Result: Arsenal 2 – 2 Crystal Palace
Competition: Premier League
Date: 27 October 2019
Venue: Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Leno, Chambers, Sokratis, Luiz, Tierney, Xhaka, Guendouzi, Ceballos, Lacazette, Pepe, Aubameyang
Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Holding, Kolasinac, Torreira, Martinelli, Saka
Arsenal let a 2 goal lead slip at home to Crystal Palace in a game which was not just marred by another unconvincing performance, but also by an incident where Xhaka was jeered off the pitch before cursing at the fans.
The first two corners produced goals for Sokratis and Luiz but the team allowed Crystal Palace back in to the game through poor defending and game management.
It’s a second start for Tierney and Lacazette within the space of a week as Emery surprised fans with an attacking line up aimed at going for the jugular – at least it looked so on paper.
Despite the firepower on show, the first few minutes saw Arsenal starting tentatively with multiple sterile slow passes across the backline and failing to find any fluency passing from the back. However, Sokratis helped Arsenal go from 0-100 by scoring from the Gunners’ first corner. Palace failed to clear the ball out of the box and the Greek international volleyed from close range to put the Gunners ahead. 1-0 Arsenal.
It didn’t take long for Arsenal to score again, this time from the next corner of the game by the other half of the defensive duo, David Luiz. Pepe whipped a corner which curled towards the far post to find an unmarked Luiz who stabbed it home to make it 2-0.
The chances did not stop as Lacazette pounced on a Tierney cross to strike on goal on the 11th minute. He chested the ball down and produced a stinging half volley with his weaker left foot only for Hennessey to save well down his bottom right.
Crystal Palace slowly eked their way back into the half and it was Zaha who was the game-changer. Zaha went one-on-one against Chambers who was tripped in the box when attempting to dribble past the right back. It was controversially first deemed as a dive for the ex-Arsenal target but after consultation with VAR, the referee overturned it for a penalty. Milivojevic made no mistake from the spot. 2-1.
It was end to end stuff through the end of the first half as Arsenal went close on a couple of occasions – a Ceballos chip just looping past the far post and Pepe going just wide from the edge of the box.
The second half picked up where the first left off with an open game that saw a high line by both teams. Having watched Arsenal in recent years, it should then be no surprise to see Crystal Palace equalize on 50 minutes. Xhaka should have done a bit better to block the cross on the right wing but the entire defence seemed to have succumbed to ball watching, allowing Ayew to sneak in by the far post to tap in with a header. 2-2.
The coach upped the ante by taking off Xhaka for Saka. A highly surprising more considering how highly regarded the captain is by the coach. It resulted in a resounding chorus of jeers by fans and a defiant Xhaka who cupped his ears before mouthing some expletives towards the crowd as he trotted down the tunnel. While abuse towards players should not be condoned, it does look like a big turning point in Xhaka’s Arsenal career.
Having four attackers meant that Arsenal now put Crystal Palace on the backfoot with Lacazette, Chambers and Guendouzi going close within minutes of the substitution. Arsenal continued to dominate possession though the patterns of play seemed chaotic.
“Chaos” seems to be Sokratis’ middle name as it was through a frantic skirmish in the Palace penalty box where lashed the ball into the net after a poor clearance by the opposition defence. But it wasn’t to be as it was ruled out by VAR, possibly for a foul in the lead up to the goal.
The incident got their tails up with Luiz going close. Guendouzi slalomed into the box from the left wing and squared it for Lacazette who squared it for the Brazilian whose shot was well saved by Hennessey.
Emotions ran high deep into injury time with a scuffle between players with Guendouzi pulling off a cynical foul on Zaha who looked to break into a gaping Arsenal defence. That marked the end of a highly tense and hectic game which, again, saw Arsenal’s fragility laid bare.
Emery was right in saying that Arsenal matches have become more competitive. Unfortunately, games like these should not nearly be this “competitive” after taking a two goal lead at home. Arsenal should have been controlling the tempo of the game after the early lead but unfortunately, such performances are becoming more commonplace within the Emery era.