Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace: Lacklustre Victory Analysed

By on August 17, 2014

Arsenal kicked off the Premier League season with a hard fought 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. Here, Gunner333 looks at the good and the bad from the game.

What a bizarre Summer it really has been for the Gunners. A multi-million pound forward was added to the armoury alongside a trio of other new additions, Wenger did not sell a big name and most shockingly of all, Nicklas Bendtner has finally departed the Emirates! With this incredible pre-season well-and-truly behind us, it seems time to look ahead to the next nine months of Premier League football, as Arsenal’s Premier League ambitions have been boosted by a good few months of business, coupled with an emphatic victory over league holders Manchester City in the Community Shield a week ago.

The first challenger that lay in wait came in the form of a Crystal Palace side who, just days ago, would have stirred up the nerves inside the Arsenal camp, ahead of opening day. Twenty-four hours before kick-off though, it is a contrasting tale. Tony Pulis’ revival of the Eagles last season made Palace look a formidable force in the approaching season, but his shock exit left the Londoners in disarray heading into this game.

On with the clash then and, as the football community turned its attention to the first Saturday evening match of the season, Arsenal desperate for an early win to settle any nerves, especially after last season’s defeat by Aston Villa in the first game.

In terms of team selection, Wenger opted to start three new signings in his eleven, with an interesting shout being that of Calum Chambers start in the centre of defence, with Per Mertesacker still on rest after performing in Germany’s triumphant World Cup campaign, just over one month ago. Alexis Sanchez started on the flank, with Aaron Ramsey fresh to fill the ‘number-10’ role in-behind Yaya Sanogo, who once again controversially lead the line.

Enigmatic duo Sanchez and Debuchy combined in the initial phase, but former-Fulham defender Brede Hangeland set a marker for his season with a well-timed clearance. Very early in the game, and season for that matter, and both sides were looking for a battle over who would dictate the game with vast amounts of possession.

Arsenal were taking the initiative at first and Wilshere’s low shot was well saved by Julian Speroni, before Palace went up the other end and broke the deadlock against the run of play. Few lessons learned from last-season’s blunders on marking the giants of the game allowed Norwegian Hangeland to flick an in-swinging corner for 0-1.

However, we managed to draw level on the stroke of half-time as Laurent Koscielny headed home an Alexis Sanchez free-kick for 1-1. Wenger’s planned half-time rollocking of the lads would have been eased slightly, but the Frenchman would have undoubtedly demanded an improved after the break.

Arsenal had looked very mediocre in the game and were struggling to create anything of note in the final third. Our push for a late winner was aided when Jason Puncheon was sent to the stands for a lunge on Monreal. This handed us the initiative to go on an grab a winner and it inevitably came through a familiar name, with Aaron Ramsey poking home from close range after Debuchy’s shot was saved.

Arsenal weren’t at their best but we managed to come away with a vital three points. Here I analyse the good and the bad points of the game.

The Good

We may not have encapsulated the golden philosophy of football in this game, but our continuous knocks on the Palace door did unveil something of a ‘Champions-esque’ method of victory. We won without playing well, which is always important. In terms of new signings, I felt Sanchez in particular was energetic, with the assist for Ramsey a particular highlight.

The back-line were solid aside from the goal, with any Palace breaks being efficiently dealt with by the two ahead of the defence; Wilshere and Arteta. One of my premier compliments of an adequate performance would be the improved utilisation of the wide-men, something not taken advantage of enough in previous campaigns.

In conclusion, I feel our positive aspects centralised around a determined midfield, who would regain possession quickly, despite frequently losing the ball, plus an on-call back-line who pressurised Palace attacks, however infrequent. For such an early season game, our mental preparedness at the back [with one obvious exception] was impressive but going forwards we were still vaguely in pre-season mode and perhaps our fortune amid victory could determine a more cut-throat approach next week.

The Bad

As a regular reviewer, I know the consequences of battering Arsenal after a victory, but on Saturday the standards had dropped from last week’s game with City. We obviously lacked the urgency to play with pace against Palace, perhaps we unintentionally de-valued our opponents without respecting them in the same manner as a side like City, or it may simply just be down to a loss of fitness from a recent world cup and full pre-season.

Evaluating our forward men is difficult, as the midfield crop ventured into the front-line regularly to support Sanogo and, later, Giroud. Sanogo was a disappointment overall as he lost the ball time-and-time again and got the ball stuck under his feet far too often.

Debuchy had to battle hard with Ward and, in all honesty, probably came-up second best. He had to focus far too much on dealing with Ward and Bolasie’s link-ups, rather than driving forward himself, an asset which has rendered him an “attacking-defender” more than anything else.

Overall I feel the performance was not of poor enough value to be ‘bad’, but it was more a slow start to the season. We looked more physical in terms of strength in regaining the ball, but we simply looked a little disjointed going forward. COYG!

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below.

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