Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed “one of the best goals” he has ever witnessed as England midfielder Jack Wilshere helped fire his side two points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League after a 4-1 win over Norwich.
The Gunners capitalised on Liverpool’s draw at Newcastle with what proved to be a hard-earned victory against a determined Norwich side, who could consider themselves unfortunate not to take something from the match.
In the end, though, it was Arsenal’s class which told, with Wilshere opening the scoring with a sublime finish to a slick passing move which cut the visitors open on 18 minutes.
After soaking up plenty of pressure, German playmaker Mesut Ozil headed in a second just before the hour, but Jonny Howson reduced the deficit.
Arsenal, though, made sure there would be no late drama when Aaron Ramsey, who had started on the bench, fired past John Ruddy from close range after jinking into the six-yard box.
Ozil stroked in a late fourth to ensure a somewhat flattering scoreline, but it was more evidence this Arsenal side look set for a long-overdue sustained title challenge in 2014.
Wenger was left in awe of the way his team had gone ahead, with Santi Cazorla, Wilshere and Olivier Giroud all involved in a beautiful quick-fire exchange of passes around the edge of the Norwich area before the England man stroked the ball home.
“All the goals were great, but the first was exceptional and improvised,” said Wenger.
“It was certainly one of the best (Arsenal) goals, one I enjoyed the most because it was a team goal.
“It had combinations and speed which you would always like your team to play (with). This one was a mixture of technical quality, speedy thinking, quick reaction and as well being calm in front of goal.
“It had nearly everything you want to have, it was a great goal.”
Wenger paid credit to the efforts of Norwich, who have now lost five from their first eight matches.
“We won 4-1 and their keeper had a good game, but Norwich played well, so it is strange,” he said,
“They made it difficult for us and we struggled between 30 and 60 minutes to keep our game going.
“I would come out of the match thinking Norwich were a good team.”
Ramsey started on the bench, but was brought on in the first half after Mathieu Flamini suffered double vision following a clash of heads with Alex Tettey, and will now be assessed ahead of next week’s Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund.
“We play seven games in 23 days, and that means we will need everybody,” said Wenger.
“It gives me an opportunity as well to give the players a little breather before they will get injured.”
Wenger moved to play down expectations, but feels his side can build on their strong start.
“We have quality, but how far we will go is down to how consistent we can be, how much effort we can put into every single game and how much are we able not to get into a comfort level, which it is about at the top level,” he said.
Despite the quality of Arsenal’s goals, there was more than a sense of frustration for Norwich manager Chris Hughton, whose side were beaten at home by two late Chelsea goals last weekend.
“The biggest disappointment for me is that I don’t think 4-1 is a true reflection of the balance of play,” he said.
“We had some really good periods and what happens at 2-1 when we are back in it, I almost have to take responsibility for performance because we opened up a bit.
“However, with their first goals, I do not think there are many teams who can score that type of goal, which is probably testament to the type of form Arsenal are in.”
Norwich host Cardiff next weekend with the pressure to get a win even greater.
“You are concerned every time you lose a football match, but there are a lot of positives in our last two games,” added Hughton, who hopes to have club record signing Rickie van Wolfswinkel fit again from a foot injury.
“Our level of performance have been good against teams that potentially could win division.”