Result: Arsenal 2 – 3 Crystal Palace
Competition: Premier League
Date: 21 April 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal:Leno, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos, Kolasinac, Elneny, Guendouzi, Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang
Subs: Cech, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Nketiah
Arsenal failed to capitalize on the losses of their top 4 rivals by losing at home to Crystal Palace 2-3. The Gunners were sluggish and defensively poor in the first half s they allowed Benteke to rise unmarked and score from a free kick.
The Gunners were much improved in the second half and scored almost immediately through Ozil. However, their defensive problems reared its head again and Palace scored 2 goals to the shock of the home side. Aubameyang scored an excellent solo goal to make it 2-3 but it was a mere consolation for Arsenal who ended up on the losing side.
Unai Emery promised to rotate his team after their exertions in Italy and he stuck to his promise – giving rare starts to Carl Jenkinson, Dinos Mavropanos and Mohamed Elneny at home to Crystal Palace.
With Tottenham and Manchester United losing this weekend, it was a great opportunity for the Gunners to take the game to Crystal Palace and further secure a top 4 spot. Arsenal wasted no time as Ozil got the first shot of the game within the first minute from outside of the box. He was unmarked and stroke the ball low into the corner but the ‘keeper was there to make the save.
That warning shot led Crystal Palace into defensive mode who sat deep without possession. Elneny had the next best chance to push Arsenal into the lead, pouncing on a layoff by Lacazette in the box only to sky it into Row Z with a volley.
The game’s first yellow card was brandished to Mavropanos on the 16th minute when he pulled back Benteke when the Crystal Palace striker wrong footed him on the right wing. The striker headed home from the resulting free kick, running into space unmarked by any of the Arsenal defenders. 0-1 Crystal Palace.
Arsenal’s response was a few minutes of sideways passing, struggling to break down a resolute Crystal Palace side. A 21st minute through ball from deep by Ozil punctuated the sterile possession, reaching Lacazette with his back to goal in the box. Unfortunately, the Frenchman lost his balance when spinning which resulted in a poor contact with the ball when attempting a strike.
The team needed Ozil to get on the ball more to dictate the game but he was often unavailable as an option in a crowded midfield. This resulted in many passes to Kolasinac who either lost the ball in possession or was too hasty in making a cross, resulting in blocks by a condensed Palace defence.
One such block was an obvious handball in the box by Wan-Bissaka which was surprisingly waved away by the referee. Arsenal were almost hit by a second just a minute later after a mazy Zaha run found Benteke on the counter attack. The striker was just offside and it was a let off for the Gunners who did not defend the counter well.
Kouyate was Palace’s dangerman on their next attack. He made a low cross from the right for an onrushing Zaha which was just inches away from making contact. Arsenal’s clearance found its way to a Palace player who fed in Kouyate again. The Palace midfielder forced Leno into a double save as Palace came close to doubling the lead.
Arsenal’s performance was uninspiring and they needed a big change in attitude and tactics in the second half to get back into the game.
Emery sought to add some urgency by replacing Mavropanos and Jenkinson for Iwobi and Maitland-Niles. The effect was immediate with Ozil scoring within the first minute. Iwobi and Lacazette exchanged passes on the left and the latter threaded a through pass for Ozil who made a run in behind. From a very tight angle, Ozil found a small sliver of space to ensure that the ball made it to the back of the net. 1-1 Arsenal equalize.
The goal brought some life to the Gunners. The movement and passes were quicker and Palace looked nervy defending against the home side. Heck, even Elneny was making more forward passes.
Arsenal were nearly opened up on the 55th minute when Mustafi misjudged a header which left Zaha through on goal. Maitland-Niles showed excellent power and pace to recover and push the ball out for a corner. We didn’t have to wait long for another Mustafi error as he allowed Zaha to slip past him too easily. Zaha made no mistake when going one on one with Leno. 1-2 Crystal Palace.
Palace doubled their lead just a few minutes later with McArthur heading in from a point blank range unmarked as the defence crumbled to bits and left the team a mountain to climb to achieve a result. 1-3 Palace.
The game was not over yet. Aubameyang, who has had a quiet game without receiving any service, pick up the ball on the right side of midfield and made an uncharacteristic mazy run, taking on 2-3 defenders. He laid off the ball for Lacazette but it was intercepted and deflected fortuitously into his path. There was nothing lucky about his first time finish though – a powerful low ball driven into the far corner. 2-3 and Arsenal are back in it.
The Gunners came really close to another equalizer with an in-swinging cross from Ozil on the right. The nicely weighted ball missed Aubameyang’s head by mere inches and the Palace keeper palmed it away before it landed in front of Iwobi. The Nigerian international had another good chance saved minutes later after good interchanges by Lacazette and Guendouzi in the box.
The final minutes of the game saw lots of hastily executed efforts with little finesse as Arsenal went on to finish the match losing 2-3 to Crystal Palace.