Given the two-week international break, it’s natural for teams to come back rusty. When a team comes back rusty and has a large bout of injury concerns, things begin to take a slightly different turn.
Arsenal began last night’s game against Crystal Palace, without starting fullback Takehiro Tomiyasu once again, without Kieran Tierney, who’s prognosis looks to be a knee injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the season and Nicolas Pépé, who was out with illness.
As a result, Arsenal were forced to start Nuno Tavares and Cédric Soares. While the latter has been performing well for Arsenal this season, the former has yet to play more than a minute of league football since the dramatic 2-1 win at home to Wolves in February.
Predictably, Arsenal started very poorly. Selhurst Park is usually the crime scene for most poor Arsenal performances over the years, but this one looked to be another level. This was a performance more akin to the bizarre 2-1 loss to Everton earlier in the season than anything else.
Palace wasted no time at all in punishing Arsenal’s poor start. A beautifully whipped in ball from Conor Gallagher saw chaos reign in the Arsenal penalty area and the ball as eventually headed in by Jean-Philippe Mateta.
Not an ideal start and, inevitably, it got worse.
Arsenal once again losing possession to Crystal Palace, as Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhães and Nuno Tavares all managed to completely miss the perfect ball played through from defence by Joachim Andersen and allowed Joran Ayew time and space, as he buried his effort into the bottom corner.
Arsenal were on the ropes and things looked desperate at half-time.
A tactical switch saw Gabriel Martinelli introduced in place of Nuno Tavares.
Arsenal looked a lot stronger int he 2nd half and put together some very good moves, with chances falling to Emile Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Martin Ødegaard, but Arsenal failed to capitalise.
After a somewhat weak penalty shout from Arsenal at one end, one was given at the other. Ødegaard brought down Wilfried Zaha in the penalty area and, sure enough, converted from the spot to seal Arsenal’s misery.
The final whistle was a blessed relief for everyone.
It was a poor performance and one of the worst of Arsenal’s season and it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Arsenal needed these points and now the games have an extra layer of pressure added to them.
It was a particularly woeful night for Thomas Partey. The Ghanian, who has been in superb form for Arsenal as of late, seemed to regress to his earlier season self. Misplaced passes, poor tackling and eventually picking up both a yellow card and an injury summed his night up. It was a performance where Arsenal needed to take control of midfield, but the former Atlético Madrid midfielder was nowhere to be found.
It was yet another poor cameo from Nuno Tavares as well. The Portuguese fullback had a nightmare of a game in the FA Cup 3rd round tie against Nottingham Forest and this was hardly any better. The fullback looked rusty and very out of shape and he was dominated constantly by Jordan Ayew and co. It will be very difficult for him to fill in for Kieran Tierney if the Scotsman is indeed out for the remainder of the season.
Arsenal mustn’t panic. Sometimes bad results go your way and sometimes they don’t, but Arsenal need to put this result behind them and focus on reclaiming their form. If they want to get back into the top four again next weekend, they have to put Manchester United and Tottenham out of their minds and focus on beating Brighton at home on Saturday.
32.) Aaron Ramsdale
17.) Cédric Soares (Nketiah 66’)
4.) Benjamin White
6.) Gabriel Magalhães
20.) Nuno Tavares (Martinelli 45’)
5.) Thomas Partey (Lokonga 74’)
34.) Granit Xhaka
7.) Bukayo Saka
8.) Martin Ødegaard
10.) Emile Smith Rowe
9.) Alexandre Lacazette (c)
1.) Bernd Leno
16.) Rob Holding
61.) Mazeed Ogungbo
69.) Zak Swanson
25.) Mohamed Elneny
23.) Albert Sambi Lokonga
35.) Gabriel Martinelli
78.) Marcelo Flores
30.) Eddie Nketiah
Crystal Palace team:
13.) Vincente Guaita
17.) Nathaniel Clyne
16.) Joachim Andersen
6.) Marc Guéhi
3.) Tyrick Mitchell
8.) Cheikhou Kouyaté (Milivojević 80’)
15.) Jeffrey Schlüpp
23.) Conor Gallagher
9.) Jordan Ayew (Édouard 76’)
11.) Wilfried Zaha
14.) Jean-Philippe Mateta (McArthur 69’)
Crystal Palace subs:
1.) Jack Butland
2.) Joel Ward
5.) James Tomkins
18.) James McArthur
4.) Luka Milivojević
12.) Will Hughes
10.) Eberechi Eze
22.) Odosonne Édouard
20.) Christian Benteke