Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Crystal Palace Park
Kick off: October 26, 2013 12:45 PM BST
After manager Ian Holloway parted ways with Crystal Palace, the relegation strugglers were left manager-less to face league leaders Arsenal. It should really have been an easy win given the Gunner’s current run of form, but watching the game today it was anything but easy.
Once again Arsenal lined up with no real wide men, Cazorla, Özil and Ramsey supporting Olivier Giroud, and Flamini coming back into the side along side Arteta. Flamini had to be taken off with a groin injury after just seven minutes however, Gnabry replacing the no nonsense Frenchman. We have a difficult run of fixtures coming up so we really need him back in the side.
Arsene’s choice of lineup seemed to be paying off initially, with Arsenal having over 90% possession in the early stages of the game. We weren’t turning this dominance into chances though, with Palace often having ten or eleven men behind the ball.
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There was an early penalty shout when Sagna played the ball into the box along the ground, and a Palace defender, sprawled across the floor from a previous interception, practically picked up the ball, no penalty though.
There were a lot of half chances for Arsenal, but that final ball just wasn’t coming off. Cut backs weren’t finding their targets and shots were going wide. Palace were starting to threaten our goal with a few counters and with set pieces in particular, Arsenal really not dealing with the strength and height of the South London team.
The whistle went for half time when we had the ball on the edge of Palace’s box, just one of Chris Hoy’s poor decisions today. Regardless, we went into the break with the game still 0-0.
Gnabry had been breaking into the box from the right and taking players on, and early on in the second half he chopped the ball back to evade a slide tackle, but was caught by the defender’s trailing leg; penalty! Skipper Arteta stepped up and dispatched the penalty high into the left corner giving Speroni no chance; 1-0 Arsenal.
Giroud had been fairly poor for most of the game, his hold up play not standing up to the strength and height of the Palace defence. But he was a whisker away from putting a superb Sagna cross in for Arsenal’s second. His run was good, but the finish was poor, putting it wide from a few yards out.
Palace attempted a counter from an Arsenal corner, and bizarrely Arteta was the only player back in defence. He was deemed the last man having fouled Chamakh near the half way line, and rather unfairly saw red. Ramsey was racing back and may have got back, Chamakh still had half the pitch to run after a poor touch took him away from goal, on top of which the replays showed that Chamakh initiated the contact and caused the players to go down. A poor decision in my opinion, but that was the decision and we needed to dig in to hold on to our lead.
Szczesny had a fairly quiet first half, but had to be on his toes once we were down to ten men as Palace were applying all sorts of pressure. He made a string of fantastic saves, including two world class saves in quick succession to preserve the Gunners lead.
Both teams created chances, with Arsenal digging deep and holding on despite Chamakh doing well and causing us problems. Monreal came on for Cazorla and was an excellent attacking outlet, almost scoring after a beautiful mazy run, his shot on his weaker right foot was blocked though.
It was looking like it would be a tense last few minutes for Arsenal with palace really pressing well, they were leaving themselves slightly more open at the back by committing men forward though, and Arsenal capitalized. Some great work by Ramsey on the left dragged two defenders onto him, leaving Giroud with a clear run on goal. Ramsey chipped the ball forward perfectly for an easy headed finish for the French striker. He hadn’t had his best game but credit to him for continuing to make the runs and put the effort in.
Over all it was a fairly poor performance, especially looking at the gulf between the two sides recent form. Three points are three points however, and this game sees us five points clear at the top of the table, leaving the other teams playing catch up in the rest of the weekend’s games.
A real positive point from today’s match is that this was a game that in previous seasons we probably would have lost. The team showed great grit and determination to hang onto the lead, despite losing both our holding midfielders to injury and a sending off respectively. We will need to play far better if we have any hope of staying top after our upcoming run of games though, let’s hope we are buoyed by returning players soon, and can keep our grip on the league.
Here are a few tweets from today’s game:
@HectorBellerin (After Gnabry earned the penalty.)
@LadyArse (After Arsenal’s first goal.)
“Not claiming credit, but I did put my lucky Arsenal track top on at halftime….”
@Feverpitch (After Giroud’s goal.)
“You handsome bugger. 2-0.”
@th14Renato (Also after Giroud’s goal.)
“#YES#GET#IN#YOU#GORGEOUS#MANNNNN!!!! Ramsey though”
“I love how our first clean sheet in the league since Spurs comes in a game we have one holding mid get injured and one get sent off.”
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on whether he will appeal Arteta’s red card…
I think we have good grounds to appeal. If he’s only suspended for one game I won’t do it because he’s suspended for Tuesday night and anyway I would not have played him but it was more today’s game that was at stake. It was the wrong decision because it has to be good goalscoring opportunity, he was far from goal, it was an accidental foul, he was not the last man. I think the referee got that one wrong and after that we delay well with the situation, we were mature, organised and didn’t become nervous and we got the second goal. Szczesny made two very good saves at an important moment of the game.
on being surprised at Palace’s resistance…
Not really because honestly I was quite impressed by them against Fulham on Monday night. They lost the game against Fulham because they scored goals from another planet that went in from nowhere so they didn’t deserve to be 2-0 down at the moment they were. Today they were again organised, strong in the challenge and resilient.
on grinding out a win…
That’s what we did today. It was not a game of brilliance but it was a game of efficiency and patience. For us it was about being patient and not making a mistake and we did that well. The pitch was a bit slow, maybe we were not the sharpest as well and the two together made us create less chances than we are used to but we were serious and determined.
on being surprised at how long the grass was…
No we expect that everywhere we go. I will soon have a pitch at home with long grass to practice for when we play away from home.
on lifting their performance against Dortmund…
Yes but what was at stake today after the disappointment of Tuesday night was responding with a win straight away. When you play Champions League in midweek and then go away from home and get the three points, you can’t be too demanding, you just be happy.
on the significance of being top…
it is a good feeling without any massive significance, but we had an opportunity to put pressure on all the others who race for the title and we did our job
unfortunately we lost Flamini today and hopefully it will not be for too long. It was a groin problem. I don’t know how long it will be.
on the Gnabry’s penalty claim in the first half…
It was on the border of inside or on the line. He gave us a foul, but I don’t really know.
on the belief of winning the title…
We always had a high level of aspiration.It is people who do not believe that we have a chance but the only thing we can do is win our games. The only thing which is important is every win makes you a bit stronger and strengthens the belief. We have difficult games coming up, and that will be a good test, but I am confident.
on the player’s belief…
We are ambitious and want to do as well as we can. You can see that these players are focused. Even when the legs go a little bit, they keep their head and that is always a sign of ambition in the team. We want to win with style but unfortunately it is not always possible.
on if he’s worried about fatigue…
You worry about fatigue a little bit, but not too much.
Sometimes when you play every three days you look tired and then in three days you are flying again. It goes a bit in cycles.
on the team he will play against Chelsea…
I will rotate against Chelsea, yes, but play with a team as well who has a good chance to qualify, that will be the target.
Sagna Koscielny Mertesacker Gibbs
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