When did under the lights become a thing? It feels like something new. Whatever it is, there’s a pain associated with playing Crystal Palace early in the season under them. I hoped for a breezy result, we didn’t get it. For all the pain you might have felt watching the game, they managed one shot on target.
The narrative of the game was once again shifted firmly in the direction of the officiating. Tomiyasu was sent off for a second bookable offence. He picked up his first for time wasting for a whopping 8 seconds – the second came after Jordan Ayew flopped to the floor under next to no challenge at all. The Palace player, also on a yellow, yanked Bukayo Saka to the ground and no booking followed. The lack of consistency amongst referees even in the same game is astonishing.
We could have collapsed. Crystal Palace has a team chok full of athletes, the atmosphere at their stadium is one of the best in the game, so holding onto a slim lead with 10 was always going to be tough. I’ve seen some folk call us cowards on the ball, maybe, it wasn’t pretty. I will say the immediate instinct is to defend versus go for the lead. We’re not built to play with 10 and it’s especially hard this early in the season when players lack match-fit legs.
We held on though. Arteta had a deep bench to choose from, he brought on controllers, and in the end, we saw out a crucial game with a 1-0 lead. Not many teams are going to have joy at Selhurst Park this season. So we should be very proud of the job the players have done.
There were some interesting subplots from the game. Gabriel M was dropped once again from the starting 11. Arsenal fans simply cannot handle that Arteta is going to galaxy brain starting 11s all season and part of that approach means you, humble fan, are not going to be able to guess what he’s going to do. I think it’s clear why Gabriel isn’t the preferred centre back right now, he’s not as good on the ball as some of our stars… but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be sold to Saudi right now (unless there’s a really good player ready to come into the mixer).
I also wouldn’t be so sure we have to buy in… Kiwior is a very impressive player and I think there’s an expectation he could do some damage in our first team. Expect him to make strides this season and maybe don’t count on Gabriel M being #1 on the team sheet like he was last season.
Eddie had a great game, there are always going to be critics of the England striker, but as a #2, it’s hard to knock him. His movement was exceptional last night, he moved like a NPC in crouch mode, and he created chances for himself… and he made the decisive run for the penalty. Should he have scored? Maybe, but those chances weren’t easy. He’s not going to score every game, but I was very pleased to see that his game looks like it’s kicked up a gear.
Kai Havertz did a lot of good work off the ball yesterday, he won 8 of 8 duels, he was aggressive, and he was forming some lovely partnerships, particularly on the left. He’s not banging in goals, but he’s part of teams winning games, so plenty to be pleased about there.
Saka played his 82nd game of the season, it wasn’t his greatest, but it is quite something for someone who hasn’t reached 23 years old, deliver that many games in row. He offers remarkable consistency, he’s getting more and more decisive, I think he could win the Balon D’or at some point. I just wish we had someone we could rotate him with, I’m not it’s Reiss and I don’t think it should be Trossard.
Declan Rice had his best performance in an Arsenal shirt. He was all over the park. We saw his delicate footwork on show, his eye for danger, the power he offers, and his BIG presence on the pitch. He’s the first £105m I’ve seen and actually thought, damn, he’s worth every penny.
Martin Odegaard took the penalty over Bukayo Saka. No idea why. But the penalty had ‘I’ve been talking to Jorghinho’ vibes about it.
Arteta was pretty blatant about his unhappiness by telling the media he was VERY HAPPY with the game. It’s annoying that we’re here, bashing refs, so early in the season. Improvements should have happened faster, but do we really believe they’re coming with an exRef running things at PGMOL? I have major doubts.
3 ugly points against Palace under horrible circumstances is going to be very good for team morale. Us vs the world is always a good rallying cry. I’m glad that there’s a big of momentum heading into that Fulham game. The big one is United, put them to the sword early and exit phase one of the season with 10 points or more and we’ll be absolutely cooking.
Right, that’s me done. Check out the On The Whistle I did with Dave Seager and Gilles!
See you in the comments. x