Arsenal’s first game after the international break could not have been better.
Well, except for a bit of cruelty in front of goal, as six shots on goal in 30 attempts is not the best return and is something that Mikel Arteta’s team must work on in training next week.
With that said, the Gunners are finally in the Premier League this season.
Having lost their first three games, which meant they entered Saturday’s clash against Norwich City at the bottom of the table, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goal brought relief to Emirates Stadium when the final whistle sounded.
The result pulls Arsenal out of the bottom three, although it may only be temporary (as Leeds United were still playing Liverpool at the time of writing) and Burnley face Everton on Monday night.
But that was not the only good news of the afternoon.
With the hosts pushing for a breakthrough, just past the hour mark, Arteta made a double change by refreshing his midfield by introducing Emile Smith Rowe and Thomas Partey to proceedings.
For the latter it was his first appearance of the season after another injury setback and the Spaniard explained why the Ghanaian international was not a starter.
“Thomas wasn’t fit enough to play the 90 minutes, so we didn’t want to take another risk with him,” Arteta said at his post-game press conference. “Sambi also came from Belgium with a tight hamstring and only trained for half a day.
“We had no options because the rest of the players were injured or suspended in midfield and Emile was not available to play either.
“So he made a great effort to stay here and that’s one of the reasons I tell you how much these guys want to do it. Nobody hides. In tough times they just want to put their bodies on the line.
“These two are a good example.”
Arteta’s decision certainly paid off, as although neither player entered the roster, Partey claimed a pre-match assist for what turned out to be Aubameyang’s winner.
As seen in the game highlights on Arsenal’s YouTube, around the 0.44 minute mark Partey cuts through Norwich midfield with a crisp pass at the feet of Bukayo Saka.
So the 20-year-old can feed Nicolas Pepe, who after seeing two efforts held back by a combination of Tim Krul and the post, manages to force the ball into Aubameyang’s path for a simple touch.
Such was the quality of Partey’s passing that some Arsenal fans think there would not have been a breakthrough if it weren’t for the midfielder’s quick thinking.
@bristiancurgess He said: “That Partey pass just 4 minutes after coming back from a 6 week injury. It’s world class and the one that makes the absolute difference on this team. It’s a terrifying idea how well we could do this season if it stays on. shape”.
@Afc_Shutterstock He said: “The pass to Saka de Partey in preparation for our goal was an exquisite pass to break the line.”
nischal_15 He said: “That split pass from Partey took four Norwich players out of the equation to lead to goal. His presence in midfield makes our team look very different no matter who plays next to him. His passes, physical duels and interceptions at the top the pitch helps us to attack more “.
@saki___J He said, “Partey goes to world class.”