Crystal Palace (0) 0 Arsenal (1) 2
Selhurst Park Stadium, Selhurst, London SE25
Friday, 5th August 2022. Kick-off time: 8.00pm
(3-4-1-2) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhães; Bukayo Saka, Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c); Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Eddie Nketiah, Rob Holding, Cédric Soares, Nicolas Pépé, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Reiss Nelson, Mohamed Elneny, Matt Turner.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (20 mins), Marc Guehi (o.g. 85 mins)
Yellow Cards: Granit Xhaka, Ben White
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 44%
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Peter Bankes
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Darren England; AVAR James Mainwaring
Welcome to a new season everyone, and with it, the renewed hopes of winning silverware that only the first day of a new campaign can bring. Also welcome to our new signings, namely Gabriel Jesus, (Marcus Vinicius Oliveira Alencar) Marquinhos, Matt Turner, Fabio Vieira and Oleksandr Zinchenko; not forgetting the return of William Saliba as well, who is in the starting line-up here at Selhurt Park tonight. Let us hope that the new Gunners settle in quickly and make a difference, as success at a club such as ours is paramount and the thought of another season with no trophies in the cabinet is a bitter pill to swallow.
The passing of Terry Neill on 28th July at the age of 80, was sad news to those of us who remember him well on both the playing field and in the dugout all those years ago back at The Old Place. He was a commanding centre-back, who captained and later managed the club, guiding us to the European Cup Winners Cup Final in 1980 along with three consecutive FA Cup Finals between 1978 and 1980, winning a dramatic final at Wembley Stadium against Manchester United in 1979. Terry Neill also managed Hull City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Northern Ireland, with whom as a player he won fifty-nine international caps, scoring two goals. Rest in peace, old friend.
There is something truly magical about the first day of the season, especially when it’s being played on a balmy summer South-East London evening in early August. The crowd is fired up, the players look great, time to go to work, lads. Living the dream. The noise from the crowd was deafening as Anthony Taylor blew his whistle for the home side to start the 2022-23 Premiership season here at Selhurst Park. We started the match in fine fettle, looking very confident with an urge to score. Within minutes, some excellent build-up play led to a narrow miss by Gabriel Martinelli, and although it’s very, very early in the match, we do look rather good tonight. Oleksandr Zinchenko fired in a superb shot which was parried by Vicente Guaita, which was followed up by a shap shot courtesy of Thomas Partey, whose effort flew over the Eagles’ bar. Arsenal look fast, clinical and sharp, whereas Crystal Palace are looking second rate at this point in the match. Although Crystal Palace had their first attempt on our goal after a quarter of an hour, their effort was easily cleared by Granit Xhaka just inside the penalty area. After just twenty minutes, we opened the scoring when Oleksandr Zinchenko headed the ball back into the penalty area from a corner, and Gabriel Martinelli was on hand to head the ball home for our first goal of the season. Arsenal are battling for every ball, competing for every chance, and as such are firmly stamping their authority on this game. With half an hour of the match gone, our collective hearts were in our mouths when Aaron Ramsdale whacked a messy clearance straight at Odsonne Edouard; no problem though, as the home side were too slow to capitalise on the error, thankfully. As the game started to settle down, the home side had a penalty shout quite rightly denied by referee Anthony Taylor, and as the match resumed, we merely continued to show both our class and dominance. It’s becoming fairly evident that every time the home side had possession, there was an Arsenal man (or two) on hand to rob them of the ball, and they were finding it difficult to break through the Arsenal defence. However, four minutes before half-time, Aaron Ramsdale made a superb save from the head of Odsonne Edouard to neutralise a possible issue, and at the other end, Granit Xhaka received our first yellow card of the season for simulation. Although Crystal Palace did manage to win a corner during injury time, it went nowhere, and we deservedly went into the break in the affirmative.
Gabriel Jesus started the second half off with a short pass, and in the opening exchanges, the home side appeared to wake up, winning a corner which was plucked out of the air by Aaron Ramsdale (who subsequently dropped it). After some clever play in the Crystal Palace penalty area, a deflected shot from the foot of Martin Ødegaard led to a corner, from which the home side broke out and caused us some problems as they advanced in on our goal; thankfuly the defence marshalled themselves and although Eberechi Eze found himself on a one-on-one situation with Aaron Ramsdale, it was our goalskeeper who stepped up and saved the day. A close call there. However, at the other end, a free-kick (which was awarded when Bukayo Saka was fouled by Tyrick Mitchell) saw Martin Ødegaard go mighty close with a clever left-footed shot, and a little while later, Gabriel Jesus jinked and swerved through the Palace defence, and the loose ball that fell to Martin Ødegaard looked promising, but he shot wide. Ben White picked up our second yellow card of the evening for a ridiculous challenge, and a few minutes later, Joachim Anderson won a header from the corner kick to head the ball towards the six-yard box. William Saliba kicked the ball against Jordan Ayew and the ball flew towards goal before striking Aaron Ramsdale, who gathered it up. Another close call. There then followed a period of pressure from the home side, who certainly became more aggressive as they got more and more frustrated as time marched on. Bukayo Saka looked to put daylight between him and Tyrick Mitchell, but he slowed down and the Palace defender got back and put him under pressure; his angled shot went wide, which was a wasted chance. As the match went into its final stages, we were put under intolerable pressure by the home side, who forced us back into our own half. With eight minutes of the match remaining, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko were substituted for Kieran Tierney and Eddie Nketiah, and within a couple of minutes, we scored our second goal of the game when we broke quickly and found Bukayo Saka out on the right; his cross took a deflection off the unfortunate defender Marc Guehi and deflected into the net. This certainly put air between us and Crystal Palace and made us feel a whole lot better as the match edged towards a conclusion. As Palace put us under pressure, Albert Sambi Lokonga replaced captain Martin Ødegaard deep into injury time, but it mattered not, as we picked up our first three points of the season just minutes later.
All in all, a superb win, although as we know, it’s far too early to argue or to judge this new-look Arsenal, who looked impressive on their first outing here at Selhurst Park tonight. However, the centre-back pairing of Ben White and the returning William Saliba looked excellent, and our two purchases from the Etihad, namely Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko just oozed class, style and talent, something we have been crying out for, for quite a while now. Aaron Ramsdale put in a good shift tonight, as did captain Martin Ødegaard as did the increasingly dangerous Bukayo Saka. Still, early days, but an important win at a very difficult ground to get a result. Onwards and upwards.
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: Leicester City at the Emirates on Saturday, 13th August 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