Arsenal impressively put four past Crystal Palace on Sunday to extend their lead to eight at the top of the Premier League.
Following a disappointing defeat in the Europa League on Thursday, Arsenal cruise past Crystal Palace with a 4-1 scoreline. The Gunners had a difficult opening 12 minutes which Wilfried Zaha hit the post before Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring with a superb goal in the 28th minute.
Bukayo Saka added the second in the 43rd minute just before halftime and Granit Xhaka extended the lead to 3 in the 55th minute.
Jeffrey Schlupp reduced the deficit for Crystal Palace in the 63rd minute before Saka grabbed his second of the afternoon in the 74th minute.
The win extend Arsenal’s lead at the top of the table to eight points ahead of closest rival Manchester City who now have a game in hand.
Here’s a quick thought on the game.
1. Arsenal banish Europa League disappointment
Perhaps the players were still feeling the effect of that penalty lost on Thursday night against Sporting CP in the Europa League with an uncharacteristic slow start to the game, Crystal Palace sat deep, expecting to catch Arsenal on the counter.
But once Martinelli turned to put the Gunners in front superbly, it became one-way traffic as Palace had no answer to the speed of play, their precision with the ball, and the cutting edge of the front four. Saka, Ben White, and Martin Odegaard tormented Palace full-back Tyrick Mitchell, cutting through time and again and always looking dangerous every time they attacked.
Palace could not get out of their own half because of the coordinated and effective pressing by the home side and were rewarded with the second which made it extremely difficult for the visitors to mount a come back.
Zaha’s inability or refusal to help his fullback meant Palace found themselves outnumbered on the flank, and any thought of a comeback was put to bed with Xhaka’s goal 10 minutes after the restart.
2. International break eases injury worry
Often, we bemoan the international break disrupting the rhythm of the team, but this time seems different. Arsenal are on a six-game winning streak in the Premier League, but have sustained injuries and illnesses in recent weeks. The return of Gabriel Jesus has lighten the workload on new signing, Leandro Trossard but injuries to William Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu is a worry, especially the French man.
Saliba has started all of Arsenal’s Premier League matches this season until his injury on Thursday. His replacement in the team is Rob Holding, but the gap in quality between the two is all there for all to see. Reports in France says the 21-year old is suffering from a back problem and may likely withdraw from the French national team squad for the upcoming Euro qualifiers. The silver lining is the international break, given the injury appear not too serious.
The absence of Tomiyasu means Thomas Partey finished the Palace game at right back which is not ideal. The Japanese international may have lost his place in the starting xi but remains a valuable squad option with his versatility an asset to the team.
Mikel Arteta will be hoping his first choice centre back will be fit for the remaining ten fixtures till the end of the season.
3. The pressure is on City
Arsenal extended their lead at the top of the table to eight, having played a game more than Manchester City who are currently in second place. Mikel Arteta’s side makes light work of their opponents each passing week, but these are the type of fixtures Arsenal have struggled in the past. In fact, many teams in the league including Man City have struggled to win these matches.
The relative comfort at which they turn up the heat on their opponents means the probability of them losing matches are slim. The team is in great spirits and looks impressive with every passing game, and that bodes well for their title credentials.
Fixtures at Liverpool, Manchester City and Newcastle United look tricky but so does City’s fixtures. Pep Guardiola’s side is still competing in three competitions and will play every three and a half days if they continue their progress in the Champions League and the FA Cup while Arsenal are going to play every six days. This may not count as City have the squad depth to execute all three, but the extra days of rest will help the Gunners be at their best, and the onus is on City to catch up.