Result: Arsenal 4 – 1 Crystal Palace
Competition: Premier League
Date: 19 March 2023
Venue: The Emirates Stadium
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Holding, Gabriel, Zinchenko, Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Trossard
Subs: Turner, Tierney, Walters, Kiwior, Jorginho, Nelson, Vieira, Jesus
Arsenal opened up their lead to the top of the table to 8 points with a comfortable and impressive win at home against manager-less Crystal Palace.
Martinelli and Saka scored a goal each in the first half before Xhaka made it three for the home side early in the second half. Schlupp managed a consolation goal before Saka secured the victory for Arsenal.
Injuries sustained in the Europa League paved the way for Holding to start at the back alongside Gabriel. The defence was flanked by first teamers White and Zinchenko.
In the centre, it was the regular trio of Partey, Xhaka and Odegaard. Jesus was not considered fit enough to start so Trossard led the line with Saka and Martinelli.
Despite the quick start by Arsenal, it was a game that they had to be patient in to win. The home side started at a quick pace but Crystal Palace were more concerned with organisation and slowing down the tempo.
Partey was a key pivot in the centre of the park – winning possession, keeping the ball in tight spaces and redistributing it to his forwards quickly. His efforts were mirrored on the left by Martinelli who tormented the defender with jinking runs into the box.
However, after 15 mins it still read “0 attempts on goal” despite having more than 60% possession. They were just missing the final ball. The best chances at this point were made by the opposition and the best was by Zaha who caught the Gunners on the break, cut in past White and striked low into the near post.
The ball ricocheted off the post, into Ramsdale’s back and fortunately, went out for a corner.
The game continued to be a scrappy blur as both teams battled for possession without incision – until the 27th minute. Arsenal were still unable to make that final pass but had to keep trying. White slid in Saka down the right who quickly crossed for Martinelli. The Brazilian was lively all day and he showed great explosive ability to skip past his defender and lash the ball in to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal.
The Gunners gained confidence from the goal and continued to turn the screw. It wasn’t always easy to break down the Palace defence who were defending deep but the White-Saka axis had different ideas.
Saka played a one-two with White who released the winger down the inside right again, just like the last goal. This time, Saka drove inwards and stroke the ball into the far corner to double their lead. 2-0 Saka
The Gunners didn’t let up after the break. There was confidence and swagger as the wingers made 3 teasing crosses within the first three minutes alone.
Just when Crystal Palace looked to be regaining control, Arsenal hit back in silky style. Zinchenko’s reverse pass found Xhaka on the inside left channel. The Swiss knocked it back for Trossard who lurked in the hole in front of the Palace defence. With all the space in the world, he released Xhaka into the box to prod in at the near post and sent the Emirates into raptures. 3-0 Xhaka
Crystal Palace bit back just minutes later. Olise whipped in a corner which fortuitously landed for Schlupp to knock in and cancel out Ramsdale’s clean sheet. 3-1 Crystal Palace
65 minutes in, Jesus and Tierney came on for Trossard and Zinchenko to close the game but it destabilised the team’s momentum. Palace looked dangerous again and Zaha came close to halving the lead. Good thing that both substitutes played their part in securing the game. Jesus jinked and dribbled across the D and played in Tierney down the left. The full back pulled back a cross for Saka to slam the ball home to make it 4-1 Saka
Smith Rowe and Jorginho came on for Martinelli and White come the 82nd minute, which saw Partey move to right back – a throwback to his Atletico Madrid days.
Despite the pressure in the final minutes, the Gunners held out to extend their lead at the top of the table to 8 points.