Awful Arsenal crash to Palace defeat
Emery suggests setpiece defending was to blame for scoreline
22 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot
ARSENAL 2 (Ozil 47, Aubameyang 77)
CRYSTAL PALACE 3 (Benteke, 17, Zaha, 61, McArthur 69)
SLOW, sloppy and out of ideas, Arsenal crashed to defeat against Crystal Palace, denting fans hopes of a top-four finish.
The Gunners were shockingly bad in the first half and, despite a short revival in the second, were lucky to walk away having conceded only three.
There was a critical mistake by Shkodran Mustafi – fans are now universally calling for him to be sold in the summer – Championship-level passing from Mohamad Elneny and another lacklustre performance from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The team selection by manager Unai Emery was also highly questionable. Gunners fans – boosted by rivals Manchester United’s astonishing 4-0 defeat to Everton earlier in the day – were baffled to see a highly negative starting line-up featuring five defenders and two holding midfielders, Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi.
There is a gaping left by the injured and want-a-way Aaron Ramsey.
Mesut Ozil, who was also average, kept dropping deep to collect the ball but when he got his head up there was little movement from the strikers. The passing in midfield was predictable.
In the first half there were two extraordinarily clumsy touches – first from Alexandre Lacazette and moments later from Carl Jenkinson – that summed up the overall performance. Both times, excellent chances broke down because of a lack of concentration.
Palace took the lead in the first half when a totally unmarked Christian Benteke headed past Bernd Leno – his first league goal in a year. It was poor positional play from captain Laurent Koscielny and Mustafi who allowed the big centre forward to ghost in unopposed.
The were a few boos at half time and after the break Emery rang the changes with Ainsley Maitland Niles and Alex Iwobi coming on for Carl Jenkinson and Konstantinous Mavropanos.
There was an immediate change in tempo leading directly to the equaliser. Mesut Ozil dinked past Vincente Guaita after a cunning reverse ball from Alexandre Lacazette. Alex Iwobi was charging around causing problems and the fans were back behind the team.
Arsenal grabbed control of the game for 15 minutes but the brief spell was ended by Zaha on 61 after some catastrophic defending from Mustafi.
The out of form former World Cup winner attempted to shield the striker away from the ball but miscalculated where he was.
The misjudgement let Zaha clean through and he finished clinically into the bottom corner. It was a major psychological blow for the Gunners who had been all over Palace up until that point.
It was no surprise when James McArthur headed in a third and despite Aubameyang grabbing one back there was no fairytale ending.
After the match, Emery said: “Out first target is to play Champions League. We lost a very good opportunity. I think: think the next match. It is in our hands. If we win we will be in the top four.”
“They have very good players. In the set pieces, we were not strong like we are all season.
“If today we were better at set pieces, maybe we could have win this match. We controlled the possession, but they defence very well.
ARSENAL: Leno, Mustafi, Koscielny, Mavropanos (Maitland Niles 45), Jenkinson (Iwobi 45), Kolasanic, El Neny (Torreira 68), Guendouzi, Ozil, Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Subs not used: Cech, Mkhitaryan, Monreal, Nketiah.
Tickets sold: 59,929