(Photo by Neil Hall – Pool/Getty Images)
Well… that was a snoozefest. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace in one word? Boring. Neither team offered much, there were very few chances and overall very little happened across the 90 minutes. Here’s a look at some of the things I picked out from this lame London encounter…
Still a lack of creativity.
If yesterday’s Arsenal result proves anything it’s that despite Emile Smith Rowe’s excellent contributions of late, we still need to have more creative outlets in the side. We simply cannot rely on an inexperienced 20-year-old to effectively control everything that happens creatively for the team. He needs the support of both Tierney’s wide presence, and at least one more pure creative player in the side. Having just one outlet to create all our chances makes us, as we saw today, incredibly one dimensional and easy to shut down. We failed to get the ball to the likes of Saka and Lacazette in areas where they could have an impact on the game, with the former looking isolated for large parts of the game due to a Laca-service (I apologise). Our attack was so tame that no Arsenal player had more shots (2) or created more chances (2) than Rob Holding against Crystal Palace. Signings are a must. We have to get in a creative supply this month.
We miss Tierney.
Due to muscle tightness, Kieran Tierney was left out of the Arsenal squad as a precaution for the game. Though we all knew pre-match that it was a setback, no one could see just how much of a hindrance his absence was to the performance of the team. His replacement, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, was nothing short of poor against the Eagles. Granted he is not a natural defender, nor a left-sided player, but the drastic difference in standard between the Englishman and Kieran Tierney seemed vast. We missed his creativity, consistency from wide crossing positions and security on the ball- which Niles could not bring on this occasion. Mikel Arteta has confirmed that Tierney will be going for a scan tomorrow to assess his wellbeing, and it is absolutely critical to the success of the team that he is good and ready to play come our next fixture on Monday.
Nothing off the bench.
Arsenal’s bench heading in to the game was a sorry sight, with practically no one who excited me into thinking they could come on and change the game. Unlike in our previous fixture (2-0 vs Newcastle), the players who came on had virtually no effect on the game. Mikel Arteta turned first to £72,000,000 Nicolas Pepe to come on and prove himself to the coach, fans and teammates. Who better than our record signing to help us out? The reality was, Pepe did nothing. In 35 minutes on the pitch, he created little, provided virtually no threat to the Palace back line and ultimately had no effect on the game whatsoever. Pepe, in fact, is yet to create a single open play chance for a teammate in the league this season. Not good at all. One positive off the bench, however, was the return of Thomas Partey. Much to the delight of the Arsenal fanbase, the Ghanaian took to the field in the 69th minute- his first appearance since coming off injured in the North London Derby at the start of last month. Let’s hope he can start for the side from now on. Eddie Nketiah came on with just ten minutes to play and, much like the player he replaced, had very little service. Arteta, as far as I see it, made the three correct substitutions… but the players offered him nothing.
Some decent showings.
In a poor performance from the whole team, two players impressed me yesterday…
Bernd Leno: Much like in the previous game against Newcastle, Bernd Leno had little to do across the course of the game against Crystal Palace. He faced just two shots on target, and remained fairly untroubled all night. But, when it came to it, he didn’t let us down. Christian Benteke’s towering header seemed destined to reach the top corner, but an excellent dive from the German shot stopper palmed it wide. A big save in a crucial moment to protect our clean sheet.
Granit Xhaka: Though he did make some questionable stray passes, the Swiss midfielder shone in an other wise dull side tonight. He completed 97 accurate passes, made 8 long balls and had 129 touches, but more impressive than that was the defensive side of his performance. Xhaka made several key tackles, one in particular to deny Zaha access just metres from the goal. His 6 tackles won, 13 ball recoveries and 3 clearances ranked top of all Arsenal players on the night. A pleasing display from our number 34.
Our performance versus Palace was, obviously, sub standard. It’s essential we pick ourselves up to go again on Monday against Newcastle (again!). If we intend on making any success from this season, these are the sorts of the games we have to grind out results from.