In a strange and confusing game, Arsenal left it very late to snatch a draw with Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace.
The Gunners started nicely, taking the lead, but then they were pegged back by
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Winner: Alexandre Lacazette
Arsenal looked dead and buried. Nothing left in the tank. Then Alexandre Lacazette came on and for five minutes the Gunners were rampant, charging at Palace over and over again. The Frenchman’s link-up with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was instant and liquid, giving life to Arsenal’s play. A game-winner looked inevitable and it seemed to arrive, for Palace!
Nevertheless, Lacazette was undeterred and continued to try and find a goal, and he was rewarded for his persistence when the ball fell to his feet late on and he reacted faster than anyone to fire the ball home into the roof of the net. It was a massive, dramatic equaliser for the Gunners and salvaged some sense of pride from a game where they didn’t really have any.
VAR is usually a target of ridicule and abuse for the way it doesn’t act or interfere in goals or penalty calls. You rarely see it fail to act in terms of a violent foul, in fact it’s been used to upgrade a few challenges to sendings off in recent weeks.
Not so at the Emirates, however, when late in the first-half James McArthur, well, there’s no other way to say it, he absolutely kicked seven hells out of Bukayo Saka’s standing leg.
Often bad tackles can be put down to poor timing or a slip but this one looks nothing but vindictive as McArthur’s swipe is nowhere near the ball and impacts Saka’s standing leg. Impact so severe that the youngster had to be taken off at half-time.
Mike Dean deemed the tackle worthy of a yellow card, and VAR either agreed or declined to intervene, both of which are staggeringly bad positions to hold on one of the most vicious fouls you’ll see this season.
Winner: Benteke and Edouard
With Wilf Zaha out injured, the pressure was on Christian Benteke and Odsonne Edouard to carry the Palace attack in the star man’s absence and to be fair to them they did exactly that. Benteke was a problem for the Arsenal defence all night long, with his movement and aerial prowess really causing problems. And of course he scored Palace’s equaliser with a really sharp finish. His second straight goal against Arsenal and his fourth at the Emirates, more than any visitor in the Premier League except for Jamie Vardy (5).
Then Odsonne Edouard got in on the act second-half, scoring his first goal since his brace on his debut with a high shot that seemed to deceive Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal goal. It didn’t end up being the game-winning goal but it was nevertheless a superb strike and if it puts Edouard back amongst the goals then duck and cover, Palace’s opponents!
Loser: Thomas Partey
There’s obviously many Arsenal players who you could criticise after tonight’s largely anaemic performance against Palace but Thomas Partey probably had the most disappointing performance relative to his talent ceiling.
The Ghanaian who is usually so assured in the middle of the park was anything but and ceded possession on multiple occasions but never more costly than when he was robbed by Jordan Ayew in the first-half in the move that led to Crystal Palace’s equaliser. That goal turned the game and had Thomas been more sure with possession it wouldn’t have happened.
Winner: Patrick Vieira
The ovation Patrick Vieira received pre-match at the Emirates must have warmed his heart. To be so wonderfully received at a former club even after so much must have made his heart swell with pride. Although probably not as much as the performance his team put in.
Palace suffered a bit early on and for five minutes in the second-half but they were absolutely sensational beyond that. They created more threat than Arsenal and with some better decision-making they could have really made something happen. Vieira’s ability to change the culture at Palace, making them confident at pressing higher and actually retaining possession rather than simply playing deep and hitting on the break as they did for years under Roy Hodgson, speaks volumes.
“I’m really disappointed for my players,” said Vieira post-match, pointing out “we conceded those goals on set-pieces, second phases, and we need to work on that.” So he’s already identified what they need to work on and how they need to get better, which also speaks highly of his ability as a manager and the chances he is a success at Palace in the short and medium-term and who knows where in the long-term?
Loser: Mikel Arteta
Arteta comes away with a point and he will be thankful to get at least that. But the Arsenal manager brought his team into this game off the back of three straight home wins and then had his side… well, they didn’t play like a side that were coming off three straight home wins.
It wasn’t that Arsenal were bad, but they weren’t good either. And just playing “alright” against a Palace side who haven’t won in three straight games is not the standard Arsenal need to be holding themselves to if they are to make the most of this season without European committments and really kick-on as a side.