Arsenal (2) 4 Crystal Palace (0) 1
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Sunday, 19th March 2023. Kick-off time: 2.00pm
(4-3-3) Aaron Ramsdale; Ben White, Rob Holding, Gabriel Magalhães, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Martin Ødegaard (c), Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka; Bukayo Saka, Leandro Trossard, Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitutes: Kieran Tierney, Gabriel Jesus, Emile Smith-Rowe, Jakob Kiwior, (Jorge Luiz Frello Filho) Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, Matt Turner, Reuell Walters.
Scorers: Gabriel Martinelli (28 mins), Bukayo Saka (43mins, 74 mins), Granit Xhaka (55 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 62%
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, James Mainwaring
Fourth Official: Andy Madley
VAR Team at Stockley Park: VAR Darren England; AVAR Sian Massey-Ellis
Today’s match against Crystal Palace is yet again, another “must win” situation for us. If we are to be victorious this afternoon, then we will be eight points clear of Manchester City, which will be magnificent if we can achieve this feat.
Within three minutes of the start, our vice-captain Granit Xhaka floated a pass over the top that Gabriel Martinelli was unable to bring down to hit in time before Marc Guehi intercepted the movement. The visitors then went on their first attack of the game when thankfully Rob Holding’s first big action of the match was to win an important header in order to halt an Eagles’ attack. Shortly afterwards, we had a shout for a penalty as Gabriel Martinelli slotted a pass into the penalty area for Martin Ødegaard; but Luka Milivojevic tackled him, brought him down but referee Stuart Attwell cancelled our appeals out. The visitors broke out and caught us on the hop somewhat when Wilfried Zaha cut inside from the left wing and fired a low shot which hit the post and deflected onto the back of the diving Aaron Ramsdale before going off for a corner. We attacked soon after, and Ben White went on a run to try and create something, but having reached the edge of the penalty area, James Tomkins challenged him and cleared the ball. Arsenal continued to pressurise the Eagles, and on the twenty-sixth minute, we opened the scoring when a superb Bukayo Saka cross found him on the left side of the penalty area. He was confronted by Joel Ward, turned him and whacked the ball into the far corner of the net. On the half hour, Granit Xhaka took a blow to his right knee, and although it seemed an accidental challenge from Michael Olise, it was certainly a painful collison. The visitors were trying to stop us, but not with much success; we are penetrating their defence in several areas, and they are finding it difficult to contain us. Six minutes before the break, Martin Ødegaard looped over a free-kick into the Palace penalty area and Thomas Partey met it perfectly, only to head it over the bar. Our pressure is constant and relentless; Leandro Trossard sliced a lovely shot from a Ben White cross but the ball stayed in play, allowing him to set up our captain for a shot that he dragged just past the post. So close. Three minutes before half-time, Bukayo Saka grabbed our second, but there was a query over whether the goal was offside or not. The VAR team are checking to see if Bukayo Saka was beyond Joel Ward when he received the pass from Ben White; it was a heartstopping few moments whilst we were awaiting the results, but thankfully everything was in order and the goal stood. On the stroke of half-time, Thomas Partey looked to make it three, but he blasted the ball just wide from close range. After three minutes injury time, Stuart Attwell blew the whistle for the end of the first half, with our star very firmly in the ascendancy now.
We certainly came started the second half in the same vein as we finished the first, bringing the game to the visitors and putting them under extreme pressure. Bukayo Saka beat Tyrick Mitchell and fired in a low cross that Joel Ward cleared, and the visitors broke out, with the ball finding its way to Wilfried Zaha, who tried to create something special for Palace by jinking into our penalty area. Surprisingly, he went down to the floor after a solid challenge from Bukayo Saka, but despite his appeals, referee Stuart Attwell merely shrugged off his pleas. Ten minutes after the restart, we scored our third when Leandro Trossard played a clever ball to put Granit Xhaka in behind the Eagles’ defence and his shot found the back of the net despite falling to the ground under a clumsy challenge. A few minutes later, Leandro Trossard fell to the ground, holding his face, after James Tomkins appeared to strike him in the jaw, earning him a yellow card for his trouble. Just after the hour, the visitors scored when a Palace corner dropped into Jeffrey Schlupp’s midriff, and then merely poked the ball over the line. But was a hand used to control it or not? The VAR team checked it and decided that no infringement took place, so the goal stood. A couple of minutes later, Gabriel Jesus and Kieran Tierney replaced Leandro Trossard and a fatigued Oleksandr Zinchenko; although the visitors came back at us with a couple of useful chances, with sixteen minutes of the match remaining, we put the match beyond the reach of the Eagles when a neat Kieran Tierney pull-back to the middle of the penalty area was whacked into the back of the net by Bukayo Saka for his second goal of the game. Kieran Tierney then flew past Joel Ward and fired across a low cross that James Tomkins failed to clear before another defender stepped in and cleared the ball out of the Palace penalty area. With six minutes of the match remaining, Emile Smith-Rowe and Jorginho replaced Gabriel Martinelli and Ben White, and three minutes later, after a superb Martin Ødegaard effort went close with an shot from range, Jakub Kiwior ran onto the pitch for his Emirates debut, replacing Gabriel. The game started to grind down to its natural conclusion, and the only thing of note to happen was in the third minute of four in injury time when Aaron Ramsdale was forced into a save to stop a shot from Eberechi Eze as the visitors searched desperately for a final bit of consolation, which did not happen. Stuart Attwell finished the proceedings shortly afterwards, and another satisfying three points was chalked onto the board.
Firstly, some welcome stats; we have earned our twenty-second Premier League win of the season, as many as we managed in the whole of last season, and our most ever victories in the boys’ first twenty-eight matches of a league campaign. Also, we are the first side in English Football League history to win as many as nine London derbies in a single season, and Leandro Trossard has assisted six goals in ten Premier League games for us, at least twice as many as any other player in the Premiership since his club debut in January. It is also more assists than the Belgian provided in fifty Premier League appearances for Brighton and Hove Albion (his previous club) since the start of last season, which was five. For us, this was a perfect response by the players after we lost on penalties to Sporting Clube de Portiugal in the last sixteen of the Europa League on Thursday. So many good things happened this afternoon, least of all Gabriel Martinelli scoring his thirteenth goal of the season, and also Bukayo Saka scoring a brace of goals as well. All in all, it was a fantastic performance, and the eight points gap between ourselves and Manchester City is truly worth its weight in gold. Keep going, chaps.
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: Leeds United at the Emirates on Saturday, 1st April at 3.00pm (Premier League). Be there, if you can. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Thought our intensity and energy levels were fantastic. No feeling sorry for themselves with this group. Lisbon kicked us all over the place on Thursday in a gruelling 120 minutes of football. I`m sure a few of the players were physically a bit bruised and battered after that one.
I had zero doubt we`d be mentally OK. Arteta has instilled an iron will to win. To produce a performance of that quality less than 3 days after going out of Europe speaks volumes to that.
Hard to pick a man of the match but Partey and Xhaka were immense in the middle of the park and White continues to go from strength to strength. Holding was solid, love his attitude. Never moans when he`s not playing, proper team player who rarely lets you down when he comes in. Also good to see Tierney get 30 odd minutes, thought he done well and showed his quality.
Everything`s looking good at the minute, let`s just hope the Mickey`s do us a favour next up against City. Leeds the following day is another must win game for us.
Up The Arse.