Arsenal Vs Crystal Palace
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: February 02, 2014 4.00 PM BST
Two for Arsenal, two for Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and another clean sheet sees the Gunners back to the top of the table; even if only temporarily.
Going into today’s game, there were worries about the number of injuries in the Arsenal squad, especially in central midfield. With the number of injuries and bans, the team more or less picked itself. The only changes being Chamberlain for the suspended Flamini, and Podolski in place of the youngster Gnabry.
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In a style that we’ve been seeing a lot recently Arsenal started the first half off tentatively. Dominating possession without being too adventurous or committing men forward. After a superb Özil ball over the top of the Palace defence, the first meaningful chance fell to Monreal. The Spaniard was forced into a tight angle though, and his shot was well saved by Speroni.
Palace were frustrating Arsenal, their defensive set up and constant fouling to break up play preventing Arsenal from playing their fluid game. And when Chamakh burst past Koscielny, only for his heavy touch to be scooped up by Szczesny, it was clear that one defensive mistake could put Arsenal on the back foot.
Arsenal were coming closest with their set pieces, Özil whipping in a ball that required a good Speroni save to deny Koscielny. Mertesacker also seeing a headed effort denied by the Palace keeper.
Arsenal needed to offer far more going forward in the second half if they wanted to reclaim their place at the top of the table, both teams heading into half time goalless.
Arsene Wenger clearly let his players know that more was required of them, because two minutes into the second half Arsenal were ahead; courtesy of newly fit Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Bursting unmarked into the box from his new position in central midfield, the Ox was picked out beautifully by Santi Cazorla with a ball over the top. He controlled it nicely, before dinking it over Speroni and into the empty net. 1-0 Arsenal.
In the Southampton game, you felt that if Arsenal could have held onto their lead for a little longer they could have settled the game down a bit. But right after taking the lead against Palace, the strongest defence in the league almost conceded again. Puncheon raced down the flank putting a deflected cross into the box. Bolasie headed it towards the far post, where Cameron Jerome’s diving header was saved by a superb reaction save from Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny.
Giroud hadn’t been having the best of games, but he held the ball up well for a great one-two with the Ox. Chamberlain burst into the box and found space for the shot, blasting low past Speroni, despite the Argentine getting a touch on the ball. Chamberlain’s second of the game, giving Arsenal a 2-0 lead.
Arsenal never looked in trouble after that, controlling the game in a calm and professional manner. There were a couple of scares when both our only fit central midfielders went down injured, Arteta taking a knock to the ankle, and Chamberlain suffering from what appeared to be cramp. Thankfully both players recovered to see out the rest of the game, and to see their team back to the top of the table.
on getting the Southampton result ‘out of the system’…
Yes, we needed to get that out. We needed to get three points and it was difficult because Crystal Palace are a united team, very well-organised with a big physical quality and impact in every challenge. I must say that did that in a fair way but it was very difficult to create space. On our side we needed to be patient, intelligent and use our opportunities that most of the time come in the second half. That’s what we did.
on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain…
Look, I always believed that he could play wide and central, I said that many times that his future will be central. He has proven me right today, by scoring the goals but also by the quality of his performance. It took him a while to get back. He was injured against Aston Villa on that famous day and it took him a while to get back. Overall I’m pleased that he’s now back to full fitness. You could see that he had some cramps in the end, that he is still a bit short.
on Kieran Gibbs…
We had some doubts about Gibbs yesterday, still through his calf, but he had a scan which was reassuring. I decided not to take a gamble, but he’s alright.
on keeping up with Man City and Chelsea…
I will watch that game with interest because it’s two competitors against us and it’s always interesting to see how they behave. We gained some points through some other opponents like Liverpool and Man United over this weekend, and I think we know that our results at the Emirates will be massively important until the end.
on being in a ‘title rhythm’…
What I must say is that our defensive stability doesn’t create unrest in the team and allows us to continue the way we want to play, even if we don’t score early goals, and that’s what happened today. At home we don’t concede and that of course means you don’t have to rush your game too much.
on whether it’s a three-horse race…
I wouldn’t go as far as that. Certainly at the end of February you will be able to assess that.
on Kim Kallstrom…
[Being fit at the end of February] is the best-case scenario. I’m sure if you have played football you might have played with a micro-fracture of your vertebra without even noticing it because on a normal scan you don’t find out. He might play before that [the end of February] but he might play as well later.
on Kallstrom’s wages…
Yes [Spartak Moscow will pay Kallstrom’s wages before he returns]. They pay the first six weeks’ wages.
on considering pulling out of the deal…
Yes of course it crossed my mind. I would not have signed him if we had two or three more days to do something, but it was Friday night at five o’clock, so it was [a case of] you [sign] nobody or you do it under these conditions. I decided to do it because we might, because of the number of games we have now in February, we might need the players in March or April. There is a possibility [that he may not play] but as well there is the possibility that he scores us the winning goal that might be vitally important.
At some stage in our job you have to make a decision. Are you wrong or right? You will only know at the end of the season. I made this decision because, since the start of the season, all our central midfielders have missed a part of the season – whether it’s Flamini, Wilshere, Arteta, Chamberlain or Cazorla. All of them have had injuries and it can happen that a few of them miss the next part [of the season] together. It’s true that in the first four to six weeks we have not sorted that problem out.
on when he considered Kallstrom…
It crossed my mind after the [setback] of Ramsey, because everybody says he is back in six weeks but because he had two setbacks who can guarantee that it will not last longer? And after Tuesday night of course, because Wilshere couldn’t play [at Southampton]… it was not a 200 per cent need, we could have gone without, but first of all you must identify a player who has the quality to play for us, in January. Then, because we have the number of players needed in that area, not to be locked in a deal of three or four years, where you pay the players to do nothing. So to find a player on a free loan, of that quality, on Wednesday morning until Friday night, is not easy.
on Kallstrom’s quality…
I know the player very well, personally. He has 108 caps for Sweden and he has played for seven or eight years in France, so I know him very well.
on transfer funds…
Look, we are not against spending, but at the moment we are focused on the second part of the season, and at the end of the season we will see what we will do. You have announced a lot of transfers in your papers that have not happened, in many places, that means it is not as easy as it looks, even with money, to buy the right players in that period.
on the strength of the squad now…
I face that question since the start of the season, and we are today where we are, and that cannot be a coincidence. You cannot be lucky over 24 games, that is for sure.
on Mikel Arteta…
I hope it’s not bad, it was a kick but I haven’t spoken to him yet.
on being written off in the title race…
Because in the last seven years you [the media] have ingrained that in your brain, and it’s very difficult to get it out now! I can understand that completely because we haven’t done it for a while, and as well I must say that we face quality competitors. We do not play against average teams and Man City have scored over 100 goals, so everybody thinks ‘can you beat these teams?’ I say yes and that is what we have to show. It’s all to do. The only thing I can say is that after 24 games we are there, and it’s now about how we finish the season.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:
“Santi free kick drifts over. Kallstrom would have buried that. Probably.”
“Ha – great quote by Gary Neville. ‘That’s the old Tony Adams one. I am not running back I’m just going to take it off you’. ”
“Oxcellent!!” (Thank you for my article title Keith.)
“Oliver Giroud now has more assists (6) in the EPL this season than Yaya Toure, Eden Hazard, and Philipple Coutinho.”
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Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
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