A dangerous unpunished push by Zaha – changed this game as he deliberately pushed Pepe into Torreira who was injured and couldn’t come out for the second half. Torreira was the Arsenal player of the first half and the glue which held the team together.
It highlighted some poor refereeing by Paul Tierney. He booked Lacazette for persistent fouling in the second half whereas Ayew was persistently fouling all match long. And Tomkins dangerously sliced down Martinelli late on and was lucky to only get yellow.
The infamous Craig Pawson was again at the root of a contentious decision involving Arsenal with Aubameyang’s challenge on Max Mayer given a red VAR card. Martinelli looks set to have a run of games in the Gabonese’s absence.
Arsenal were impressive in patches. The first 30 minutes outplayed Palace with slick one and two touch passing and moving. It culminated in a fine goal involving 18 passes. Luiz fired centrally to Lacazette, who controlled well and changed direction of attack, finding Aubameyang’s run – and fine low finish.
They were dangerous at corners where Lacazette and Luiz had chances; and for free kicks by Palace they held a high line which often nullified any threat. The pressing was better than in the Emery days.
The wind was perhaps the biggest influence. The game became scrappier the longer it went on – which in a way suited Palace.
Xhaka’s lack of mobility was clear to see – and one of the problems that needs sorting. His spatial positioning and passing were fine. But the speed of his physical repositioning was off the pace and invited interceptions.
After a good first half performance the team became sloppy in second half – like Arsenal-previous. The defence was static as the ball came in from Kouyaté on the left to Ayew who shot goalwards. Luiz tried to intercept, but the ball flew up unluckily beyond Leno. It was to be the fifth time this season that Arsenal had let a half-time lead slip away.
Pepe lost possession regularly and at times didn’t look like a £72 million player. But he had a chance in closing stages, set up by Lacazette and Martinelli (on for Ozil who had a quiet game). A good low shot arrowing into the left-hand corner of the goal was tipped onto the post by Guaita and back to Lacazette who could have dinked it. But again his reactions were a bit too slow and the Palace keeper dived to save.
Sokratis exemplified resilience when he cleared off the line from a looping header by Tomkins.
Michael Arteta said; “The first 35 minutes was exactly what I want. They were at it, dominant and controlled the game.
“The last ten minutes we gave free kicks away.
“The first ten to fifteen minutes of the second half they put more men up front – we had more difficulties. The goal was unacceptable. I was upset.
“But we reacted well after goal.”
On Aubameyang’s tackle, Arteta said he mistimed the tackle and thought it was not malicious.
He refuted the suggestion of a lack of concentration for the goal saying it is impossible to control the game for 90 minutes against a team such as Palace.
“The reactions were positive. We were disappointed and reacted straight-away.”
But the fact remains Palace, who were without eight first team players remain above Arsenal in the league.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Kelly, Tomkins (Booked at 85), Cahill, Riedewald, Meyer (Substituted for Tosun at 68), Kouyaté, McArthur, McCarthy (Booked at 71), Zaha, J Ayew
Arsenal: Leno, Maitland-Niles (Booked at 51), Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Kolasinac, Torreira (Substituted for Guendouzi at 45), Xhaka, Pépé (Booked at 44), Özil (Substituted for Martinelli at 70), Aubameyang (booked/red-carded at 67), Lacazette (Booked at 90, Substituted for Nelson 90+2’minutes).