Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal: Spoils Shared as Aubameyang Sees Red
Crystal Palace (Ayew 55′) 1-1 Arsenal (Aubameyang 12′)
Crystal Palace is a side that is difficult to break down because of the team’s compactness and the industrious players in their midfield. The likes of Wilfried Zaha, Andros Townsend and Jordan Ayew add some flamboyance to their play, and they are a mid-table side at best. Arsenal, on the other hand, was on the ascendancy following the appointment of Mikel Arteta, and the Gunners have found some measure of consistency in the games played under his management thus far.
Bar the absenses of Kieran Tierney, Calum Chambers and Hector Bellerin as discussed on the match preview, the manager had a squad with a clean bill of health, making his team selection pretty straightforward. Arsenal’s football under Arteta is a massive improvement from what we witnessed in the first half of the season, as the lads have gained confidence, passing with more intricacy and pressing like a pack of hungry wolves.
The opening goal reminded me of the Wengerball of old with David Luiz threading an inch perfect pass to Mesut Ozil, that wasted no time in cushioning the ball for Alexandre Lacazette. The French forward noticed his captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, making an intelligent run off the Crystal Palace defender and he teed him up with a delicate pass. Aubameyang’s first touch was superb, his second even better as he slotted the ball past a hapless Vicente Guaita to put Arsenal ahead.
This goal took the wind of Crystal Palace sails but Arsenal was meant to strike the iron while it was hot. Even though the Gunners had the upper hand in terms of ball possession and taking control of the game, they failed to make it count and as you would expect in a competitive environment like the Premier League, you will be hurt by the opposition if you do not take your chances.
The turning point in the first half arrived when Lucas Torreira got hurt and seeing Matteo Guendouzi come in for him at the start of the second half, I had some concern. It is not like I have any bad reservations against the young Frenchman still trying to make a name for himself in the side. My challenge was with the fact that we lost a player that is an absolute beast under Arteta, making those vital interceptions in midfield and protecting the defense better than before. Guendouzi did not to do that and the defense eventually crumbled.
As for Crystal Palace’s equalizer, Arsenal just switched off. A cross field ball went to the right side of the Gunners defense and everyone watched as the ball found itself to Ayew on the edge of the area. The Ghanian forward fired a hopeful punt aimed at the Arsenal goal but David Luiz lounged himself at the ball with the hope of making an interception. What he did instead was to deflect the ball, putting Bernd Leno in an uncompromising position, and the Gunners slender lead was cut off.
Things got from bad to worse when Arsenal’s captain and most influential player, Aubameyang, received his matching orders for his lunge at Crystal Palace’s Max Meyer. The forward received a booking at first but VAR had a second look and he received his matching orders. It was a painful moment for Aubameyang because he felt he had let his team down, and it’s even more painful knowing that he will not be available for the crucial games against Sheffield United and Chelsea.
Aubameyang’s dismissal saw the manager summon Gabriel Martinelli to the fold in the place of Ozil but the young Brazilian was on the end of a lot of nasty tackles and challenges from the Crystal Palace defender. Late on, Arsenal had a chance to grab all three points when Nicolas Pepe, that had another stinker, was clean on goal but his drilled effort clipped the post after a smart save from Guaita. Lacazette pounced on the rebound but his hopeful effort was smothered by Guaita and that chance went begging.
The draw does not help Arsenal’s cause as the Gunners are a massive 11 points behind fourth place Chelsea, that gave themselves some breathing space with the 3-0 win against Burnley. At this point, all focus should go to winning silverware in the FA Cup and the Europa League, as it offers Arsenal their only realistic chance of even playing in Europe next season.
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