Arsenal secured their fourth Premier League victory in a row as they ran out comfortable winners at Carrow Road and heaped more misery on bottom-of-the-table Norwich.
Bukayo Saka opened the scoring after six minutes when he guided a low shot past Angus Gunn at the end of a slick Arsenal attack.
The impressive Martin Odegaard, who teed up Saka’s opener, then sent Kieran Tierney through to score the away side’s second just before half-time.
Saka added a fine third before Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty and substitute Emile Smith Rowe’s stoppage-time strike wrapped up a stress-free win for Mikel Arteta’s side.
The victory meant the Gunners maintained their six-point lead over fifth-placed Tottenham, while Norwich must regroup after a 12th defeat of the season.
Canaries boss Dean Smith admitted he “didn’t see that coming” after watching his side go “toe-to-toe” in defeats by Manchester United and Aston Villa.
“This was just as flat a performance as we have had and it was littered with unforced errors,” he said.
Arteta’s happy two-year anniversary
The game marked two years since Arteta’s first in charge of the Gunners and the Spaniard can be pleased with where his side are ahead of Tuesday’s home encounter against Wolves.
They were 11th and 14th after their Boxing Day games in 2019 and 2020 respectively, but have improved enough to suggest that a first top-four finish since 2016 is not beyond their capabilities.
Arsenal looked sharp from the start and were quickly rewarded when Tierney pounced on Ozan Kabak’s poor pass, allowing the visitors to string together a neat passing move involving Gabriel Martinelli, Lacazette and Odegaard that was finished off by Saka.
Despite Arsenal’s dominance, Norwich looked as though they would get in at the break just one down before Martinelli’s enthusiasm to win the ball back allowed the Brazilian to find Odegaard in space, who put Tierney through to score via the woodwork.
Saka rubbed salt into Norwich wounds when he beat Gunn from outside the box, and while the England attacker went off soon after, the Arsenal goals continued to flow as Lacazette slotted home a penalty after being fouled by Kabak before Smith Rowe netted for the fourth league game in a row.
Norwich’s struggles persist
Norwich were playing for the first time since 14 December after their trip to West Ham was postponed because of Covid cases and injuries in their squad.
Prior to Arsenal’s visit to Carrow Road, Smith described the Premier League’s busy festive schedule as “lunacy” given the recent surge in Covid cases, with his side back in action at Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
And Norwich were hit by more Covid issues before the Arsenal match with first-choice goalkeeper Tim Krul forced to sit out after testing positive.
Smith has plenty to ponder about his team’s problems at the other end, though. They have now failed to score in each of their last four games and have managed only eight goals all season, while top scorer Teemu Pukki registered only 23 touches against the Gunners.
The Arsenal game was another dispiriting watch for Norwich supporters and with the trip to Selhurst Park to come, time is not on Smith’s side as he tries to stop the club’s current losing streak and reignite their hopes of hauling themselves off the foot of the table.
“We’ve got to be better than that and we are better than that,” he added. “Unfortunately the standards have dropped off massively from the Manchester United game.
“There are reasons for that but I’m not here to make excuses.”