Hungry Crystal Palace humiliate dreadful Arsenal 3-0
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
A hungry Crystal Palace humiliated a desperately poor Arsenal side 3-0 tonight at a raucous Selhurst Park – as travelling fans loudly called for Arsene Wenger to leave.
A first half goal by former Spurs man Andros Townsend was followed by a Yohan Cabaye curler and a Luka Miliojevic penalty after keeper Emi Martinez brought down an onrushing Townsend.
It was tough to take for Arsenal fans as Wenger’s men simply had no reply to the lively home side, with their performance in the second half extremely poor - even as Palace were without 11 members of their first team squad through injury.
James McArthur missed out with a back problem joining Scott Dann, Patrick van Aanholt and James Tomkins on the sidelines.
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez started again for Arsenal as Petr Cech and David Ospina missed out with calf and back injuries.
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Midfielder Francis Coquelin returned after missing the win over West Ham due to unspecified personal reasons.
Laurent Koscielny missed his second game with an Achilles problem.
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The atmosphere at Selhurst over the last few years has been second to none in the somewhat stilted air of Premier League crowds. Tonight was no exception as the Holmesdale fanatics nestled in the far corner kept up a relentless beat reminiscent of a Bundesliga match. Which is only a good thing.
But then they had a lot of cheer about following their resurgence under Sam Allardyce who, after tonight’s showing has steered them to six wins in their last nine matches to lift them to within five points of the 39 the former England manager believes will be enough for survival in this hectic season.
Yet for all the hyperbole about Allardyce’s record against Wenger the Frenchman was unbeaten in his last ten matches against the former Bolton boss, winning nine and drawing one - before this evening’s debacle.
Before kick off the fact a Wenger team had never lost Premier League match against Palace only added to the spice as this grand old ground rocked on a sunlight if chilly Monday evening in deepest South London.
It was Arsenal who started brightest. On ten minutes Mohamed Elneny combined with captain Theo Walcott to curl a right-footed shot that Hennessey did well to push behind his right hand post.
However on 17 minutes Palace took the lead through former Spurs players Andros Townsend. The move followed the in-form Christian Benteke easily win a high ball so that colleagues could work the ball across the edge of the area.
Wilfred Zaha slipped as he crossed but the contact fed the ball to an onrushing Townsend who gleefully lifted the ball over Martinez to give the home side the lead – as this evocative stadium erupted in joy.
It was instructive to see Benteke win the ball which started the move. The match may have been against a team led by Allardyce. But this is Allardyce 2.0. For while a reliance on the high ball will always be present the high tempo approach his side had also resulted in slick interplay as they looked to work the ball forward on the deck as much as the air.
Yet when will Arsenal watchers again be able to say with assurance that the North Londoners can safely cope with aerial balls – which are as much a part of English football. For all Pep Guardiola’s distaste of tackling judging by the 2-2 at the Emirates last week his team are at least trying to attempt industrial challenges.
The same simply cannot be said of the Arsenal defensive unit. Which is all the more perplexing given Steve Bould as Wenger’s number two – because Arsenal’s backline under pressure loses its shape and positioning at the drop of a hat. It also misses a leader, although vocal instructions from anyone would be a start.
It was also interesting to see the sheer joy the Palace players showed in their unbridled celebrations – which spoke loudly of a sound team ethic.
Minutes before half time Benteke broke through and unleashed a powerful left-footed drive low to Martinez’s right. The Argentine showed a strong wrist to turn the ball past the post.
As the ball rebounded off the advertising boards and back towards him he kicked it away in genuine frustration. He then turned as if to issue a full on tongue-lashing to his hapless defence. But then thought better of it. This observer prefers a keeper to shout, harangue and, let’s face it rollock defenders who err. For it shows confidence.
Let’s hope for Martinez’s future progression he doesn’t fight shy of shouting at his defenders.
The truth was that they deserved to be shouted at. Not only were they defending too deep, slow to close down, poor to keep their shape and terrible in the air, their zonal marking was also non-existent.
As referee Neil Swarbrick blew for half time the wonder was that Palace should have been further ahead.
It was fitting the PA blasted out The Jam’s That’s Entertainment during the break – but would there be more of it from Palace in the second half?
Yes was the emphatic answer as the game continued in the same vein with Palace continually probing the defensive frailty of their visitors. Arsenal for their part attempted to move the ball into the final third – but were thwarted by an energetic home team.
Palace made it 2-0 on 63 minutes after Yohan Cabaye - who slipped in shooting after Zaha guided the ball into the middle - still managed to guide the ball over Martinez.
It was shoddy, sloppy and careless by Arsenal. The worst thing is that their body language gave the impression they didn’t seem to care.
The moment summed Arsenal up. Less than full endeavour and carelessness shown by the players as Bould and Wenger sat motionless on the bench unable to stem the tide. As an experienced Arsenal-watcher players and fans have to accept losing. It’s part of football. They have to accept not everyone can win silverware.
But what fans should never accept is a lack of effort from their team. From The Arsenal.
The evening got worse for the visitors as Martinez made contact with Townsend leaving Swarbrick no option but to award a penalty. Luka Milivojevic made no mistake by firing the ball low into right hand post to make it 3-0.
It has to be said Palace under Allardyce won the game through their own efforts, not because Arsenal played badly. They were everything Arsenal were not. Lively, hungry, passionate, hard-working.
It’s amazing what a change of manager can do to revitalise a club.
Hennessey, Ward, Cabaye, Townsend, Zaha (Delaney), Sakho, Benteke, Milivojevic (Flamini), Schlupp, Kelly, Puncheon (McArthur)
Martinez, Gabriel, Sanchez, Ozil, Walcott ((Oxlade-Chamberlain), Monreal, Mustafi, Welbeck (Giroud), Bellerin, Xhaka, Elneny (Ramsey)