Alexis Sanchez has made the headlines in the last seven days, following his imminent move to Manchester United which could see the Chilean rake in £500,000 (five hundred thousand pounds) per week – making him the highest paid player in England, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan swaps Manchester for North London.
Arsenal hosted Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium in a game which was seen as life without the Chilean, as they hoped on ending their winless streak and get back to winning ways. Hector Bellerin described this match in his post-social media match comment as “Nacho Monreal scoring one, assisting two, then going home for a nap, some great football from the team!”, as he and his teammates ran riot in a 4-1 victory against London rivals Crystal Palace.
The Gunners reverted back to their usual 4-3-3 formation for this tie which involved Petr Cech, Hector Bellerin, Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal, Jack Wilshere, Mohamed Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette.
Nacho Monreal who made his return from injury in this match was my Man of the match, playing only in the first 34th minute before being substituted for Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Things got off to a very good start for the host when Granit Xhaka floated in a corner kick and Nacho Monreal, who was utterly unmarked, standing five-yards from goal as he curls around the far post, simply planted the header past the opposition keeper, who was caught stranded under the ball, tangled by his own defender.
The Gunners extended their lead four minutes later through Alex Iwobi who needed the goal, following his recent team-disciplinary violation. A surging Nacho Monreal who provided the assist collected the loose ball, drove to the by-line before taking his time to pick out Iwobi with a cutback. Iwobi, smartly, used the pace of the ball to his advantage, opening up his body and just deflected the ball into the goal.
The third goal for the host came in the 13th minute through Laurent Koscielny, and, while most would see it as a un-Arsenal kind of goal, I absolutely loved it in terms of momentum in driving the team forward after our recent shambles.
Granit Xhaka stepped up to take the corner kick which was awarded to the host, and just like the first goal; an unmarked Nacho Monreal made his way to the far post, volleying the ball to Koscielny who bundled the ball into the net.
Arsenal’s fourth of the day came in the 22nd minute through a beautiful Arsenal team play that was capped by Lacazette, ending his longest goal drought as a football player. Ozil dropped deep to collect the ball which was well over 30 yards, playing a quick one-two with Iwobi; advancing with yet another one-two with Wilshere which was delightful to behold, with Ozil laying up for Lacazette with a back-pass who made no mistake in ending his drought from inside the penalty box. The Frenchman enjoyed his goal so well you could spell it out from the way hugged Mesut Ozil for the assist.
Nacho Monreal who just returned from an ankle injury was forced out of the match with a slight hamstring strain; with the injury which looked not serious as the host replaced the Spaniard with Ainsley Maitland-Niles in what looked like a precaution change.
The second half, in all honesty, was very boring. Arsenal were extremely sloppy in the first five minutes of the restart, losing possession far too easily, gifting Palace with undeserved openings.
Petr Cech made a strong save denying Palace striker Christian Benteke from scoring a goal. Cech would’ve hoped to win his 200th clean sheet in the League, making him the first player to achieve this feat. Very soon Petr!
Palace got a late consolation goal, one that they perhaps deserved with an improved second-half performance and team effort. Christian Benteke rose highest to a corner kick, as his header fell to Luka Milivojevic, the Serbian chested it down, span, and volleyed a shot into the far bottom corner of the goal. In all fairness, a lovely finish it was, but it had little influence on the result.
A wonderful team effort from the host to say the least as their star player in Alexis Sanchez is Manchester United bound, whilst the Gunners hope to see the addition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in their squad, which could be quite an interesting force and a whole change in the Arsenal system, sort of!