Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Gibbs, Rosicky, Zelalem, Gnabry, Bendtner
Arsenal moved back to the top of the Premier League after a 2-0 win against Crystal Palace at the Emirates this afternoon.
Arsene Wenger made two changes to the team which drew with Southampton in midweek. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced the suspended Mathieu Flamini in midfield, while Lukas Podolski came in for Serge Gnabry.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain in central midfield, the Gunners started brightly, dominating possession in the early stages. Mesut Ozil brilliantly found Nacho Monreal with a pass over the top of the Palace defence, but Speroni came out well to block from close range.
Santi Cazorla curled a 30 yard free kick over the bar before former Arsenal man Marouane Chamakh found space in the box having ghosted pass Koscielny but his touch was heavy, allowing Szczesny to claim. The Moroccan turned Kos again a few moments later but his pass was too heavy.
Arsenal were finding it tough to break down a Palace side set up to get men behind the ball when not in possession, a series of one-touch flicks to try and find space in their box came to nothing. There might have been a penalty for us when Jedinak clearly held Giroud from a corner but the referee waved play on.
Laurent Koscielny almost broke the deadlock in the 34th minute after Giroud had been fouled 35 yards from goal. Ozil clipped in the free kick, the Frenchman flicked a back header, but Speroni saved at the near post. A similar set-piece saw Mertesacker head at goal, but this one went straight into the keeper’s arms.
There was to be no first half breakthrough for Arsene Wenger’s men though, and the teams went in level at the break.
Arsenal needed an early second half goal and that’s exactly what they got. Just 2 minutes after the half kicked off Santi Cazorla picked up the ball on the right hand side, came inside, dinked a beautiful pass over the Palace defence for Oxlade-Chamberlain and his delicate finish over the keeper made it 1-0.
It was the England man’s first goal in over a year, but the visitors could have equalised almost straight away. Palace broke down the right hand side, a cross deflected to Jerome at the back post. He headed it down but Szczesny made a brilliant save, stopping it from close range with his legs.
Lukas Podolski then shot wide after clever Arsenal interplay and more fine work from Cazorla, but there were signs of Palace getting back into it. Not out of their own fine play, but from moments of sloppiness by the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger reacted by bringing on Tomas Rosicky for Lukas Podolski, and moments later the Gunners were further ahead. Oxlade-Chamberlain back-flicked a pass to Giroud, took the return from the Frenchman, drove into the box and fired it home despite Speroni getting a touch. 2-0.
Arsenal went into keep ball after that, dominating possession and not letting Palace near the ball. The sign of a mature, confident team. Palace brought on Dwight Gayle for Marouane Chamakh while Bendtner and Gibbs replaced Ozil and Giroud.
There was a late worry when Mikel Arteta seemed to pick up a knock and hobbled his way through the rest of the game. With midfield options in short supply it’ll be a worry with our upcoming schedule. And those worries were exacerbated when man of the match Oxlade-Chamberlain appeared to hurt his calf, but it could have been just cramp.
In the end though, three points were the most important, and Arsenal now await tomorrow night’s clash between Man City and Chelsea to see if they remain top of the table ahead of the trip to Anfield.