Mikel Arteta had obviously warned his Arsenal side about slow starts and wanted to avoid the near mistake against Leeds in the FA Cup. Palace were obviously not going to be as generous in front of the Arsenal goal with Wilfred Zaha on poaching duty. Any scraps from the notoriously flimsy Arsenal would be perceived as juicy bone to a ravenous dog.
This game was viewed by many with a great deal of anxiety because that’s what the South London side merit with a high pressing, high intensity work ethic. Yet, Arsenal appeared galvanised and spirited for the challenge ahead and they dominated possession for long periods, especially in the opening 20 minutes.
No one could have predicted that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would go from hero to zero in this encounter against Crystal Palace.
Firstly, his goal in the 13th minute came via Luiz and Ozil exchange that was in turn fed to Aubameyang by Lacazette for the usual well executed finish.
The flip side to his industry was his red card which was the typical horror show so often committed by a frustrated or tired striker (66). The Arsenal man put in a horrific challenge that could have divorced Max Meyers foot from his ankle bone. It went to VAR but it wasn’t needed in the ground. Meyers trudged off probably thankful that he still could and Arsenal had to regroup, which to be fair they did fairly well and without too much fuss.
With Arsenal reduced to 10 men, Palace sensed the game might be worth something more than a point and they were back on level terms after a heavily deflected strike from Jordan Ayew propelled over Leno into the visitors net via David Luiz.
That opened the game up for a spell of end to end footy but you could sense that this clash had more to offer than a typical drab draw and Arsenal fans became fearful as Hodgson tried to get his men to feed Zaha at every opportunity.
The summer target for Arsenal was better in the second half as Palace pushed forward cutting out the space and suffocating the gunners supply lines. Arsenal nearly snatched it at the death and Pepe appears to gradually finding his feet and next season may see him go far beyond his price tag.
Arteta will look back on those chances that went begging such as the Pepe post or The Lacazette half scuff but inevitably a draw was a disappointment.
Arteta’s men just didn’t have the same freedom to get the ball forward and they also had to be careful of a counter after Guendouzi replaced the excellent Torreira. The Spanish coach will certainly be hoping his little midfield ankle snapper recovers shortly for a series of crucial games that could go either way.
The game against Crystal Palace serves as a reminder to Raul Sanllehi, if one were needed, that his negativity towards the winter transfer window needs to be jettisoned along with Mustafi. If there are players that can prevent these types of dispiriting results, then Arsenal need to bring them in quickly.
The Gunners have drawn ten games, more than anyone else in the premiership. No wonder they are out of contention in the league and are concerned about their status within it. The 20 dropped points would have taken them to second place but instead they find themselves in no man’s land. No further forward than they are going back.
However, we have to look at the positives in this version of Arsenal and there were many if you could be bothered to look. The shape was far better than before and the connection between the defence, midfield and attack was greatly improved.
The goal itself came from some neat interplay that saw Palace ball watching. Torreira and Luiz were instrumental and the cutting pass through the middle was from the Brazilian defender’s foot.
The energy and desire were good and everyone strived to get involved in the play from both directions. It will still take time to make ‘Arteta ball’ second nature and Arsenal need new additions to enhance the overall plan.