A good night at the office brought the 3 points in what are increasingly becoming ‘must win’ away games. With only two wins away at Burnley and Everton this season, the performance was less important than the result.
Selhurst Park was a crime scene last April, but despite predictions of Palace being the new bogey team, Arsenal were determined and professional. Palace have only beaten Arsenal four times and twice in the last 20 encounters; we quickly corrected last season’s anomaly and recorded their 120th London derby win in the Premier League era.
It’s fitting that a week of history played out against the background of the original Crystal Palace, home to the first international Industrial Expo of the Victorian era. On Sunday, Wenger officially becomes the longest-serving Premier League manager.
Arséne must also be proud of his protégé George Weah who also made history by beating all odds to become the first footballer to be the President of his country. (Editor’s note: Albert Gudmundsson, a former Arsenal player, was an Icelandic politician who lost the presidential race in 1980 (I think). Always the bridesmaid, etc.)
The fightback from Palace notwithstanding, history simply records last night as another 3 points in the Premier League slug-fest.
Li’l Jack Is Causing Wenger Headaches
Ramsey’s injury has been a blessing in disguise for our Jack. His fourth Premier League start showed what a run in the team can do, the grunt work having been done in cup competitions. Wilshere was assured and drove everything positive that happened in the midfield.
With Ramsey back in training – pencilled in for a mid-January return, this is the sort of good headache Wenger needs more often. At the moment, Li’l Jack gives the team more balance and it shows. With all the games coming up, the more sensible thing is for Ramsey to take the bench and wait his turn.
Arsenal’s first early chance fell to Wilshere, but the strike on his chocolate leg didn’t offer much threat to Speroni. The Gunners looked dangerous and applied relentless pressure to the Palace backline. You did wonder whether this was going to be another United nightmare as the chances went begging; the most dangerous came from Alexis’s slide through ball for Ozil.
The break came in the 26th minute following a determined drive by Lacazette. The Frenchman bought himself some space, floating the ball towards the far post. Speroni was kind enough to assist Shkodran Mustafi who deftly tucked the keeper’s largesse into the net. A smart goal from a defender whose instincts might have been to leather the ball in.
The half-time team talk must have been straightforward: “More of the same folks, we’ve got the game under control”. But Arsenal wouldn’t be Arsenal without inducing a good measure of anxiety.
The first half start was the best we’ve had this season; pacey, attacking and determined. We reverted to type at the beginning of the second half, minds still in the dressing room.
Here We Go, Here We Go (Again)
Wilfred Zaha, Palace’s brightest spark, worked his way past Bellerin and cut the ball back for Townsend to sweep home. Just five minutes after the restart; five!
The Palace crowd seemed to remember why they were at the stadium and rallied behind the team. Arsenal fans found that “here we go again feeling” surfacing. The equalizer put wind in the Palace sails and they attacked with more vigour, coming close on a couple of occasions.
But Arsenal were not to be thwarted. Lacazette was the provider again, holding the ball up well to tee Alexis up. The unexpected shot sailed through James Tomkin’s legs, past the flailing arms of Speroni at the near post.
Four minutes later, a route one move sprang from Mustafi’s interception. Li’l Jack deftly placed the ball neatly in front of Alexis to control with his thigh brought more Arsenal cheer. The Chilean poked the ball past an advancing Speroni to assure the 3 points.
Well, that’s what everyone thought. Le Coq and Maitland-Niles came on to pull down the shutters and close shop. But Arsenal just had to raise temperatures again with a gifted corner and a poorly defended goal.
With a minute to go, you’re thinking “No, surely, they can’t do it”. But ask that lot with cojones at Vicarage Road about Arsenal seeing out a game. A nervous final few minutes ensued as we avoided the embarrassment of conceding two goals in three minutes to Palace.
The Silly Season Is Back IN Full Swing
“Should they stay or should they go” will clearly be the January transfer window soundtrack. I doubt if any of the footballing media will write anything about Arsenal that doesn’t involve Alexis and Ozil leaving the club. Why write about football when you can create drama. It’s inconceivable that the two will leave in January, but that would only be relevant if anyone gave a damn. There’s advertising space to sell in papers.
The scrutiny has started. The analysis of any move the two make or don’t make on the pitch. Alexis scoring his first brace since May has already raised the speculation that he supposedly didn’t care before but now he’s in the shop window. Ozil has also been turning up performances that are being analysed more than the pros and cons of Brexit. No matter, the most important game is Sunday’s trip to the Hawthorns, 3 points imperative in the next ‘must win’ away game.
Li’l Jack and Wenger are confident though, that the young man will get a new contract. I hope he does, and with his growing confidence and stature in the team, the place is his to lose, coupled with an incentive for a ticket to Russia next summer.
Have a great day good people.