Arsenal issue perfect response to European heartbreak in key title step
fter enduring an evening where almost everything went wrong against Sporting, this was an afternoon where almost everything went right for Arsenal.
The Gunners are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace and this was a comfortable win.
After a shaky start, where Wilfried Zaha hit the post, Arsenal cruised to victory. They were two goals to the good at half-time and by the end it was 4-1.
It was a welcome result for Mikel Arteta as the international break begins. Arsenal will return after that knowing that just 10 games stand between them and a first title since 2004.
Thursday’s defeat by Sporting, which saw the Gunners eliminated from the Europa League at the last-16 stage, felt like a night that could knock momentum out of their title charge.
Arsenal suffered the agony, and physical exertion, of losing on penalties, while they were hit by injuries too. Takehiro Tomiyasu injured his knee and William Saliba his back.
Both missed this win over Palace and it is unclear when they will return. Tomiyasu, however, surely looks set to miss the rest of the season as Arteta finished the game by experimenting with Thomas Partey at right-back. A back-up plan for the rest of the campaign, perhaps?
Thursday was a miserable night for Arsenal, but this was a joyous afternoon and one that will have put a spring in Arteta’s step as the Premier League heads into April.
Rob Holding was forced to start in the absence of Saliba and he excelled. Before today, he had played just 17 minutes of Premier League football but dealt well with Palace’s attack.
The centre-back was strong in the air, however his ability on the ball caught the eye even more. One cross-field pass drew a few gasps from the crowd at Emirates Stadium.
Outside him, Ben White was equally impressive and he put in a performance that underlined why he was unlucky to be left out of Thursday’s England squad. White won the ball to create the move for Arsenal’s opener, which was scored by Gabriel Martinelli, and then he set up Bukayo Saka for the second.
The fact it was Martinelli scoring Arsenal’s opener will have been particularly sweet for Arteta. It was he who missed the vital penalty on Thursday against Sporting, but he responded in style here. Any fears of that knocking him off his stride or having a hangover have been quickly banished.
The same goes for Arsenal as a whole and this was a controlled performance by them after a nervy start. Palace went close when Zaha hit the post and Odsonne Edouard drew a good save from Aaron Ramsdale, although the offside flag went up.
That all happened in the opening 20 minutes and it was after that when Arsenal began to hit their stride. They scored two goals before the break and doubled that after, with Saka grabbing a second and Granit Xhaka getting in on the act too.
The fight went out of Palace when they went behind and they were clearly still reeling from sacking Patrick Vieira on Friday. More worryingly they are also still without a win in 2023. They are 12th in the League and just three points above the relegation places.
The one crumb of comfort for them after this game was that they did at least end their long wait for a League goal, with Jeffrey Schlupp bundling the ball home from a corner to make it 3-1 with just under 30 minutes to go. It was Palace’s first League goal since February 18.
That was about the only thing that didn’t go right for Arteta as set-pieces goals continue to be a problem for Arsenal. Something for them to work on over the international break after a near-perfect performance today.
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