Arsene Wenger went with an unchanged team for the trip to Selhurst Park following last week’s defeat of West Ham United. The Gunners started the match seven points and two places behind fourth-placed Manchester City with two games in hand. Another three points were sorely needed. The experienced Cabaye, once a target for Arsenal, was surprisingly fit enough to start for Palace.
The game started at a good pace and worryingly Palace created the first clear opportunity but fortunately Cabaye mis-kicked and we survived. Shortly afterwards Milivojevic blazed a drive wide but Emiliano Martinez looked to have had it covered were it on target. The young goalkeeper claimed a couple of crosses well in this opening phase.
The Arsenal were next to test the goalkeeper when Elneny drew a flying save out of Hennessey at his far post. The Egyptian was quick to join in our early breaks and was clearly looking to impress for the second match running. Danny Welbeck was crowded out as he tried to turn a couple of defenders in front of goal and the ensuing corner was easily dealt with by Palace.
In the 17th minute Palace struck from a route one effort. Benteke bullied Gabriel to win a headed flick on and Zaha’s cross fell invitingly for Townsend. He finished having nipped in front of Skhodran Mustafi. It was a poor goal to concede against the run of play, but the replays showed that Benteke used a leading elbow to knock Gabriel down. Sometimes you get those, sometimes you don’t.
Crystal Palace 1-0 Arsenal Eh?
When the goalscorer next found himself in possession he was subjected to a poor challenge for which Mustafi was rightly booked, but Mustafi was having to cover a clearly unfit Hector Bellerin too often. We need to give him a break and treatment for whatever has made him half of the player who started the season.
Gradually the Gunners got back into the contest and Alexis curled an effort just wide of the far post. However our slow build-up play at this point enabled Palace to defend in numbers. Mesut Oil and Alexis tried to engineer an opportunity but the hosts blocked the Chilean’s final effort.
At the other end Townsend blasted an effort over the bar before Mustafi had to be at his best to deny Benteke with a smart sliding tackle. Arsenal forced two corners in response but both proved fruitless. Benteke again was offered the freedom of the Arsenal box and Martinez had to make another excellent save at full stretch to deny him.
Granit Xhaka’s magnificent through ball presented Welbeck with an opportunity to shoot but he cleared the far post before Gabriel’s thumping header was saved by Hennessey, and 1-0 it remained as the half drew to a close. Arsene and Steve Bould faced a very important fifteen minutes.
Sensing the importance of the second-half the travelling Gooners ramped up the volume and stayed firmly behind their team. It was good to hear. On the pitch Ozil and Zaha traded overhit crosses as the end to end contest resumed. Benteke was denied by Bellerin’s smart block. The Palace striker netted but from an offside position. Arsenal needed to wake up, and fast.
They didn’t. From a corner Martinez had to hold on to a near post header from Puncheon. Ten minutes into the half Elneny and Xhaka indulged in some tippy tappy square balls in front of the massed ranks of red and blue. Where was the creativity, the spark? Sanchez crossed for Bellerin but his attempt at a controlled volley went horribly wrong.
The changes so clearly needed were made before the hour was up. Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey came on for Welbeck and Elneny respectively. Almost immediately Palace doubled their lead with a superbly flighted finish by Cabaye. It was no more than the Eagles deserved.
Crystal Palace 2-0 Arsenal You’re joking, right?
The match was effectively ended in the 67th minute. Giroud was hauled down by Sakho in the box and got nothing. At the other end Townsend ensured contact with Martinez and the spot-kick was awarded. Milivojevic just beat the dive of Martinez. Three down to Palace. Alan Smith was right. We were being humiliated.
Crystal Palace 3-0 Arsenal No, really
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on for England captain material Theo Walcott. No, you hadn’t seen him mentioned above. Most had forgotten he was even playing I suspect. Bellerin laboured down the right flank once more and his chip to the far post just evaded the incoming Giroud.
“You’re not fit to wear the shirt” screamed the travelling Gooners. At last, some condemnation of those who for whatever reason couldn’t be arsed to turn up and show some pride in the cannon. But you can’t sell the players and leave the manager who cannot get the best out of them in charge. That was once again all too evident tonight. Let’s rebuild this broken club.
Sorry, and goodnight.