Arsenal increased their lead at the top of the Premier League table to eight points with a dominant victory over managerless Crystal Palace.
The Gunners were clinical in the final third, with Gabriel Martinelli firing them in front before Bukayo Saka found space in the box to stroke in a second before half-time. Palace hit the post through Wilfried Zaha and threatened on the break, but their miserable run continued, with the decision to sack Patrick Vieira not paying immediate dividends.
Granit Xhaka made it 3-0 with a scruffy finish from Leandro Trossard's incisive through ball to put Arsenal in complete control. Palace midfielder Jeffrey Schlupp did at least score their first Premier League goal for a month by smashing in a loose ball from a corner, but Saka lashed in Kieran Tierney's cutback to make it 4-1 soon after.
Palace are just three points above the relegation zone despite being in 12th place. By contrast, Mikel Arteta’s side have now notched up 69 points to reach their same points tally as last season in 10 games fewer. Here are the talking points from the match at the Emirates Stadium.
Martinelli has become a figurehead for Arsenal in recent weeks. With Gabriel Jesus and Eddie Nketiah both sidelined, the Brazilian has stepped up to the plate to provide goals with regularity.
Still only 21 years old, Martinelli is now established as a top-class Premier League striker, with his goal here taking him onto 13 for the season – only Erling Haaland (28), Harry Kane (21), Ivan Toney (16) and Marcus Rashford (14) have more.
Despite the huge burden of starting week-in, week-out, Martinelli still looks razor sharp inside the box. His finish showed just how dangerous he can be, with a good first touch, a quick change of direction and a devastating finish undoing Palace.
Like Martinelli, Saka is still only 21 years old, but his talent – and importance to Arsenal – belies his youth. He was absolutely electric against Palace, providing the cross for Martinelli’s goal, making it 2-0 with an assured finish from Ben White ’s cute pass and adding gloss with a second goal from Tierney's pass.
Saka’s consistency is such that he now has 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season and has reached double figures for both statistics for the first time in the same season. The achievement is underlined by the fact that he’s the first Arsenal player to do so in a Premier League season since Alexis Sánchez in 2016/17.
Only Haaland (33) and Kane (23) have more Premier League goal involvements than Saka (22) in the Premier League this season. Meanwhile, only Lionel Messi (13), Kevin de Bruyne (12), Neymar (11) and Randal Kolo Muani (10) have more league assists in Europe’s top five leagues. His 12 league goals means he has overtaken his tally for last season, despite playing 10 games fewer, directly matching his team’s upward curve.
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Vieira was sacked on Friday following a miserable 11-match winless run in the Premier League. Palace’s defence has generally performed well, but their attack has often looked blunter than the oldest butter knife at the back of the drawer.
They had failed to score in four straight Premier League games and in nine of their last 14 matches in the competition coming into this game. That did change, with Schlupp ceasing on a loose ball from a corner, but it remains an absolutely dreadful record. Their tally of 22 goals in the top flight is the joint-worst of any side, alongside Nottingham Forest, Everton and Wolves.
Palace did threaten at the Emirates, with Zaha hitting the post, testing Aaron Ramsdale with a powerful drive and dragging a shot just wide of the post. But Odsonne Edouard’s weak finish after being played through one-on-one in the first half told the story. The Frenchman was eventually flagged for offside, but only after he’d made a mess of the chance.
Whoever gets the job on a full-time basis knows which area needs the most improvement.
William Saliba had played every minute of Arsenal's Premier League season before Sunday. The Frenchman's injury in the Europa League defeat by Sporting on Thursday came as a major blow to the Gunners.
Rob Holding came on for Saliba earlier in the week and he took his place against Palace, lining up alongside Gabriel Magalhaes to form a fresh centre-back partnership. The unfamiliar sight made some Arsenal fans uneasy - and there were some worrying signs early on.
Holding was guilty of diving in unsuccessfully to try and win the ball early on, with Zaha then hitting the post after cutting inside White. The 27-year-old was afforded a lot of time on ball by Palace and looked assured with it.
As Palace's threat faded, Holding became more comfortable and passed his audition as Saliba's stand-in. Jakub Kiwior was brought on to make his Premier League table and make an immediate impression with a strong challenge when left one-on-one with Zaha, so there is pressure on Holding's place.
Palace are in the worst form of any side in the Premier League. Their position of 12th in the league table does not nearly tell the whole story: they are in danger of being relegated this season.
Palace have not tasted victory in the league since beating Bournemouth 2-0 on New Year's Eve. They have lost seven and drawn five of their 12 games in the league since then.
Something has got to change. The good thing for whoever comes in to take over from interim boss Paddy McCarthy is that easier fixtures are on the horizon.
They play Leicester, Leeds, Southampton and Everton after the international break in fixtures they simply need to make the most of. Palace have been far better against the sides below them than those above so far this season.2023-03-19T16:07:31Z dg43tfdfdgfd