Arsenal drew against Crystal Palace for the second time this season when the two teams met on Saturday. A glance at the result will give off an impression that the only different thing this time around was that the Gunners threw away a one-goal lead, not two. But if you’ve seen the two games in full, you should be able to tell that there was much more to it.
The team actually played well for most of the game. They worked hard, both in attack and defence. The movement of the players was smart and well coordinated and a lot of the things worked just fine, especially at the start of the game. The goal was the product of a well-rehearsed move, perfectly executed by David Luiz, Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
But speaking of Aubameyang, the tackle on Palace’s Max Meyer which got him sent off after an intervention from VAR was indeed horrible. It was far out of character for the forward to be so reckless, nearly snapping the opponent’s ankle. Realistically speaking, there can’t be many arguments about the red card, but there seemed to be remorse on his face as he walked off the pitch, and given his contribution overall, the captain should be forgiven for this moment as a one-off.
The Eagles aren’t exactly a high-quality side, with all due respect, but it’s never easy for any team to go down there and take the points. They have a reputation of fighting hard for every inch of the playing field and not without reason.
There will be a lot for manager Mikel Arteta to take from this match and try to improve. One of the more notable areas that needs work is decision making in the final third, particularly that of Nicolas Pepe. The 24-year-old winger had a good game overall and it’s fair to assume that Gary Cahill still feels the pain in his backside caused by hitting the ground after being dazzled but his skill. However, there were one or two situation where Pepe obviously chose the wrong option on the ball, much to the frustration of his teammates. It is probably something Arteta will try and work with him on.
As for the often-criticized back line, it also looked good for almost the entire game, the only exception obviously being the moment when the goal was conceded. It’s hard to explain what exactly happened when that, let’s face it, feeble cross by Meyer came into the box. Lacazette stood there not knowing what to do, Luiz made an attempt far too weak to challenge Cheikhou Kouyate for the ball, Xhaka, who was also near, made no such attempt whatsoever. The way the ball later ended up in the net can perhaps be put down to rotten luck, but the whole situation was very reminiscent of the Arsenal defences of the last 12 months or so – not a good thing.
The upside is certainly that it was the only such moment of the game, and it is to be hoped that the indecisiveness that led to it will be eradicated soon.
The result maybe wasn’t what the team and supporters were hoping for, but the signs of the improvement much debated since Arteta’s appointment are still there. As long as the performances are good, the results will come.