Arsenal respond perfectly to Europa League heartbreak with key title step against Crystal Palace
fter enduring an evening where almost everything went wrong against Sporting, it was an afternoon where almost everything went well for Arsenal.
The Gunners are eight points clear at the top of the Premier League after beating Crystal Palace and it was a comfortable win.
After a shaky start, where Wilfried Zaha hit the post, Arsenal took the win. They were two goals from goal at halftime and in the end it was 4-1.
It was a welcome result for Mikel Arteta as the international break begins. Arsenal will return after that knowing only 10 games separate them and a first title since 2004.
Thursday’s loss to Sporting, which saw the Gunners knocked out of the Europa League in the Round of 16, looked like a night that could dent their title momentum.
Arsenal suffered the agony and physical exertion of losing on penalties, while they were also plagued by injuries. Takehiro Tomiyasu injured his knee and William Saliba injured his back.
Both missed that win against Palace and it’s unclear when they will return. Tomiyasu, however, surely looks set to miss the rest of the season as Arteta ended the game by experimenting on Thomas Partey at right-back. A backup plan for the rest of the campaign, perhaps?
Thursday was a miserable night for Arsenal, but it was a happy afternoon and one that will have put a spring in Arteta’s footsteps as the Premier League heads into April.
Rob Holding was forced to debut in Saliba’s absence and he excelled. Before today, he had played just 17 minutes of Premier League football but managed Palace’s attack well.
The centre-back was strong in the air but his ability on the ball caught the eye even more. A cross pass drew some gasps from the crowd at the Emirates Stadium.
Apart from him, Ben White was equally impressive and he put in a performance that underlined why he was unlucky to be left out of England’s squad on Thursday. White won the ball to create the movement for Arsenal’s opener, which was scored by Gabriel Martinelli, then he set up Bukayo Saka for the second.
The fact that Martinelli scored Arsenal’s first game will have been particularly pleasant for Arteta. It was he who missed Thursday’s vital penalty against Sporting but responded in style here. Any fear that it would cause him to lose his rhythm or get hungover was quickly banished.
The same goes for Arsenal as a whole and it was a performance controlled by them after a nervous start. Palace went close when Zaha hit the post and Odsonne Edouard made a good save from Aaron Ramsdale, although the offside flag was raised.
This all happened in the first 20 minutes and it was after that that Arsenal started to take off. They scored twice before the break and doubled after, with Saka catching a second and Granit Xhaka also getting involved.
The fight came out of Palace when they went behind and they were clearly still reeling from the dismissal of Patrick Vieira on Friday. More worryingly, they are also still without a win in 2023. They are 12th in the League and just three points above the relegation places.
The only crumb of comfort for them after that game was that they had at least ended their long wait for a League goal, with Jeffrey Schlupp grouping the ball home from a corner to make it 3-1. with just under 30 minutes to go. It was Palace’s first league goal since February 18.
That was pretty much the only thing that went wrong for Arteta, as goals from set pieces continue to be a problem for Arsenal. Something for them to work on during the international break after an almost perfect performance today.