Starting XI: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Gabriel, Monreal, Xhaka, Elneny, Ozil, Alexis, Walcott, Welbeck
Subs: Macey, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud
Arsenal collapsed to a disastrously poor 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace as goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and a Luka Milivojevic penalty put another dent in Arsene Wenger’s Champions League ambitions.
Palace had the better of the early exchanges as Cabaye and Milivojevic had attempts at Martinez’s goal. At the other end Elneny forced Wayne Hennessey into a fingertip save with a curled effort and Welbeck nearly squeezed through on goal after a ball over the top.
After end-to-end sparring it was the home side that broke the deadlock. Unsurprisingly, a long ball played a part in the build-up as Cristian Benteke beat Gabriel to win a Hennessey clearance. The second ball was worked out to Wilfried Zaha who slipped as he went to cross but still found Townsend with a low pass in the six-yard box. The England international stole in front of Mustafi to dink the ball over Martinez.
In response, Arsenal repeatedly pressured down the left flank desperate for Sanchez’s dancing feet to work their magic in the final third. Three times in 16 minutes he might have had an equaliser. First a left foot snap volley tested Hennessey. A second effort curled just wide. A third was blocked by Mamadou Sakho at close range.
For all Arsenal’s dominance, Palace still looked dangerous when they countered and Martinez had to make a fine stop at his near post when Benteke was left free to shoot low. On two further occasions, the offside flag came to the rescue as Allardyce’s men challenged for the ball in the box.
Xhaka’s fine ball into the right channel freed Welbeck who flashed just wide and a frantic half closed with Gabriel nearly equalising with a header. By the break the home side had 10 efforts at goal (two on target) to Arsenals nine (three on target).
The high tempo continued in the second half as Palace went in search of a second. Only Hector Bellerin’s fine block denied Cristian Benteke a goal on 48 minutes. Moments later the Belgian did put the ball in the back of the net although he was correctly ruled offside after Martinez denied Townsend. A Puncheon header also tested the Argentine.
Wenger’s men steadied themselves with a spell of possession, during which Bellerin squandered an opportunity before Giroud and Ramsey were sent on for Elneny and Welbeck.
Ozil endured a nightmare couple of minutes that culminated with him trying to pass to an Arsenal substitute warming up on the touchline. His teammates tried to gee him up but things were about to get far worse for Arsenal.
Out of nothing, Palace grabbed a second and for the second time in the game Zaha claimed an assist by slipping over as he made a pass. This time Cabaye was the beneficiary and he duly applied an exquisite finish from the edge of the box to curl over Martinez.
To rub salt in the gaping wounds Townsend hung out a leg to win a penalty as Martinez dived for a loose ball. Milivojevic was decisive from the spot-kick.
The Arsenal fans who stuck around for the conclusion of the game were merciless in their baiting of the beleaguered players and manager screaming, “You’re not fit to wear the shirt”. You can hardly blame them, it’s painful enough shipping goals left, right and centre to Bayern Munich but when you’re doing the same against the likes of West Brom and Palace it’s plain embarrassing.
The result leaves Arsenal seven points off fourth place Manchester City. There might be a game or two in hand on other sides but it appears this side doesn’t have the bottle for a fight and Champions League football, whatever that is worth in financial terms, is a pipe dream.
Right now, we’re a really bad team. If we’re a team at all. We’re not so sure.