Crystal Palace (2) 3 Arsenal (0) 0
Selhurst Park Stadium, Selhurst, London SE25
Monday, 4th April 2022. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(4-2-3-1) Aaron Ramsdale; Cédric Soares, Ben White, Gabriel Magalhães, Nuno Tavares; Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Martin Ødegaard, Emile Smith-Rowe; Alexandre Lacazette.
Substitutes: Bernd Leno, Rob Holding, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Mohamed Elneny, Eddie Nketiah, Gabriel Martinelli, Mazeed Ogungbo, Zak Swanson, Marcello Flores.
Yellow Cards: Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 68%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistant Referees: Constantine Hatzidakis, Neil Davies
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Jarred Gillett; AVAR Wade Smith
The weekend’s results mean that we are currently in fifth place in the Premiership table, so a win tonight is absolutely crucial, no two ways about it, even if it means defeating the team which is being managed by our old friend, Patrick Vieira, on the field of glory in South London this evening. A victory will propel us back into fourth place, leapfrogging Tottenham Hotspur and settling in just two points behind Chelsea; all in all, a most important evening ahead for us here at Selhurst Park.
The home side kicked off proceedings tonight, and the first few minutes were spent by both sides testing each other’s defence with clever passing and movement both on and off the ball. Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka were linking up well in the midfield, but somehow we started to get swamped by the Palace midfielders time and time again. After just sixteen minutes, the home side took the lead after a bit of a muddle in our penalty area from a ball that arrived from a free-kick appeared to take our defenders by surprise; Jean-Philippe Mateta was on hand to punish us accordingly. The goal certainly livened things up, and the intensity of the match certainly went up one or two notches; it has to be said that the Eagles pushed us onto the back foot, and we were punished accordingly, when after just twenty-three minutes we were two goals down when Jordan Ayew scored a firm shot around Aaron Ramsdale. Somehow we have to try to turn this score around, but with the confidence that Palace are showing, it’s hard to see how we are going to do just that. Just before the half hour mark, Bukayo Saka chipped a lovely ball in from the right wing, but Alexandre Lacazette disappointingly headed it well over the bar, which was more of a chance wasted, than missed, really. The frustration in Bukayo Saka was becoming apparent, when he was forced to come inside to get involved and in doing so, he tripped up Conor Gallagher to give away a foul on the edge of the Palace penalty area. Aaron Ramsdale made a great save from Jean-Philippe Mateta just eight minutes from the half-time break that could have proved to have been disastrous if that had beaten him. We are not at the races tonight, we appear to be second at most loose balls in the midfield, and our strikers are firing blanks. The home side are quicker to react to most situations, and quite frankly, the half-time whistle can’t come quick enough for our boys out there tonight. After a disappointing header from Gabriel that the Palace goalkeeper easily held, Paul Tierney thankfully blew the half-time whistle.
At the beginning of the second half, Gabriel Martinelli replaced Nuno Tavares, and as we kicked off, we are all hoping that the boys can turn this around. Within no time at all, the addition of Gabriel Martinelli showed more intent up front and it looked like we were starting to wake up, despite the home side looking more organised at this point in the match. Seven minutes after the restart, we had a penalty appeal when Cheikhou Kouyate bundled Bukayo Saka to the floor, but referee Paul Tierney ignored our pleas. Thomas Partey was booked when he fouled Jeffrey Schlupp on the edge of our penalty area, but thankfully, the resulting free-kick from Joachim Anderson was saved competently by Aaron Ramsdale. On the hour, Bukayo Saka teased Tyrick Mitchell out on the right wing and cut inside the full-back; he tried to curl it into the far corner but the ball flew way over the bar and into the crowd, which somehow summed up our night. We had our best chance of the match so far when Gabriel Martinelli found Alexandre Lacazette in the penalty area. He touched it on to Emile Smith-Rowe but he placed it straight into the arms of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita from close range. A couple of minutes later, Eddie Nketiah replaced Cédric Soares in order to bring more firepower to the occasion, and shortly afterwards, Martin Ødegaard came agonisingly close with a clever left-footed shot which missed the goal by a short measure after some clever play out on the left-hand side between himself and Emile Smith-Rowe. With eighteen minutes left on the clock, Wilfried Zaha was fouled in our penalty area by Martin Ødegaard; there was no doubt who would take the penalty, and Wilfried Zaha confidently scored the third goal of the night for the home side. In the meantime, an injured Thomas Partey was replaced by Albert Sambi Lokonga, and then a couple of minutes later, Granit Xhaka was booked for a petulant challenge on Wilfried Zaha close to the touchline. We did come close to scoring, when Bukayo Saka’s strike was parried by Vicente Guaita, and while he was still down on the ground, Emile Smith-Rowe fired in the rebound but defender Marc Guehi quickly reacted to block it. Eddie Nketiah hit the top right-hand corner of the post with a deceiving long-range shot, and then Granit Xhaka too, tried a long-range shot, but Vicente Guaita easily saved it. Although in the later stages of the game we did attempt to try to get something out of this match, it was all to no avail, and when Paul Tierney finally brought the match to an end after three minutes’ injury time, it was one of relief on our part.
Certainly a night to forget for us here at Selhurst Park, and maybe the term “a bad day at the office” doesn’t quite tell the story of tonight\s debacle. From start to finish, we were on the back foot, and we certainly looked nothing like the team that we can be at times. However, there is still a lot of football to come this season, and with Manchester United, Chelsea, West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur still to play us, anything can happen. And it will, no doubt.
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: Brighton and Hove Albion at the Emirates on Saturday, 9th April at 3.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. 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.