Arsenal extended their lead at the Premier League summit to five points as they sunk managerless Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Mikel Arteta converted a penalty before being sent off, but Olivier Giroud sealed victory for the visitors late on.
Eagles caretaker Keith Millen rang the changes, six in all, after the 4-1 home loss by Fulham on Monday marked the end of Ian Holloway’s reign. Adrian Mariappa, Stuart O’Keefe, Jose Campana, Jason Puncheon, Dwight Gayle and Yannick Bolasie all made way.
Winger Jerome Thomas and striker Marouane Chamakh started against their former club. Barry Bannan, Kagisho Dikgacoi, Danny Gabbidon and Adlene Guedioura also came into the XI.
Arsene Wenger welcomed back Gunners holding midfielder Mathieu Flamini back as concussion caused him to miss the Champions League defeat by Borussia Dortmund.
Santi Cazorla also returned after beginning on the bench in midweek. Jack Wilshere was also only fit for the bench following an ankle knock. Tomas Rosicky also made way.
Early Arsenal dominance of possession subsided into several openings for hosts Palace. First of all, however, Giroud headed over from a Bacary Sagna centre. Flamini limped off inside ten minutes for the visitors with Serge Gnabry coming on.
Bannan nodded over the top as the Eagles broke after 15 minutes. Thomas then saw a low shot go off target. Chamakh worked Wojciech Szczesny with a 20-yarder that took a nick off Laurent Koscielny on its way through.
Guedioura took advantage of better pressing from the hosts, also drawing a save for the Gunners’ Polish goalie. Set pieces, an area Palace had been so weak at defending against Fulham, then almost put the hosts ahead. Bannan delivered twice and narrowly curled wide
Before Dikgaoci saw a free header sail wide at the back post from a corner, Cazorla shot across the bows of Julian Speroni just to remind the Eagles of Arsenal’s threat. Szczesny got away with a poor piece of judgment in his own box.
Aaron Ramsey tested Speroni with a shot from a tight angle, but Chamakh spurned Palace’s best first half chance when he jumped too early looking to connect with a left-wing cross. The hosts were applauded off at the break, yet all that endeavour was quickly undone.
Within a minute of the restart Eagles midfielder Guedioura felled Gnabry in the box with a crude lunge and referee Chris Foy pointed to the spot. Gunners captain Arteta clinically dispatched to put the visitors ahead early in the second half.
Last-ditch defending from Damien Delaney then denied Gnabry from adding to Arsenal’s lead. Giroud turned a near-post Sagna centre wide as the league leaders began to exert pressure on Palace. The introduction of Bolasie lifted the hosts and soon they had a man advantage.
Gunners goalscorer Arteta brought down Chamakh. As the last man, Foy showed him red despite the distance between the Morrocan striker and goal. Wenger reacted to this by taking sub Gnabry and Cazorla off, giving Wilshere and Nacho Monreal the last 20 minutes to see victory out.
Szczesny made two superb saves; first tipping Joel Ward’s drive onto the bar and then palming over from Eagles captain Jedinak as he volleyed venomously when a corner came over. These stops preserved the points for Arsenal, which were later sealed by Giroud.
Three minutes from time they caught Palace on the counter. Ramsey teed up French forward Giroud to head home at close range. Given the results they’ve suffered this week, it would be fair to say that luck seems to have deserted the Eagles.
Wenger’s Gunners meanwhile had to work for this win, but he got the response he wanted after losing in Europe. Now it’s over to Chelsea and Liverpool, who lead the chasing pack.
- Palace: 1 Julian Speroni, 2 Joel Ward, 19 Danny Gabbidon, 27 Damien Delaney, 21 Dean Moxey, 8 Kagisho Dikgacoi, 31 Adlene Guedioura (28 Jimmy Kebe 71’), 15 Mile Jedinak (c), 14 Jerome Thomas (7 Yannick Bolasie 58’), 29 Marouane Chamakh, 46 Barry Bannan (16 Dwight Gayle 77’) 4-3-3
- Arsenal: 1 Wojciech Szczesny, 3 Bacary Sagna, 4 Per Mertesacker, 6 Laurent Koscielny, 28 Kieran Gibbs, 8 Mikel Arteta (c), 20 Mathieu Flamini (44 Serge Gnabry 8’) (10 Jack Wilshere 69’), 16 Aaron Ramsey, 11 Mesut Ozil, 19 Santi Cazorla (17 Nacho Monreal 72’), 12 Olivier Giroud 4-2-3-1
- Goals: Mikel Arteta pen 47’, Olivier Giroud 87’