Arsenal let a two-goal lead slip against fellow London side Crystal Palace on Sunday afternoon, with fans showing their discontent throughout the second half.
The game seemed almost over before it had started when Arsenal scored twice from two corners in two minutes, Sokratis grabbing the first before David Luiz converted from Alexandre Lacazette’s flick-on.
Just when things looked to be calming down, VAR once again found itself at the heart of things when Wilfried Zaha hit the deck following a lazy challenge from Calum Chambers – the Ivory Coast winger initially being booked for simulation by referee Martin Atkinson only to be vindicated on replay. Luka Milivojevic continued his impressive scoring record against the Gunners, converting the penalty and offering Roy Hodgson’s side hope.
The visitors made a bright start to the second half and were got their just rewards when McArthur’s beautiful chip to the far post was headed home by Ayew, who had been left unmarked by Luiz.
Rather ugly scenes followed for the Gunners when club captain Granit Xhaka was substituted, the Switzerland international reacting emotionally to the boos coming from the sidelines in his direction.
Arsenal looked as though they had grabbed the winner in the 83rd minute when Sokratis once again swept home after a goalmouth scramble from a set piece; only for the goal to be ruled out by a(nother) Chambers foul in the build-up.
Key Talking Point
Arsenal desperately needed to bounce back following their dismal defeat to Sheffield United last Monday night but Arsenal’s defensive frailties proved costly once again; seeing them surrender a two-goal lead against a stubborn Palace side who are strongest on the road.
Chambers gifted Palace their route back in to the game when his dangling leg felled Zaha in the first half and it was more poor defending from David Luiz which led to the visitors’ equaliser. Emery’s attacking style has somewhat papered over the cracks of their shambolic defending this term, but as Arsenal drop more points, questions will once again be asked of the club’s inability to hold what they have.
The Gunners also lacked creativity going forward, with all of their best chances coming from corners and free kicks. Cries of ‘Mesut Ozil’ could be heard from around the Emirates, and his ability to penetrate deep-lying defences was something that the Gunners sorely missed.
Even with an attacking line of Pepe, Lacazette and Aubameyang, Arsenal were still unable to carve open many good opportunities with little incision and quality up top and from midfield.
Starting XI: Leno (5); Chambers (4), Sokratis (7), Luiz (5), Tierney (6); Guendouzi (7*), Xhaka (4), Ceballos (5); Pepe (5), Aubameyang (5), Lacazette (6).
Substitutes: Saka (5) Kolasinac (5).
STAR MAN – There were not many stand-out performers for Arsenal, but once again youngster Matteo Guendouzi looked the best of the bunch. He offered some creativity from the middle of the park, and showed tenacity in spite of the Gunners’ tepid display.
Key Talking Point
Crystal Palace showed all the qualities needed to challenge and nullify one of the Premier League’s elite forward lines; the Gunners’ front three kept very quiet by a stoic Palace defence in which veteran Gary Cahill impressed again, while the pace offered to them by the likes of Zaha and Townsend when counter-attacking made sure they caused a fragile Arsenal defence problems.
One weakness for Palace, however, was their defending at set pieces. They conceded two goals and a host more good opportunities from corners, and looked nervous defending dead balls.
As these were the first goals that Crystal Palace had conceded from corners all season, it is possible that they simply had an off day, but it will surely still be a cause for concern for Hodgson.
Starting XI: Hennessey (6); Ward (5), Tomkins (6), Cahill (7), Van Aanholt (6); Kouyate (6), McArthur (8*), Milivojevic (7), Townsend (6), Zaha (7); Ayew (6).
Substitutes: Benteke (5) McCarthy (N/A).
STAR MAN – Despite a resilient and diligent performance from Palace, they still lacked some imagination and struggled defending set pieces. However, James McArthur offered assurance in midfield, doing the simple things but doing them very well. He also provided a sublime lofted cross for Ayew to head home to level the scores just after the break.
Arsenal face a tricky midweek Carabao Cup fixture this Wednesday as they travel to league leaders Liverpool. Their next Premier League fixture also takes place at the Emirates Stadium, when they host Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday afternoon.
For Crystal Palace, their shock Carabao Cup exit to Colchester means that they will have a week-long rest before they entertain in-form Leicester next Sunday when the Premier League returns.