Palace 2-3 Arsenal
This was good.
Yes, we showed more mistakes in places. But overall, this was a good performance. And befitting of our manager’s record-equalling game.
Palace huffed and puffed a bit in the opening minutes, and Zaha looked strong throughout. However, we bossed this period, with sharp passing, pressing, and incisive inter-play. Our only fault here was that we didn’t finish our chances. Alexis, Ozil, Lacazette, and Xhaka all had good efforts.
Mustafi though opened with a low drive, as he took advantage of poor Palace marking at the rear post.
At half-time, we should have been up by more, but overall it was pleasing.
Palace scored quickly in the second-half, due to bad Arsenal defending. The team switched off momentarily, and a former Spurs player Townsend, scored from a low drive in the middle of the box.
It looked like we were going to crumble again. But Sanchez scored from a shot to their keeper’s near post, and got a brace via a swift counter-attack, and ball over the top.
Palace scored again through bad marking; however we did enough to get the win.
It may be harsh to highlight mistakes here, since we played well and warranted the win. All players put in a shift, and we did not play with the dreaded “sideways shuffle” of recent weeks.
Alexis stood out, and Sky rightly named him man of the match. Though Ozil had a good game, as did Wilshere, Lacazette, and well everybody. Even players who committed grave errors in recent games did well, like Cech and Kos. Our attitude was on point as our front players and midfielders pressed Palace when they had the ball.
Bellerin has, in my mind rightly, been critiqued in recent games from various quarters (me included). Though I’m gratified he did well today, and is providing the telling pace/width that is his trademark.
Wilshere’s game is enhancing, and yes, I did write an article saying we should sell him. Nonetheless, I’m again happy to be proven wrong. He surely must be in Southgate’s reckoning, and I’d be content for him to “sign da ting”. I agree with Gary Neville in saying Wilshere in raw technique England’s best player.
Xhaka also has come under criticism of late, though his distribution was sound. It could just be that short-passing is not his forte. And for him to be most effective, he needs to play higher up the pitch. He did say he is a “false 10”, and his billing as this hard-man central-mid is categorically false.
As for Cech and the defence, they handled the Palace attack well, though a few moments of bad concentration allowed them to score. Mustafi, despite his goal, was able, as was Chambers, Bellerin, and Kolasinac.
Wenger also reverted to a back three, and said in the post-match interview that he is pleased the team can adapt to different formations. He is at least showing more flexibility in his approach, which is what we’ve been crying out for.
We’ve ended the calendar year satisfactorily, despite some minor hiccups along the way tonight. It’s been a mixed year, though the high at Wembley in May must top it off. For some clubs’, their trophy this calendar year has been Golden Boots and records. Individual awards aren’t trophies though, and of course we know better.
If we sustain this form, and level of performance, for most of our remaining games, then top four is more than attainable.
Yes, we said that after the Spurs game, or even the United game, which ended in a loss. However, or issues as always are mental, tactical, and attitudinal. If we can correct that, I genuinely believe we will take some stopping. This win, and even the Liverpool draw, showed how we can harness the good and discard the bad.
Cech 7. Mustafi 9, Kos 8, Chambers 7, Bellerin 7, Kolasinac 6
Xhaka and Jack did well also, and were always looking to progress the play when needed.
Xhaka 7, Jack 8, Coquelin 5, Maitland-Niles 5.
Alexis shone like a light. Though Ozil and Lacazette also looked dangerous.
Alexis 9, Ozil 8, Lacazette 7
Arsene Wenger will now break Sir Alex Ferguson’s record vs. WBA. We exorcised a ghost from last season tonight, and did such in style. Let’s be Bill Murray-esque and kill more ghosts in our next game.
Man of the match
The talk of him not being interested is clearly false. His effort here was top notch, and it will be sad to see him go, even if ultimately it’s our own fault.
With more consistency, we could be rivalling City at the top. Yes, laugh at that all one wishes. However, only Man United has kept more clean sheets than we have thus far. Our chance creation, shots on goal, possession stats, etc. are very similar to City’s, and even surpass them in some metrics. The key then has to be mentality and application. Let’s hope we can find this in the latter half of 17/18, since the top four is on.
I wish a Happy New Year to all readers, fellow contributors, and to the editors of Gunners Town, and to all Gooners who frequent this site. And even to the Spurs fans who tried to call me out before they were supposed to “smash us” at our place. 😉