Photo Gallery: Norwich City left with bitter taste of injustice at Arsenal
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Luck may be the most intangible and unquantifiable of qualities, but heaven help anyone in football without it – and at the moment, that's Norwich City.
Plenty has been written about the Canaries over the season but much of the more negative leanings could not be levelled against them at the magnificent Emirates Stadium.
From the very first whistle, both sides signalled keen intent. Arsenal coming out victorious was simply a certainty for some, but they never played like a team expecting formality. They played like a team set on finishing third in the Premier League.
It's a thought worth remembering, given City's performance of resolute defending, far-improved composure on the ball and creation of a goal and at least two other glorious chances at arguably the form team in England.
These will forever be bonus games for the Canaries. It's the two either side that the pressure switches to 11 on the dial. But what City will take away on this occasion could be profound for how their entire season finishes.
It will include heart from what they created.
With Kei Kamara and Robert Snodgrass playing wide of the reinstated Grant Holt but able to come in more centrally in support when getting forward, the Canaries had a platform to cause Arsenal problems on the break. It is the kind of thing City have struggled with all season.
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It helped earn City's 57th-minute opener as Kamara was brought down by ex-Norwich loanee Kieran Gibbs. Kamara's feet clipped each other – replays were inconclusive on how much that was due to Gibbs' initial contact.
Robert Snodgrass' left-footed in-swinging assist was made by Michael Turner's clever movement as he headed inside the far post for the packed pocket of yellow to light up The Emirates.
With Bradley Johnson and the returned Alex Tettey behind him, Jonny Howson rediscovered his ability to get forward from midfield. In fact, even as the tide turned against Chris Hughton's squad the midfielder had a prized chance that Lukasz Fabianski did brilliantly to deflect wide with his outstretched boot.
Another may well have been the late sight of centre-back Sebastien Bassong bursting into the Arsenal half with the hosts outnumbered three on two, before playing in right-back Russell Martin. Rather cavalier for a negative outfit, that.
The other thing City will take into the mother of all must-win games against Reading at Carrow Road on Saturday is a bitter taste of injustice. A lot of the big calls were tight. They were tough. Referees and their assistants have an equally tough job. We all know this. But the fact is City were given the rough end of each one late on.
First came assistant referee Richard West awarding Arsenal a corner right in front of him as Aaron Ramsey, Snodgrass and the ball all rolled out of play. A goal-kick had appeared the most likely outcome. From the resulting 83rd-minute delivery Giroud and Kamara swapped shirt-grapples. Referee Mike Jones was well positioned and willing to allow play to continue as the pair fell to the ground. But West took it upon himself to make the call, despite being 30 yards further away than his referee. His view must have been special.
City goalkeeper Mark Bunn was booked for his protests; the fact he got a good amount on Mikel Arteta's ruthless penalty won't have helped his mood.
Next was substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain getting to the by-line on 88 minutes and squaring for Giroud to bundle in, although the final touch was up for debate with Bassong – what wasn't was the Arsenal striker's grappling of the centre-back's shirt. Maybe Mr West's view wasn't as clear this time.
Giroud's foul on Whittaker and Theo Walcott's subsequent offside in the build-up to Lukas Podolski's crisp strike – making it three just two minutes into an added six – rubbed salt in raw wounds.
The fact Walcott was only a substitute added on the hour mark could at least be a silver lining. Whittaker would surely agree – a rare let-off coming after his push on the flying winger in the box went unpunished. Giroud and Podolski rattling the woodwork during the course of the afternoon also did Norwich a favour.
Sometimes you make your own luck. A sense of adventure helps, as can dispatching those possibly fortuitous penalties of your own – at Carrow Road against Southampton, for example.
Fortunately luck will never be everything. Heart and character take you far. Judging by Saturday, those qualities are definitely in greater supply at City – and when Reading come to town, they will need them more than ever.