Arsenal dropped two points away from home at Crystal Palace. The result was disappointing considering the blistering start, but when you factor the loss of Torreira at half time, and the dismissal of Auba for an awful challenge, it’s hard not to be satisfied with the performance.
Arteta picked the same team as he did for his last outing in Premier League, the first time that’s happened in over a year. We controlled the opening 30 minutes and made Palace look distinctively average. The problem was we did very little with possession outside a goal. We had one attempt in the first 45 minutes, that’s not good enough.
That attempt did lead to a goal, which was nice. David Luiz was the maker in the move, he was brilliant in the first half, Palace didn’t know what to do with him. His pass through the middle found Mesut, he touched to Lacazette who fed Auba for the simple finish. A lovely goal. 18 passes. Arsenal of old.
The more worrying thing was the that there was another noticeable dip in our physical performance, after 30 minutes, we faded again and we let Palace into the game. Hard not to put that down to going big in the FA Cup in the week. Palace rotated and played 5 academy kids, we went big and played a lot of our senior players in a brutal game against a brutal side that will run you off the park.
Events weren’t helped by the loss of Lucas Torreira. He went off injured and we had to introduce Matteo G to the mix, and he’s simply not comparable at the moment. The goal was desperately unlucky, we didn’t close down a shot in our box fast enough (LT probably would have), Ayews strike ricocheted off Luiz’ foot and flew over Leno. A horrible goal.
Hard to think Arteta will be happy with how many players were on hand to defend the threat in our box. Lacazette didn’t track, our midfielders bunched up in the middle, and we weren’t sharp enough.
Auba made things worse after a horrendous challenge on Max Meyer, it looked like a straight-up ankle breaker, crazy that it took 5 minutes for the muppets in VAR to decide that the clearest red card of the year was in fact a red card. Interestingly, the last Arsenal player to score at Palace and see red was… Arteta.
The manager didn’t wet the bed and go for 9 at the back, he brought on Martinelli for Ozil and went for it.
Like peak-Wenger teams of old, we actually looked better with 10 men. We went very close towards the end after Gabriel found Lacazette in the Palace box, the Frenchman fed in Pepe who casually curled a shot at the back post, but Guaita pulled off a miracle double save, tipping the ball onto the post, then being alert to stop the second shot from Lacazette. Desperately unlucky.
Overall, we were pretty poor in the final third, an insight captured perfectly when Pepe picked the ball out on the right late on, he had Xhaka on the overlap (lololol) and he played his simple pass into a Palace full-back.
The points ended up being shared. When you look at the game in all its glory, it was probably fair. Plenty for the manager to work on.
The theme of the day was resilience. The team will have been fatigued after the exerts of the last 3 weeks… and obviously, playing the hardest working team in the country midweek didn’t help. I’d normally expect a flaky performance, we didn’t see that. We had a great opening 30, but couldn’t maintain it.
Additionally, things went against us. We lost one of our best players to injury, our captain was sent off, we conceded an unlucky goal, we hit the inside of the post… but we stayed focused. We didn’t become victims, something I think has been a clear issue over the last 5 years.
We also limited Palace. Say what you will about Hodgson, but he knows how to get at us. They hit the target 4 times and had to make do with a deflection for their equaliser. Arteta is building a defensive foundation and it seems to be working in the main. Xhaka continued to drop into the defence giving him the freedom to pick out passes, but also reducing the exposure Kola has to pressure situations. AMN kept Zaha very, very quiet. David Luiz continued to impress, he leads like a beast, he’s confident on the ball, and he was an attacking threat all game, he made the most attacking passes in the final 3rd, clocking up 13. He was also the architect of our goal with a line breaking pass through the middle.
We’re still compact, everyone seems very calm, roles and responsibilities are clear.
Where we’re lacking is in attack. We aren’t creating a lot in the final 3rd. We hit the target 4 times today, but considering the possession, we should be doing better. I think that’ll come, our ability to score goals hasn’t been a worry, and I think when more players come back to full fitness, we won’t worry so much about that. I also think Auba’s 3 game suspension is a massive, massive opportunity for Gabriel to show the world he’s the man to lead the line next season. He is the embodiment of what Arteta attacking football should be. Aggressive, hardworking, and sublimely talented.
The main goal for Arteta over the next few weeks is extending out how much good football he gets per game. We’re maxing out between 40 and 55 minutes. That’ll be down to fitness and relearning how to give your all in every minute of a game. It’s still exciting, you can see where this is going and though results will be rocky, the squad will be firing on all cylinders when we start next season. Top 4 was never on for us, the most we can hope for this season is a good cup run, when you frame the season a long preseason, it makes results like today easier to stomach.
Let me know YOUR thoughts in the comments. xxx