Arsenal were better than they had been against Crystal Palace, but they just weren’t good enough. Under Unai Emery, the team was a thoroughly mid-table side, but performances have improved under Mikel Arteta.
However, after their best match this season against Manchester United, the Gunners regressed and fell back into bad habits. As a result, Arsenal dropped two points against Crystal Palace in familiar fashion.
Arsenal Held By Crystal Palace
Great Opening Salvo
Mikel Arteta sent out the same starting XI that beat United against Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday. The team played extremely well against the Red Devils and opened the match in similar fashion against the Eagles.
Their goal was emblematic of their play in those early moments. Arsenal held possession well and it was David Luiz who found himself on the ball with space in front of him to bring it into the Crystal Palace half.
He found Mesut Ozil with a simple pass, who then flicked it on to a waiting Alexandre Lacazette. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasted no time in making a run into the box and his French strike partner found him well with a through ball.
From there, Aubameyang was alone with just one defender and the ‘keeper between him and the first strike. He finished coolly to make it 1-0.
The goal stank of Wengerball in the best way possible. Arsenal held the ball well before combining with some silky smooth passing which made them look like a well-oiled machine and resulted in an excellent scoring chance.
During those early moments in general, the Gunners found it easy to control the ball and keep the Eagles at arm’s length. There was only the one goal in it by halftime and although Palace had found a way back into the match, it felt like an easy victory was on its way for Arsenal.
After the break, Arsenal didn’t start to play poorly per se but they did allow Crystal Palace to earn themselves an equaliser. The strike itself was lucky as Jordan Ayew‘s shot got deflected up and over the head of Bernd Leno en route to the back of the net.
However, the Gunners didn’t do a very good job at clearing the ball. They fell asleep on defence as fans have seen countless times over the past few seasons and it once again came back to bite them.
Then came another mental error, this time from the goal scorer. Aubameyang lunged into a tackle against Max Meyer late and the referee immediately blew his whistle for a foul and produced a yellow card.
Upon further review, however, the tackle was very nasty even though there was clearly no intent. Aubameyang had almost stomped on Meyer’s ankle with his cleats and there was no choice but to show him red.
The foul was unintentional but the impact was, unfortunately, huge. Even with ten men, Arsenal did find the best chance late in the game. Lacazette found Nicholas Pepe in the box who took one touch before firing a laser-beam like shot towards the back post.
It struck the woodwork ferociously and even produced a rebound which the French striker couldn’t convert. Close but not close enough. That just about surmises the afternoon for Arsenal.
Arsenal’s Match Against Crystal Palace Was Painfully Typical
Aside from the match against Manchester United, Arsenal haven’t outplayed an opponent over 90 minutes this season and that continued versus Crystal Palace. They were terrific in the first 30 minutes as well as for a spell near the death, but allowed the hosts to boss them for large portions of the interim.
Mikel Arteta has certainly brought a sense of unity and self-belief back to the Emirates, but he has a big job ahead of him still. There are plenty of mental errors on display almost every time out and they keep costing the team points.
That is in addition to the obvious short-comings in the squad already. The club will hope to get at least some business done in January, but they will need to strengthen further over the next few transfer windows.
With all that said, the Gunners are trending upwards for the first time in a long time. Last season ended in disaster and this one didn’t start much better. With time, perhaps Arteta can reverse that trend permanently.
But, for now at least, he will have to steady the ship and get his players to put in a full 90 minutes week in and week out.
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