Football Features

“Something must change at the Emirates” – Winners and losers as Arsenal held at home by Palace

By Ollie Thomas

Published: 19:01, 27 October 2019

Another game to forget for Arsenal fans.

After an underwhelming display against Vitoria on Thursday night, the Gunners would have been looking to bounce back against a Palace side who were just a point behind them before kick-off.

A quickfire double from Arsenal’s centre-halves Sokratis and David Luiz appeared to have killed the game before the 10 minute mark, but some calamitous defending allowed Palace to draw level.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Premier League game in 2019/2020 if there wasn’t some controversy (there was plenty of it), but Palace can return to the other side of London happy with another valuable point which keeps them in the top six after 10 games.

But who were the winners and losers from today’s thrilling clash?

Winner: VAR

To say that VAR has come in for a bit of criticism since its introduction at the start of the season would be a massive understatement.

Every week, it seems there is some controversy surrounding the Video Assistant Referee. Before this weekend, one of the main critiques of the system was that it was failing to intervene when penalties were missed.

Despite a soft one being given at the Amex on Saturday, VAR was perfectly used to overturn Martin Atkinson’s decision to book Wilfried Zaha for diving rather than give the penalty. It will have been a satisfying moment for Zaha too – so often labelled a ‘diver’, VAR came to the Ivorian’s rescue.

As a result, Luka Milivojevic scored and set Palace on their way to a memorable comeback.

Loser: VAR

Oh VAR, you just can’t help but stir the pot, can you?

We saw VAR at its best in the first half and, arguably, at its worst in the second. Sokratis thought he’d scored his second of the evening and given Arsenal all three points before the men in Stockley Park decided to rule it out.

No one was really sure why and, to be honest, that is still the case. Calum Chambers and Milivojevic collided in the box (Arsenal originally wanted a penalty), which was enough to see the Gunners’ three goals quickly return to two.

We hear the term “clear and obvious” thrown around a lot regarding Video Assistant Referee. This certainly wasn’t either of those things.

Winner: James McArthur

James McArthur may seem like nothing special to those outside south London but, in reality, he is a fine player.

Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, the Scotsman was deployed as the most advanced of the trio in the middle of the park and was absolutely everywhere. As well as frequently mopping up Arsenal attacks, it was his excellent cross which led to Jordan Ayew nodding in Palace’s second goal.

Many Palace fans often bemoan the constant selection of McArthur over the likes of Max Meyer and Victor Camarasa. After performances like today, it’s easy to see why this keeps happening.

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Loser: Granit Xhaka

Arsenal’s captain had an afternoon to forget.

He was largely anonymous for substantial portions of the first half (despite his assist following some shocking Palace defending) and shouldn’t have let McArthur cross the ball in for Ayew’s goal.

It was his substitution which kicked him into life. After his number on the board triggered the biggest cheer of the afternoon from the home fans, Xhaka proceeded to take a leisurely walk off, cupping his ears to the home fans before shouting some choice words to the closest section of the Emirates. He then pulled his shirt off and went straight down the tunnel.

It was shocking to see from a player who, really, is still on his trial period as Arsenal captain. Whether that will still be the case in the coming weeks remains to be seen.

Winner: Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil has only started once in the league this season and, after today, it’s hard to see how this has been allowed to happen.

Sokratis and David Luiz were the only ones who ever looked like scoring for Arsenal today: given that Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos all started, that’s simply not good enough.

While Arsenal struggled to break down a second-string Palace backline, Ozil watched on from the stands, not even on the bench.

Surely, Ozil can’t spend the entirety of this season watching on from the stands. Perhaps it’s time Emery swallows his pride and gets his former captain back on the pitch.

Speaking of Emery…

Loser: Unai Emery

Are Emery’s days numbered as Arsenal boss?

After a poor display against Vitoria in the week was salvaged by Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal were far from convincing once again as they surrended a two-goal lead with very little resistance against a Palace side not exactly known for their goal-scoring exploits.

Pepe’s set-pieces were the only time Palace looked even vaguely threatened by Emery’s side – in fact, they could easily have won it towards the end of the game.

His team selection continues to baffle Arsenal fans all around the globe and, once again, his bizarre choices failed to pay dividends here. Something needs to change at the Emirates.