Arsenal (0) 0 Crystal Palace (0) 0
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Thursday, 14th January 2021. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Bernd Leno; Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, David Luiz, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith-Rowe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Gabriel Magalhães, Willian Borges da Silva, Alex Rúnarsson, Cédric Soares, Thomas Partey, Nicolas Pépé, Calum Chambers, Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah.
Yellow Cards: David Luiz
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 67%
Referee: Andre Marriner
Assistant Referees: Scott Ledger, Simon Long
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Graham Scott; AVAR Timothy Wood
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restrictions
Tonight, we are looking to win four consecutive Premiership matches for the first time since October 2018, and if we are victorious, we could go into tenth place at the end of the evening. Good to see young Emile Smith-Rowe getting a start tonight, and on the bench, back from injury is Thomas Partey; let’s hope that he gets brought on at some stage in the proceedings here in rainy, icy North London. Let’s go!
We certainly started the match in fine fettle, passing the ball around and probing the Eagles’ defence as and when possible. Dani Ceballos and Emile Smith-Rowe were excellent in finding and manipulating space wherever they could, and although the visitors had one or two good efforts on Bernd Leno’s goal, they did not amount to much really at this point in the game. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut in from the left-hand side and had a great shot saved by Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal after twenty minutes which led to the visitors having a very good period in the match, in which they tried to find gaps in our defence. It was becoming fairly evident that despite the re-emergence of the visitors as the game wore on, we managed to soak up pressure very well, and some of our efforts were those of a counter-attacking one, and in using this method, became the team more closer to scoring the first goal rather than the visitors now. The problem is becoming of one being unable to unpick the defensive lock of the south-eastern Londoners; we certainly are missing Kieran Tierney out there tonight. We then went into a period just before half-time when Palace were on the ascendancy and unfortunately we almost conceded a goal when James Tomkins’ header hit Bernd Leno’s post with eight minutes to go before the break; he was called into action again shortly afterwards when a Christian Benteke header was acrobatically saved when all looked lost. Going into the half-time break with honours even, we were mightily fortunate at times not to concede a goal; but if we had a goalkeeper a lesser than Bernd Leno we may well have done.
Surprisingly, no changes for the start of the second half, and we certainly started forcefully, with Hector Bellerin’s shot going narrowly wide of Vicente Guaita’s goal a minute or so after the restart. Arsenal applied pressure on the visitors in this period of the match, and despite taking the game to them, our chances petered out to nothing. Again. However, ten minutes after the break, Alexandre Lacazette did get close with a strong shot that hit the side netting, and although our football was looking pretty with nice passing movements, we were getting nowhere fast at this point in the match. Just after the hour, Mikel Arteta brought on Nicolas Pépé for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, and almost immediately the change zipped some life into the team. As feared, we got caught on the break, and if it had not been for some quick thinking on the part of Granit Xhaka, Arsenal could have been a goal down. Dani Ceballos was replaced by the much-missed Thomas Partey with twenty mintues of the match remaining, and shortly afterwards, Rob Holding was desperately unlucky not to score with a superb header from a corner. Alexandre Lacazette was replaced by Eddie Nketiah with ten minutes of the match remaining, and by now, despite all the huff and puff out there tonight, neither side even looked like scoring if they played from now until Easter, to be fair. In the four minutes’ injury time, we continued pressurising the Palace goal, and there was a last-minute horrific scene played out in our half when Granit Xhaka slipped, letting in Jordan Ayew, but thankfully his chance was neutralised by Hector Bellerin, which saved our bacon, undoubtedly, just a minute before the final whistle was blown by Andre Marriner, who brought the whole sorry proceedings to an end.
So disappointing really, especially after the last few matches. We lacked true creativity, missed the one player who could give us width (Kieran Tierney), and the spark that ignites our strikers was non-existent. Bernd Leno was excellent, and it was good to see Thomas Partey back at last. One of those nights, I guess.
Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Our next match: Newcastle United at the Emirates on Monday, 18th January at 8.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.