Happy in-between Christmas Friday. And yes, it can be a happy one because Arsenal – just about in the end – allowed it to be so by beating Palace 3-2 away from home.
Whaddya know, we won an away game, how about that! About flipping time and the fact that it was against a form team like Palace makes it all the more pleasing. Don’t let their current position fool you, because Roy has got them picking up results so the fact that we could go there and win and score three in the process is pleasing to see.
I’ll come to our defence in a bit, but first let’s focus on the positive, which was our attacking play in which we clicked away from home. Arsène went back to a back three, he played players in their natural position in Kolasinac, Chambers, coming in, plus he ditched players who have been out of form like Iwobi. And we started the first half well I thought.
Palace and Arsenal exchanged a few attacks in the opening few minutes but we quickly seemed to find our rhythm after about five to ten minutes and from then until the halftime whistle it felt like an Arsenal performance with more purpose and drive. I’d highlighted it in my blog yesterday, but the passing seemed to have more pace about it, and all of the players looked like they had a little more urgency. Jack was particularly good and was knitting together a lot of the play between defensive possession and offensive opportunities and I saw him move the ball around and drive past Palace lines like the old Wilshere used to.
Up top Lacazette was holding up the ball well and bringing others into play and often we saw him pop the ball out wide for Bellerin to get into a good position going forward. I thought Bellerin did really well yesterday and that’s two in a row in which he’s performed. We have to just hope he doesn’t break down through being over played, but his form his good and hopefully he can replicate that against West Brom on New Year’s Day.
The first goal came from a ball in on our right hand side shot from Lacazette and although Speroni parried it, Mustafi was there to react quickly at the back post, which was the least our efforts deserved. We should have probably have been a couple up by halftime but to be honest with you I was just glad we’d kept the clean sheet and had control of the ball for the most part of the match at that point.
I suppose in hindsight it’s obvious to say Palace weren’t going to be as comfortable and easy with us as they were in the first half, so a bit more attacking impetus was always going to happen, but having watched their equaliser and second goal it’s hard not to be really disappointed with the Arsenal defenders. Zaha has pace and so you can argue he’s always going to get opportunities to beat his man on the wing, but his cutback was a daisy cutter on to the centre spot and Arsenal players just seemed to stand still. For their second goal – the one that will have put Arsenal fans in to full ‘squeaky bum’ mode – the ball delivered in didn’t really look to be too spectacular and Tomkins just had to take a few steps before rising higher than our centre halves to nod the ball in. It’s one you’d hope we’d clear and if they don’t get that goal to give them a bit of life the game probably would have petered away to nothing. As it was it left a few scary moments still to face but ultimately we got the win.
And we did it with some of the big names performing. Özil want grand; he dictated the flow along with Jack and played with an emphasis that his current form suggests he’s enjoying himself at the moment. Jack played a brilliant ball for Alexis’ second and our third, whilst the Chilean finally turned up and put in the kind of performances we have been used to seeing: ones with end product. His first goal was a tidy near post finish and his second one was a poachers delight, splitting the defence and leaving Speroni picking the ball out of the Palace net.
It was the kind of match that beforehand you’d have said Arsenal should win and if you weren’t aware of our poor away form this season then you’d probably not be surprised, but this was vital to get the result, because this is the time of year when teams start to quickly break away and so to keep pace with the current teams above us is essential.
We now look to West Brom away which is another place we lost at last season and we’re going to need to replicate the intensity levels of last night if we want to pick up a win. It’s a happy start to the weekend festivities. Let’s just hope we can continue it on Sunday.
Catch you all tomorrow.