Arsenal have guaranteed themselves sole possession of first place in the Premier League for at least another week after a 2-0 win over struggling Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud scored goals early and late in the second half to seal the victory. Arteta, whose goal came on a penalty kick, was also sent off in the second stanza leaving the Gunners to finish the match with just 10 men. Palace had their chances, but keeper Wojciech Szczesny stood tall to earn the clean sheet and all three points.
Other than Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini being substituted by young German Serge Gnabry after eight minutes the first half was rather uneventful. It’s believed the Frenchman suffered a minor groin injury. Neither goaltender was really tested as most chances that were created were sent wide of each goal or hit straight at the keepers. The teams retired to the dressing rooms locked in a goalless draw when referee Chris Foy blew the halftime whistle. However, the second half was much more lively and things got going just after it kicked off.
Gnabry was upended in the 18-yard box by Palace’s Adlene Guedioura after 47 minutes and Foy pointed to the penalty spot. The Gunners’ skipper Arteta walked up to the spot and slotted the ball into the left corner of the net to give his side a 1-0 lead. Arteta was the center of attention again in the 65th minute when Foy decided that he pulled down former Gunner Marouane Chamakh when he had a clear goal scoring opportunity. However, the incident took place and replays revealed that the Palace striker was just as much to blame as Arteta. It appeared that Foy did away with common sense at this moment and sent Arteta to an early shower with a straight red card.
Palace had a couple of excellent chances to level the match, but Szczesny made excellent saves on Joel Ward and Mile Jedinak. Giroud added some insurance with just three minutes to go when midfielder Aaron Ramsey lofted a ball in on a silver platter from the left side of the pitch and Giroud was in perfect position to head it past keeper Julian Speroni.
Jack Wilshere managed to start the game on the bench after hurting his ankle in the 2-1home loss to Dortmund on Tuesday and entered the match in the70th minute to replace Gnarby. Keith Millen was in charge for Palace after Ian Holloway parted ways with the club earlier in the week and he made six changes to the lineup that was thumped 4-1 by Fulham on Monday.
It was a workman like effort by the Gunners, especially playing the last 25 minutes with 10 men. Their next contest will be a much stiffer test as they take on Chelsea in a London derby in the Capital One Cup at the Emirates on Tuesday, October 29.
Arsenal Player Ratings-Sat. Oct. 19
Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal–Premier League Match 9
Wojciech Szczesny – 8
The Polish international mishandled a corner in the opening 45 minutes, but was flawless otherwise. He made two fantastic saves in the second half on shots that could have changed the outcome of the game.
Bacary Sagna – 7
Sagna had a good game, especially when attacking, as his crossing was accurate. Was also solid in his own end of the pitch.
Per Mertesacker -6
Mertesacker wasn’t at his best today, but it’s hard to criticize after a clean sheet.
Laurent Koscielny – 6.5
Koscielny was pretty steady, especially in the second half. His passing was his strong point today.
Kieran Gibbs – 6.5
Gibbs had a decent match defensively, but couldn’t get much going on the attack as his passing was a little below par.
Mikel Arteta – 6.5
The skipper took his penalty well, but received an odd red card on a debatable call when he was judged to have pulled down Marouane Chamakh. Why was Arteta the last man back though?
Mathieu Flamini – N/A
Suffered a head injury last week against Norwich and left this game in the eighth minute with a groin problem and was replaced by Serge Gnarby.
Aaron Ramsey – 6.5
Ramsey wasn’t his usual energetic self, but he set up Giroud’s insurance marker with a finely weighted cross.
Mesut Ozil – 6.5
Ozil wasn’t his fluid self today either, but that doesn’t mean he had a bad game.
Santi Cazorla – 6
Cazorla was another Gunner who didn’t play up to his usual standards. He came off after 72 minutes and was replaced by Nacho Monreal.
Olivier Giroud – 6.5
Giroud’s heading and ball handling was off the mark in the first half. He worked hard in the second 45 minutes and was rewarded for it with the game-clinching goal.
Gnarby came on after just eight minutes when Flamini was taken off with an injury. He played well enough and was pulled down in the box to earn the penalty. He was then substituted himself in the 70th minute when Jack Wilshere was sent on.
Came on in the 70th minute for Gnarby and fit right in with a good effort.
Came on after 72 minutes for Cazorla and showed that his strength might be attacking rather than defending.