Gunners’ focus turns to cup final

Norwich 0 Arsenal 2

Gunners’ focus turns to cup final

That’s the big problem with being an Arsenal fan — the real action tends to be elsewhere. And not even victory over Hull City at Wembley on Saturday, which would see them end a nine-year trophy drought, would change that perception in some people’s eyes.

Arsene Wenger was of a statistical bent afterwards. “We have won 11 games away from home — I think it’s the best in the league — and it was our 17th clean sheet — that is remarkable as well,” he said.

Perhaps, but Arsenal finishing fourth is nothing unusual. In fact it is becoming a something of a habit.

Not that the away fans cared, especially as Aaron Ramsey posted a goal of the season contender in front of them, volleying into the top corner early in the second half like he was Marco van Basten’s Welsh nephew.

There was also a first Gunners goal for Carl Jenkinson, a defender of questionable pedigree, who swept the ball past the excellent home goalkeeper John Ruddy just after the hour mark after Lukas Podolski’s shot had been half blocked.

More significant perhaps was the return to action of Jack Wilshere, just in time to be named in England’s World Cup party. The 22-year-old came off the bench to make a lively cameo, his first since suffering a broken foot on international duty in early March. The midfielder came through it unscathed.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn’t deemed fit enough for this one but should be in contention for the cup final, which doubles as more good news for Roy Hodgson, who was elsewhere anyway and therefore missed Ruddy’s best performance in months.

Wenger believes it would be no surprise if the duo were on the plane to Brazil and indicated he had no qualms about players swapping the treatment table for the highest-pressure tournament of them all in the space of a few weeks.

“Players like Oxlade-Chamberlain, if they are not overplayed, they can absorb competition to come back and need minimal rest before they start competition next year,” he said.

“I’m not too worried about that. The only danger for us is if the player is not medically fit. But I trust the medical team in England if they travel.”

Norwich’s sorry season was encapsulated seconds before half-time when a shot from Robert Snodgrass thumped off team-mate Johan Elmander’s backside and knocked him over. Plenty of effort but zero in the way of useful end product.

The Canaries had known they would go down long before kick-off as they required not only a winning performance from themselves but also a West Bromwich defeat to the tune of a 17-goal swing.

Such miracles simply don’t happen in the Premier League and Wenger picked a strong side anyway, resting only Per Mertesacker and Santo Cazorla ahead of Wembley, although Lukasz Fabianski did start in goal in preference to Wojciech Szczesny, as he might well do on Saturday.

Norwich didn’t create much although caretaker Neil Adams, whose tenure is likely to be brought to an end within the week, was impressed by a debut coming off the bench of youngster Jamar Loza.

Loza was picked in preference to record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel, who cost £8.5 million last summer and contributed just one goal. Rumours bounced around Carrow Road before kick-off. Had the Dutchman refused to sit on the bench?

“Nothing happened as such,” said a bemused Adams afterwards. “He just wasn’t picked. I thought Jamar deserved his chance. I didn’t see a strop. He didn’t refuse to be a sub.”

NORWICH CITY (4-2-3-1): Ruddy 9, Martin 7, Turner 7, R Bennett 7, Olsson 7; Tettey 6 (Loza 58, 6), Johnson 7; Snodgrass 7, Howson 6, Redmond 6 (E Bennett 76); Elmander 5 (Hooper 58, 4).

Subs not used: Whittaker, Fer, Bunn, Murphy.

ARSENAL (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 7; Jenkinson 6, Sagna 7, Koscielny 7, Gibbs 7; Arteta 7, Ramsey 7 (Wilshere 63, 6); Rosicky 6 (Diaby 74), Ozil 6, Podolski 7; Giroud 7 (Sanogo 74).

Subs not used: Szczesny, Monreal, Flamini, Kallstrom.

Referee: L Mason 6.

Attendance: 26,848

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