Arsenal took a trip across London to face Crystal Palace on Monday night. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis from the 3-0 loss.
That could be the final nail in the Arsene Wenger coffin. A glance at the scoreline and you may think that Arsenal dominated the game, faced a spirited goalkeeper and conceded on the break. That, though, would be far from the truth. In fact, the scoreline – 3-0 to home side – is the perfect representation of the game. Crystal Palace were dominant. There was not one aspect of the game that they weren’t far superior to their visitors in. Embarrassing.
It began an even game as Crystal Palace, predictably, sat deep, soaked up the pressure and looked to threaten on the break. Arsenal played the ball around tidily without ever creating too many opportunities but did have control of the game.
That was until the 17th minute. Yohan Cabaye played a neat one-two around the stranded Mohamed Elneny before looking wide towards Wilfried Zaha. The winger slipped as he steered a square ball back across the penalty area, but Andros Townsend was the only man to react, with the Arsenal defenders utterly unaware of the dangers that presented themselves, slamming the ball into the roof of the net, over the onrushing Emiliano Martinez.
Arsenal continued to dominate the game thanks to their greater share of the possession but were still able to create little. Mesut Ozil fired a couple of low crosses across the box that were dealt with, Alexis Sanchez continued to probe down the left flank, but there was a severe lack of cutting edge in the final third.
The same could not be said for Palace. While they did not have much of the ball, when they were able to get it to the feet of Christian Benteke, with Townsend and Wilfried Zaha buzzing around hi, they were able to engineer openings amid a woefully exposed Arsenal defence. Shkodran Mustafi was positionally all over the place, Elneny wasn’t tracking runners into the box, and Zaha and Townsend were both dominating their respective full-backs.
The opening period to the second half perhaps summed up Arsenal’s utter incompetence in recent months. In need of a goal to save their top four chances, they came out of the break in lacklustre fashion. They were second to every challenge, uncommitted in winning the ball back. They were disorganised at the back, lazy in tracking runners and lucky to not concede.
Zaha ran Monreal ragged in an embarrassing manner, skipping past the Spaniard far too easily on numerous occasions. He should have found Benteke but overhit his cross. He then did find Benteke moments later, but the turn and shot were well blocked by Hector Bellerin, before Benteke then had the ball in the net after poking home from close range, but saw his effort rightly ruled out for offside.
And the woeful display from Arsenal culminated in Palace’s second goal of the night. It again came through good work from Zaha down the left-hand side, who, after getting in behind Monreal who gave him far too much space once again, pulled the back neatly for Yohan Cabaye, who proceeded to loop a lovely shot up and over Martinez and into the far corner.
It then, in a way that Arsenal are seemingly specialists at, got worse. Christian Benteke, predictably, wins the flick on. Townsend, predictably, gets to the ball first. And Emiliano Martinez, predictably, makes a rash decision to come and collect the ball and clips Townsend who goes down.
Under closer inspection, Townsend clearly dived. But given the speed at which the move took place and the presence of Hector Bellerin which would have obscured the referee’s view a little, it is easy to see why he was compelled to point to the spot. It was Yohan Cabaye who stepped up to the mark, planting penalty into the bottom corner past Martinez, for his second of the evening, capping off a dominant midfield display.
That goal all but ended the tie and saw the competitiveness seep away from the game. Arsenal knew they had lost. Palace knew they had won. And Wenger resigned himself to his side’s fourth away loss in succession, during which they have conceded three goals or more in every single one.
It is difficult to put this game into words. And that’s my job!! Perhaps, in a dismally depressing way, my silence tells you more than my writing ever could.