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Monreal on Fire as Arsenal Blitz Crystal Palace

Match ReportMatch HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference (via Arsenal.com)

Before yesterday’s game, the back pages were filled with updates on the transfer saga involving Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s swap deal and there was the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bit, as Dortmund left him out of their squad that drew 1-1 with Hertha Berlin before confirming that the Gunners had made a formal enquiry for their player.

However, there was the business of football to take care of with Roy Hodgson’s side coming to the Emirates on the back of just one defeat in 12 games, unlike their hosts, that had looked out of sorts in recent weeks. Many also wondered whether it was going to be a back three or back four, but a shake up was needed from that sorry outing at Bournemouth and the boss responded with fielding a 4-2-3-1 setup with some injury returnees like Nacho Monreal, Laurent Koscielny and Mesut Ozil breathing some new life into the team. Aaron Ramsey was ill so it was a first start since November for Mohamed Elneny, a player that has been on the fringes for the most part of his Arsenal career. Danny Welbeck had some sort of injury but nobody complained.

With the Gunners failing to record a victory in their last three league games, an early goal would have gone a long way to settle the nerves and it arrived when Monreal reacted the quickest to a corner to put the home side ahead. That was his third goal in his many games for the club and it’s really nice knowing that he can chip in with the goals when needed. Monreal turned from scorer to provider when he was at the end of a good team move before squaring play for Alex Iwobi that side-footed the ball home. Iwobi has been in very poor form in recent weeks so it was good seeing him get one for himself and the team.

Two goals quickly became three when Monreal…, yes, Monreal provided another cut back that was bundled into the goal by the returning captain, Koscielny, but the Gunners saved the best for last when Jack Wilshere and Ozil combined brilliantly and mesmerized the Palace defense before Ozil found Alexandre Lacazette with a neat back heeled threaded pass that allowed the Frenchman end his nine game goal drought to make it four.

In 22 minutes, the Gunners ran riot past Crystal Palace and it was great to see how the lads controlled the game with ease. In the second 45, the home side took their foot off the pedal but Iwobi spurned a chance to make it five when a square pass to an unmarked Lacazette would have been the better option. Petr Cech’s search for his 200th Premier League clean sheet had to move to the next game as Luka Milivojevic fired the ball into the net after some defensive lapses but at 4-1 it was a very comprehensive victory for the side.

The only downside to the game was seeing Monreal substituted for what we believe was a ‘tight hamstring’ and with Chelsea coming to town on Wednesday, one can only hope that he will be fit enough for the duel. There was also one for the stats boys, as Lacazette’s goal was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for the Gunners. To think about half of it was scored by Thierry Henry. What a legend.

The feel good mood is back and the papers are reporting that Mkhitaryan is set for his medicals to complete the move to North London. I can only hope that him and Aubameyang will be available for selection against Chelsea in mid-week.

Sayonara.

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Another Disappointing Performance in this Disappointing Campaign

Yannick Bolasie fires home Crystal Palace's late equaliser from the edge of the box to help his side earn a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday

Arsenal 1-1 Crystal Palace

Match Report Match Highlights Post-Match Press Conference

From title challengers to another scrap for fourth place.

It’s pretty much familiar surroundings but it’s more disheartening with the fact that the clubs above the Gunners aren’t the usual suspects, Manchester United, Chelsea and co. Taking nothing away from Leicester and Tottenham that have been very efficient this season, but Arsenal has been terribly disappointing and it’s really sad to see how the campaign has turned into yet another shitefest after promising so much.

Crystal Palace aren’t in the best of form and the game proved that they would have been content with one point. They have been one of the poorest teams in 2016 winning just one league game against Norwich in the calendar year. Arsenal would have played Palace again at Wembley but the shock loss to Watford in the quarterfinals ensured that it was going to be another campaign without silverware.

The game itself had a dull outlook with the Gunners probing as always but there was no cutting edge in their play. There were a couple of half chances here and there from the likes of Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck but as always, finishing became a problem. Alexis Sanchez was a live wire with the ball and he always seemed like he wanted to make things happen. He was justly rewarded for his hardwork with a nicely improvised finish from a clipped Welbeck pass and he would have gotten a second on the night when he headed Ozil’s clipped pass just wide.

Against the run of play, Yannick Bolasie had a run on the left hand side and should have been blocked by Gabriel Paulista but the Brazilian watched by as the Congolese midfielder exchanged passes with pantomime villain, Emmanuel Adebayor, before blasting a shot that whizzed past Petr Cech in goal. In all honesty, it looked like a ball I expected the goalie to save but he just fluffed at it and the visitors were level.

The introductions of Olivier Giroud, Aaron Ramsey and the ineffectual Theo Walcott did nothing to help the Gunners cause as they lost further ground on the leading pack. To make things worse, there were victories for both Manchester sides, making the battle for third / fourth place more intense.

The game in hand against West Brom comes up on Thursday and Arsenal could be under intense pressure in the buildup to that game with Man City taking on Newcastle and Manchester United potentially reducing the gap to one point if they win Crystal Palace in midweek.

It’s been disappointing. Really disappointing.

Sayonara

 

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Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal: Match Report and Player Ratings

Crystal Palace summer signing Cabaye attempts to close down Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil during the first half of the league contest

Ozil was exquisite yesterday! MoTM!

Crystal Palace 1 (Ward 28′) – Arsenal 2 (Giroud 16′, Delaney o.g. 55′)

Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

Following the shocking season opener against West Ham, I expected the Gunners to prove their worth against a Crystal Palace outfit that has been hugely impressive under Alan Pardew. With Alexis Sanchez back to full fitness, it was simply a case of who was going to leave the team to accommodate the Chilean sensation and your guess was as right as mine, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Arsenal began the game with more urgency and Alexis almost got off the mark when he received a superb Ozil pass, dallied on the ball before firing a shot through the keepers legs but a defender was on the line to block the effort. Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha were a handful for the Arsenal defenders, using their pace and trickery to good effect but the full backs, Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin, were up to the task. Arsenal opened the scoring when Ozil drifted in a great pass behind Olivier Giroud but the forward showed off some improvisation to fire a shot that showed off his technical quality.

Giroud's acrobatic shot landed in the back of the net after Delaney failed to block his goalbound effort from flying past McCarthy  

Giroud’s acrobatic finish

After scoring that goal, the Gunners took their foot off the pedal and were punished for it through a combination of juvenile defending and some questionable goalkeeping from Petr Cech. Laurent Koscielny will take some part of the blame for failing to close Joel Ward down but while I shouldn’t take anything away from a perfectly executed low drive to the Arsenal net, I’d expected Pete Cech to at least put a limb to stop the ball. It just breezed past him like…

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech looks dejected after conceding his third Premier League goal since completing his move to north London

Double agent?

That was the third goal he was conceding in his first two Arsenal games. He had conceded two in his last nine for Chelsea. Speaking of Chelsea, lol, never mind! 😥

Arsenal sprang back to life after conceding the equalizer and the onslaught continued. Alexis and Ozil combined superbly to feed Aaron Ramsey on the edge of the area but his flicked effort was saved by Alex McCarthy. At the start of the second half, Crystal Palace almost took the lead when Conor Wickham reacted quickly to Zaha’s cross but his effort clipped the post when Cech rooted to the spot.

Arsenal got their breakthrough when Bellerin swung in a cross that was headed goalwards by Alexis but Delaney’s anticipation turned disastrous as he put the ball past his own goalie.

Delaney conceded the own goal that decided the contest

Crystal Palace tried to bring themselves back to the game when Jason Puncheon showed good control before firing a shot straight at Cech. Francis Coquelin can thank his lucky stars he remained on the pitch after a series of rash challenges and Wenger took him out for the Ox, deploying Ramsey in the holding position. With Crystal Palace fighting for an equalizer, they left gaping holes at the back but the Gunners didn’t exploit it. Ozil’s dinked a neat ball for Ramsey but he blasted it over. Santi Cazorla and the Ox also had some point-blank efforts that were saved by McCarthy and Wenger did his bit to bring on Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta that added some steel to the team.

In the end, it was good to finally get three points in the log table and I hope this would be a start of a good run of results in the team’s bid to challenge for honors this season.

Player Ratings

Defense

Petr Cech had a relatively routine day in goal but in all honesty, he hasn’t been convincing. 6/10

Hector Bellerin was very efficient in his defensive duties and battled hard with Crystal Palace’s wingers. 7/10

Nacho Monreal put up another solid display at the back. 7/10

Laurent Koscielny could have done better in preventing the goal from the hosts. 6/10

Per Mertesacker didn’t have much to do in the game. 6/10

Midfield

Francis Coquelin had a frustrating game and almost earned himself an early bath. 6/10

Aaron Ramsey was industrious as ever but he could have done a bit better with his finishing. 7/10

Santi Cazorla always made himself available for a pass and was better when he was restored to the middle. 7/10

Mesut Ozil had 98% passing accuracy, made 10 crosses, created five chances and had an assist. Man of the Match performance. 10/10

Forwards

Olivier Giroud showed his team work skill set and must be delighted to score such a wonderfully-crafted acrobatic finish. 8/10

Substitutes

Mikel Arteta was at his combative best with his most telling contribution coming when he stopped Lee from having a goal attempt. 7/10

Kieran Gibbs offered some protection to Monreal on the left. 7/10

The Ox was all-action as usual but his end product was found wanting. He should have finished that late effort though. 6/10

Sayonara

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