Palace 0-2 Arsenal
Crystal Palace lost again to league leaders Arsenal thanks to two wonder saves from the Gunners Polish goalkeeper, Wojciech Szcznesy. The Eagles conceded early in the second half for the fourth time in the last five games as Guedioura felled Gibbs in the box to allow Arteta to score from the spot. Arteta was then dismissed for bringing down Chamakh when clean through on goal but Palace could not find an equaliser before Oliver Giroud killed the game off late on.
After the catastrophe that was Monday night against Fulham, Palace were unrecognisable to the team that capitulated in the second half of that match. The lack of character and spirit that was talked about by Parish and Holloway in the press conference on Tuesday appears to have been immediately addressed as everyone put in a shift for the shirt (well, Jimmy Kebe aside).
"To go behind immediately after half time to yet another penalty I was fully expecting the team to fold."
To go behind immediately after half time to yet another penalty I was fully expecting the team to fold despite their sterling efforts in the first half. Instead the players responded positively and can feel very aggrieved at not getting anything from the game as Szcznesy, in the Arsenal goal, pulled off two of the saves of the season to deny Ward and then skipper, Jedinak.
Much of this is owed to two players who were on the fringes of the team under Ian Holloway. Adlene Guedioura and Barry Bannan. The efforts of both players were nothing short of exceptional as both players looked to show the opposition no respect. Backed up by Jedinak and Dikgacoi, the Palace midfield stifled Arsenal’s play and limited the table toppers to very few clear cut chances. Further, they managed to affect the game going forward and helped to created several good chances that would have seen Palace gain at least point on most days.
So how has Millen got Palace performing when Holloway could not? As stories continue to leak around the extent to which Holloway had lost the changing room, it is perhaps less to do with Millen and more to do with the fact that Ollie was gone and the players were prepared to play again.
Then there is the fact that Arsenal focused a lot of their efforts through the middle of the pitch where Palace are arguably at their strongest and even more so in this game as we started with, effectively, four central midfielders (Jedinak, KG, Guedioura, Bannan). If you look at whoscored.com you will see that 48% of Arsenal’s attacks came down Dean Moxey’s side. This is true, however, this was as a result of the Palace central midfield flushing out the initial attempts to attack through the middle resulting in the ball being spread wide where Arsenal had no real natural width to work with outside of the attacking full backs. Ward and Moxey both had good days and this meant that Arsenal struggled to ever get to their free flowing best.
"Keith Millen got is team selection perfect."
To suggest, however, that Millen did not have any sort of positive effect on proceeding would be harsh. His team selection certainly raised a few eyebrows amongst my pre match group but as the first half wore on it was clear that Keith Millen got his team selection perfect as Palace, after a tough opening 15 minutes, the home side started to excel and fully compete with Wenger’s men.
The only real error that Millen made was taking off Bannan. With the removal of the Scottish midfield, the Palace attack seemed to lose its focus and this resulted in no chances of note being created after his removal from the fray. Tiredness could have been a factor here though.
Will he still be in charge at West Brom next week? Only time will tell.
Man of the Match: Damien Delaney
With the extra options in midfield, Delaney was relieved of extensive passing duties. He was able to concentrate on defending instead of “trying to be Dunga” as Dave Moore put it in his preview for this match. This resulted in a very solid performance which included NINE interceptions. Giroud was kept very quite by the Irishman and we will need some more big performances like this from Delaney as the season wears on.
No complaints. Loved the rousing chant of “EAGLES” as the players left the field at half time. The players know that we are with them if they play for us.
West Brom. Fresh off a thrashing at Anfield, hopefully we will catch them on an off day and pick up some surprise points.