Monday, October 28, 2013

Crystal Palace 0 Arsenal 2

Spanish sunshine is sometimes a pain for some. To be honest, those who took seats on the terrace of the Rendezvous Bar, our new venue, couldn't see much of the game.

Ahead of a series of tough fixtures against our league title rivals in November, this was a must-win game for us. We also needed to bounce back immediately from the disappointing defeat to Dortmund on Tuesday night. In addition, winning this lunch-time kick off would guarantee that we stay top of the Premier League for another week, no matter how other results would turn out this weekend.

Arsene Wenger made only two changes from the side that started in the 2-1 defeat to Dortmund. Mathieu Flamini was back in the starting line-up after a five-day rule governing concussion injuries prevented him from playing Tuesday night. Jack Wilshere was dropped to the bench after suffering an ankle injury during the Dortmund match. Tomas Rosicky gave way to Santi Cazorla.

Arsenal started brightly. A clear-cut chance fell on Giroud in the 3rd minute, when Sagna's brilliant cross found the French striker, but his header was just wide. For the first 10 minutes, Arsenal's dominance was phenomenal, but did not have the edge to break down well-organised Palace defence.

The deadlock was broken just after half time. Serge Gnabry won a penalty, which was converted expertly by vice-captain Mikel Arteta. Replays showed that the German teenager should have been awarded a penalty before half-time, too. The referee didn't only get this one wrong, but made another mistake when he showed a straight red card to Arteta. The Spaniard tangled up with ex-Gunner Maroune Chamakh and the both fell to the ground 40 yards away from the Arsenal goal. The decision was arguable in so many ways. Whether Chamakh was the last man or not can be debatable as another Palace player and Koscielny were running in the middle parallel to them. It was not a clear goal-scoring chance as the incident happened far away from the goal on the right flank. One can also argue that it was a shoulder to shoulder challenge. It was a harsh decision, if not wrong.

Wenger would have appealed if Arteta had been suspended for more than a game, but the boss said that an appeal is unlikely as he was going to rest the vice captain for Tuesday's Capital One Cup match anyway. Whether the sending-off was injustice or not, we shouldn't have put ourselves in that situation. Arteta had to stop Chamakh because the Spaniard was the deepest defender as the whole team pushed high up. How many mistakes of this kind have we made in the past? We have conceded goals from our own corners on more than a few occasions.  There is no need to dig up the archive footages. As recently as four days ago, we conceded Dortmund's winner from their quick counter. We have to rectify our vulnerability to counter attacks.

On the other hand, we like the team's resilience to grind out the win in the end. We could have capitulated a few seasons ago after such big blows like losing Flamini, a combative midfielder, to a groin injury so early in the game, and then another holding midfielder in the 65th minute. As soon as Arsenal's metronome had been given his marching orders, the Eagles smelled blood and mounted pressure. Szczesny pulled off two world-class saves within a couple of minutes. Then, when Ramsey broke on the left flank, he timed his lofted cross perfectly for Giroud's run. Giroud's header met the cross and went under Speroni's arm into the back of the net. The second goal relieved the huge pressure off us. We, the Gooners, could finally enjoy the rest of the game.

As Wenger admitted, Arsenal were not the sharpest. Asked whether he was worried about fatigue, the Frenchman answered "Sometimes when you play every three days you look tired and then in three days you are flying again. It goes a bit in cycles." Let's hope that players will recover quickly before the gruelling early November fixtures.

The next match is a Capital One Cup home tie against Chelsea, but at the Arsenal Playa Flamenca Supporters Club, many people's focus is already on next weekend's clash with Liverpool. Although we have an advantage of one more day rest over Chelsea, they have more depth in the squad. We don't know what sort of team Wenger will field, it will be difficult to overcome Chelsea to advance, especially if the Frenchman wants to give a breather to the key players. We think Arsenal should prioritise their league campaign.

Players rating

Szczesny: 8
Barclays Man of the Match. Made a couple of match-saving stops.

Sagna: 7
Delivered two brilliant crosses for Giroud.

Mertesacker: 7
Commanding display.

Koscielny: 7

Gibbs: 7
Not troubled.

Arteta: 6
Scored a first goal from the spot. Unlucky to be sent off.

Flamini: 5
Started well, but sustained a groin injury and was replaced in the 8th minute. Hope the injury does not sideline him for long because he is such an important player for us.

Özil: 7
Looked tired, but made runs when needed.

Ramsey: 7
Had a shot on target saved. Set up a goal for Giroud.

Cazorla: 6
Quiet game.

Giroud: 8
Scored his fifth league goal of the season.


Gnabry: 7
8th-minute substitute for Flamini. Earned a penalty and should have been awarded another. Replaced by fellow substitute Wilshere in the 69th minute when pressure piled on.

Wilshere: 7

Replaced Gnabry in the 69th minute. Kept Arsenal ticking in the absence of Arteta. 19 passes with a 100% passing success rate.

Monreal: 7
Came on for Cazorla in the 72th minute on the left flank. Had a dribble and shot, which was saved unlucky not to score, popped up in the centre forward position a couple of times

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