You'd have put the deed to your house on him scoring, but somehow van Persie could only shovel a weak shot right at Ruddy.

Seriously, this season needs to be mercy-killed. Euro 2012 aside, I just don't even want to deal with soccer anymore until August.

That wasn't to be the last of the drama, though. In Anthony Taylor's world, somehow a two-handed shove to the back of a player about to tap a ball into an unguarded net is not worthy of a spot-kick. It defies belief how this man is a Premier League referee...and not just for this. As mentioned, Ramsey should have walked and anyone with vision better than Helen Keller would have gotten both of those calls right.

So, we are now a point ahead of the Scum having played one more game. Assuming they give Aston Villa the rogering that everyone is expecting them to, we would then have to beat West Brom away and hope that their lot somehow drops the ball at home against Fulham.

Right, so 4th place it is then! Save us, Bayern're our only hope.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 4, Gibbs 4, Vermaelen 5, Koscielny 6, Sagna 7 (Coquelin 7), Benayoun 7 (Chamakh 7), Song 6, Ramsey 5 (Oxlade-Chamberlain 7), Rosicky 7, Gervinho 7, van Persie 8

Man of the Match: Who else could it be? We're really going to miss him next season. The one, the only, Robin van Persie.