The mid-week Crystal Palace v Arsenal game, Roy Hodgson’s last home game in charge at Selhurst Park, had some of the usual elements of recent contests between these two teams. On Wednesday evening, Palace managed to give the Gunners a contest up to a point, but a few lapses in defence hugely flattered the visitors’ winning margin and wiped away any last chance of a victory for the much-traveled English manager.
There was more ridiculousness from Zaha, who provided his unique brand of theatre with his standard series of balletic falls in search of a territorial advantage or if fortunate enough, a penalty. Then there was Benteke, a physically solid obstacle who occasionally scores goals, but also someone guilty of the odd flash of eccentricity.
The Belgian attacker was lucky to finish the Crystal Palace v Arsenal game after two incidents that could have seen him take his bulky frame to the showers earlier than intended. The first was a shoulder barge/body check that should have produced a yellow and the second was an elbow to the throat of Elneny, which didn’t even merit a wag of the referee’s finger.
Three 𝘃𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗹 @PremierLeague points! 🔥
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) May 19, 2021
The inconsistent decisions are perhaps an illustration of the work that needs to be done in the summer to make the game less controversial in the battle of refs v VAR v logic. Arsenal have had their problems this season including a clueless midfield that has only contributed two goals and a frontline that has spluttered and suffered as a consequence.
A great many players in the Arsenal ranks are guilty of not delivering, but one individual who seems to be making progress is Pepe who converted a wonderful ball into the box from Tierney. With 35 minutes gone in the Crystal Palace v Arsenal game, it was an advantage for the Gunners but we then witnessed the obligatory collapse at the back as Benteke levelled the score (62).
The positive note here is that Pepe is emerging from the heavy burden of his inflated price tag to show exactly what he’s capable of, and with 14 goals in all competitions, one could consider this a turning point in his Premier League career.
The negative is that Arteta needs to find someone who can read a game and with the physique to terrorise a front line and until Arsenal wake up and spend some serious money, this will always be the case. At 1-1, Palace looked the more likely to score, filled with more purpose going forward and more resistance at the back, but football doesn’t always pay out what it owes it often pays out the least deserving
On the evidence of several games this season, Saka, ESR, Tierney, and Martinelli are going to feature heavily in any Arteta revival and fans were relieved to see the young Brazilian who excites even the most battle-weary fan. The homeward bound Odegaard showed exactly why he is a cut above any midfielder in the squad with a beautifully flighted ball for Martinelli (90+1) to bundle in for the Gunners’ second and there was more misery to come for the Eagles.
90+1': Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
90+5': Crystal Palace 1-3 Arsenal
Martinelli and Pepe win it late to keep Arsenal's European hopes alive 😤 pic.twitter.com/cevRl6XSuL
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 19, 2021
Pepe concluded business in 90+5 to put a cherry on the cake and Roy Hodgson had the task of looking suitably chirpy even though it was clear he’d been mugged whilst helping a blind man across the road. 0-1 in the Crystal Palace v Arsenal game would have been difficult to swallow with the Gunners finding it difficult to offer any real threat but those last two goals will help soothe Roy’s retirement anxieties in the coming months.
Arsenal have won four consecutive matches and thoughts of an entry into the European competition late in the season appear to have distorted even the Arsenal manager’s perspective after he claimed a minor victory for still being in close contention at this stage. Was he joking in some sort of ironic Spanish way or are Arsenal just happy to be outside the winners’ enclosure looking in?
If that’s where Arsenal are at, it’s worse than I expected, the acceptance of a final unconvincing flourish after dramatically falling away in the Premier League and being completely inept in the Europa League is of considerable concern.
Perhaps, the publicity department has issued a memo to be slightly more assertive and positive. However, Arteta’s recent statement about being in a better position than he anticipated is like getting beaten 6-0 by the opposition but bemoaning an offside decision in an attempt to lessen the blow.
Arteta will also have to do some reconfiguration if his midfield with Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard heading off to Spain on the same plane. It’s rather difficult to see why Odegaard would want to stay unless he relishes a genuine challenge and wants to engrave his name into Arsenal folk law. Although he hasn’t got the bonus of a solid physique, he has a lightning-quick brain and two interchangeable and nibbling feet.
By contrast, the Ceballos experiment is drawing to a close after two seasons, in his role of the untapped playmaker. It’s no surprise that the Spaniard couldn’t gain a regular slot at Madrid, although the pace is more to his liking in his native home. Only one more game before we can jettison this season for good and it hasn’t come a moment too soon.
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