Saturday, 26 October 2013

10 Man Arsenal Win 2-0 At Palace

Arsenal went to Crystal Palace in the early kick off today knowing a win would put them five points clear at the top of the table before any of the chasing pack played their games. Arsenal had taken 19 points in their last seven league games while Palace had lost their previous five and only Sunderland were below them in the table. Arsenal were very strong favourites to win and their biggest enemy was going to be complacency more than likely. 

Arsene Wenger made two changes from the team which was beaten 2-1 at home in the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night. Santi Cazorla came in for Tomas Rosicky on the left of the attacking trio and Mathieu Flamini returned to his midfield anchor role in place of Jack Wilshere who wasn't risked after hurting his ankle against Dortmund. It was a very strong looking Arsenal team and they surely just needed to play at full pace to get a win.

Arsenal were on top from the start but the pace they were playing at wasn't what it might have been as they looked a little fatigued and possibly a little complacent too. The best chances early on came to Arsenal but they suffered a blow after only eight minutes when Flamini limped off with what looked like a groin injury. He was replaced by Serge Gnabry who went out to the right hand side of the attacking trio.

When Arsenal didn't score early on Palace gradually came into the game and had a few chances of their own before the half was over. Luckily Wojciech Szczesny was in fine form in the Arsenal goal and Palace weren't at their best in front of goal. Arsenal probably should have had a penalty in that first half but the referee ruled that a foul on Gnabry was outside the box when it was actually in it.

There was no score at half time and Arsenal needed to pick up the pace and the effort after the break if they were going to win. Thankfully they were given a helping hand by Palace after less than a minute of the second half when a foolish challenge in the box brought Gnabry down for a certain penalty. Mikael Arteta stepped up to put the penalty away and give Arsenal the lead they wanted.

I hoped to see Arsenal build on that lead but they didn't reall create an awful lot and Palace gradually started to push forward in search of an equaliser. They didn't really seem to carry much of a threat until just before the mid point in the half when Arteta was judged to have impeded Marouane Chamakh in a goal scoring position and was shown a straight red card. There are a few questions to be asked of the referee about the card but also about the Arsenal defence.

First of all I would like to know how Chamakh was given so much space to run into and secondly where were the Arsenal central defenders at the time to leave Arteta marking him. Also how did the referee judge that a player has an obvious goal scoring chance when he was only a few yards inside the Arsenal half and did Arteta actually take Chamakh down or did they just collide. It was harsh on Arteta and it was just what Palace needed to try to get back into the game.

With the man advantage Palace started to push forward and Arsenal quickly brought Wilshere on to replace Gnabry. For the next 10 minutes Palace built up a head of steam and Arsenal only kept their lead thanks to the brilliance of Szczesny. He showed exactly how good he can be and made one fantastic save in particular which probably won Arsenal the three points.

As the game wore on Arsenal were getting more chances on the break as Palace pushed further forward but couldn't get the final ball right to put the game to bed. Nacho Monreal came on for Santi Cazorla to tighten things up at the back and he was the one who looked most likely to make something happen as he pushed forward. The second goal eventually came with three minutes left and with it the game was finally over.

Aaron Ramsey broke into the Palace box and held the ball up before floating it into the path of the on rushing Olivier Giroud to power a header home from five yards out. There was nothing the Palace keeper could do about it and Arsenal saw the rest of the game out with relative ease. When the final whistle went Arsenal had the three points they needed and could sit back to see how all of their rivals fared.

It might not have been a vintage performance from Arsenal but most importantly of all they got the win they needed. They have 22 points from their first 9 league games and are top of the table going into two really tough league games. It's been a hectic season with games coming twice a week every week and Arsenal have managed to keep winning in the league.

Most of the players who played today will now have a bit of a rest in midweek as the boss will look to play the fringe players in the Capital One Cup against Chelsea. As I've said before I don't really mind too much how that game goes as long as Arsenal can have their best team possible ready to play Liverpool next Saturday. With Dortmund and United to follow that game before another international break it would be too much of a gamble to risk players against Chelsea.

For the moment though Arsenal are top of the table and have won 15, drawn three and lost one of their last 18 league games. That's one defeat in almost half of a season and they have taken more points in the current calendar year than any other team. As the schedule gets really tough in the next few weeks hopefully they can keep that record going.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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