Arsenal Sneak by Crystal Palace for All Three Points, pushing Manchester United Down the Table


Going into this fixture, you knew it was not going to be as easy as the table might seem to make it.  Crystal Palace has one of the best atmospheres in the league and recently they have seem to always give a tricky fixture away from home.

The side put forth by Arsene Wenger at Selhurst did little to surprise anyone. Calum Chambers got the start ahead of Bellerin on the right, but whenever Wenger says a player ‘faces a test’ before the match I don’t expect much from them. We got Francis Coquelin back in central midfield, but besides that, no changes.

The match started out as you might assume at a venue such as Selhurst Park, against a side needing every point possible to stay out of the relegation battle.  It was very choppy, physical, and heavy on the counter.

The first real chance came in the 4th minute.  Mesut Ozil was found near Palace’s 6 yard box and then slotted it in near post.  The German was judged offside (wrongly) though and had the goal disallowed.

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Only a few seconds later Coquelin got away with a bit of a questionable tackle.  He went in for the challenge and ended up catching the fully upright Palace player on the upper chest with his studs.  It looked pretty ugly and I’ve seen people sent off for less.  I think we were just lucky it was in the 4th minute and Clattenburg didn’t want to give a red that early.

Four minutes later, Arsenal would get the opener after Palace’s new defender Pape Souare brought down Danny Welbeck in the box.  Welbeck did really well to stay after a deflected Arsenal pass and then had his legs swept out from under him just in the box. The penalty decision was about as straight forward as they come.  Captain Penalty, Santi Cazorla, stepped up to the spot and slotted it home as cool as can be.

That was about all we’d see of the Arsenal attack for the next 30 minutes or so.  It was pretty much all Palace from there on.  They did a remarkable job of pressing and closing down the Arsenal side and they got their reward as we seriously struggled to retain possession and do anything going forward.  Crystal Palace had a couple really good chances on goal in the 10th and 29th minutes but both times the Arsenal defense passed the test.

One particularly rough area of the pitch for Arsenal on the day was down the left with Wilfried Zaha going up against Nacho Monreal. I think we can all agree that Zaha is a great young talent, but he still has a lot to prove.  Since his high profile transfer to Manchester United and subsequent transfer back to Crystal Palace he has been pretty mediocre. That being said this is maybe the worst half of football I’ve seen from Monreal in an Arsenal shirt.  He looked entirely out of his depth and and he’s lucky to have escaped the half without a booking after a couple of risky challenges.

Right at the death of the half Arsenal would get their second, completely against the run of play.  Alexis, about 25 yards out, found Welbeck on a great run with a superb through ball into the box.  All Welbeck could do was get his shot on target from a tight angle, but Speroni was only able to push the shot out to the 6 yard box for Giroud to tap home his 50th goal in an Arsenal shirt. Upon a closer look, Welbeck was probably offside, but let’s just assume that this was karma for the Ozil goal which was wrongfully judged offside. It was a simple finish, but the build up was nice and Arsenal were clinical in front of goal and went into the half up 2-0.

Arsenal FC
Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

The second half played out almost identically to the first with Palace having the lion’s share of both possession and chances.  Arsenal’s only real chance came pretty early on when an Arsenal clearance found Mesut Ozil just over the half.  He flicked it over the only Palace defender sublimely and waited for his teammates to catch up.  Alexis was the first one there and Ozil found him on a blistering forward run.  Alexis very nearly made it 3-0, but saw his shot go just wide.

Unfortunately there is not much else to say from an Arsenal point of view. Dwight Gayle came extremely close to nicking back a goal with a great header in the 70th and Jason Puncheon went just wide from a free kick in the 75th (Ospina looked pretty hopeless on both occasions).

We all knew how Arsenal were going to try to finish the match when in the last 15 minutes. Alexis and Welbeck were taken off for Gabriel and Gibbs respectively.  I can’t say I blame Wenger, but it was most definitely a case of getting out with what you’ve got. 

Palace did eventually get one back in the 94th.  With the number of balls they were slinging into the box, it was almost inevitable and I think we are probably lucky it came with only seconds left in the match.  Even with only seconds left, Palace still had a possible equalizer hit the post with literally only 10 or so seconds left on the clock.  

Once again Ospina totally misjudged the shot and we were saved by the woodwork and a bit of luck.  It certainly wasn’t a comfortable end to the match, but the Gunners did their defensive work (mostly) and saw out the match and the Palace attack to get the 3 points. Plus, getting a win versus Mr. Pardew is always a joy in and of itself, so we’ve got that too.

The match was an extremely physical one and after a midweek clash between Basel and Porto in which Clattenburg dished out 9 cards, this one really could have went in another direction.  Both sides got away with a number of heavy challenges, but in the end he did well to allow the match to run its natural course.

After you accept that we didn’t play our best, but still got the victory, I think this match gives Wenger a couple of things to think about. First, Maybe its time to give Gibbs another chance in the starting 11.  He looked brilliant against Middlesbrough and after a great start to the campaign, Monreal seems to be dropping off a bit.  Maybe this was a one off, maybe I’m just a fan of Gibbs, but maybe it’s just the right time to make the switch.

Secondly, it might also be time to let Szczesny get back in the side too.  Ospina, who has never really been that convincing, seems to be dropping in form.  Szczesny is still the clear No. 1 in my mind and hopefully he has learned his lesson and can push on from here.

The Premier League is a league where you simply can’t take a week off and grinding out the results is just a fact of life.  Today was one of those days.  Arsenal, certainly not at their best, but good enough to get the win and the 3 points. Not only that, but with Manchester United dropping a match at Swansea, the Gunners swoop into third place, depending on Southampton’s result on Sunday.(#COYG)

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