Arsenal steamroller Crystal Palace as Sanchez heads north

Arsenal settle themselves with simple home win but all eyes are on striker not on the pitch

Sunday, 21st January 2018

arsenal emirates-stadium-1416679_1280 pixabay - no attribution needed

FA Premier League
ARSENAL 4 (Monreal 6, Iwobi 10, Koscielny 13, Lacazette 22)
CRYSTAL PALACE 1 (Milivojevic 78)

ARSENAL were striking in the way they took control of this match and the interchange passing between Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette was at times spectacular to watch, incoporating several Globetrotter backheels. But when it came to the press conference at full time, Arsene Wenger hardly fielded a single question over how the team had crushed Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace in a blistering opening 22 minutes in which they scored four times.

No, all anybody wanted to know about was how far up the motorway Alexis Sanchez was, as his move to Manchester United moves closer. Could he have played for Arsenal today, the press pack asked. Wenger responded by saying yes but also that he had ‘half announced’ that Sanchez would soon be at Old Trafford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan would be coming the other way but we would all know one way or the other in the next 48 hours.

On the pitch, the home players gave the impression that they were relieved the minute-by-minute saga of Sanchez’s departure and the size of his pay rise looks like it will finally reach a conclusion. If the rumours are correct, that some of Sanchez’s teammates are fatigued by his and the club’s handling of his exit, then maybe this expressive performance made sense.

Even some of the fans are in a position of wanting rid of the club’s best player, just so we can all move on. Any sense of loss would be certainly be soothed should Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, another subject of the post-match questions – not, you see, questions about the one touch play which created the sublime fourth goal at the Emirates this afternoon. Wenger would not discuss it but suggested the clubs were not close to an agreement. It’s hard to know what is true or false from a manager who has in the past sold players who he had assured us were staying, however.

Aubameyang would be a useful addition but today Arsenal were not short on fire power. Inside 13 minutes, they were 3-0 up with defenders Nacho Monreal and Laurent Koscielny capitalising on generous Palace defending from corners. In between their goals, Alex Iwobi prodded in Monreal’s cross, he could hardly have missed but it must be relief for a player who has found himself criticised amid the club’s poor run of form.

The best goal was that fourth. Jack Wilshere, as he did all afternoon, drove forward purposefully and slotted the ball into Ozil, who begun the move. The German clipped the ball across to Lacazette with his heel and the striker hit the bottom right corner of the net.

There may have been more. Iwobi raced clear but fired straight at Hennessey and Lacazette was wasteful with further chances. If the latter could turn all of the chances laid on for him by Wilshere and Ozil, then we’d be wondering why Aubameyang was even being considered.

It was all fairly embarrassing for Hodgson, even if he may not have factored points at the Emirates in a tally to keep his team in the top league. With Sako, Zaha and Benteke all in the forward line, he may have believed at some point a mixed-up Arsenal were ripe. In the end, it was Zaha who frustrated himself, appealing endlessly for penalties and free-kicks and petulantly interacting with the Arsenal fans. The only consolation for the visitors was Luka Milivojevic’s strike close to the end, perhaps unsurprisingly from a corner, the kind of set piece which the Gunners seem vulnerable too. Benteke kept the ball alive and Milivojevic cannoned it in, depriving Petr Cech of a milestone 200 Premier League clean sheet.

ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Monreal (Maitland-Niles 34), Koscielny (c), Mustafi, Xhaka, Elneny, Wilshere, Ozil (Nelson 72), Iwobi (Kolasinac), Lacazette
SUBS NOT USED: Chambers, Ospina, Mertesacker, Nketiah

CRYSTAL PALACE: Hennessey, Fosu-Mensah, van Aanholt, Kelly, Tomkins, McArthur, Cabaye (Riedewald), Milivojevic, Sako, Zaha, Benteke
SUBS NOT USED: Delaney, Speroni, Lee, Souare, Townsend, Ward


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