Palace 1-2 Arsenal
Crystal Palace narrowly lost out to Arsenal again as the rub of the green favoured Arsene Wenger’s men. The Gunners deservedly took the lead on 16 minutes when Olivier Giroud volleyed home a Mesut Ozil cross only for Joel Ward to level just before the half hour mark.
Either side of half time Francis Coquelin was extremely lucky to escape a second yellow card which would have reduced the visitors to ten men. Conor Wickham struck the upright in the opening minutes of the second half, getting on the end of a brilliant Wilfried Zaha cross, but with Palace looking the more likely to take the lead Damien Delaney put the ball into his own net when attempting to clear a Alexis Sanchez header.
Pardew’s men went in search of an equaliser and Alex McCarthy had to be sharp on several occasion to deny Arsenal on the break to keep Palace in the game. Ward almost grabbed a second but his header was straight at Petr Cech and substitute Chunh-Yong Lee wasted a golden opportunity when he chose to attempt to beat another defender when he would have been better placed shooting.
Unfortunately, for Palace fans at least, the game will be remembered for the referee instead of the open and exciting game of football that it was.
The Starting XI
I thought that Pards got the starting line-up wrong today. I spoke to Arsenal Fan TV today (video below) before the game and before the line-ups had been announced and I said that I thought Bolasie would start on the bench as he has not had much of a pre-season and is probably a couple of weeks behind the rest of the squad. Based on him being hauled off at half time I would say that I was right. He looked extremely leggy and as a result gave Joel Ward very little support down the right, which Arsenal exploited.
This is not to exonerate Wardy of any blame. He was woeful for both goals, getting caught in possession for the first and failing to get up early enough to head clear for the second. He made up for the first with his goal, a superbly drilled shot from range into the bottom corner, but he is bound to be disappointed with his performance.
For me, I would have started with Mile Jedinak instead of Bolasie and pushed Yohan Cabaye further forward, with Jason Puncheon going out wide. I am not big fan of Punch down the flanks but against Arsenal I would have liked Jedinak in the centre of the pitch to get amongst them.
That being said, Cabaye did a sterling job in the centre of the park. 7 interceptions and 4 tackles are numbers that Jedinak would have been proud of himself in the holding role.
Continuing with my disagreeing with Pards, I thought that he got the substitutions wrong. Jordon Mutch replaced Bolasie at half time but he never really got into the game. What he did he did well, in the main, but there just appeared to be a lack of intensity in his play. Much like I said with the starting eleven, I would have preferred to get Jedinak on and push Cabaye up the pitch where his “expert level passing” (as a Man Utd supporting friend text me during the game) could have caused Arsenal a few problems in the advanced areas, as opposed to the slightly deeper role from which he was executing them.
"I was then amazed that Zaha went off."
I was then amazed that Zaha went off. He was not having the best of games but he is a match winner. He can turn a game in an instant and that is something that Chung-Yong Lee has yet to prove in a Palace shirt. The one time the South Korean did get in the position to rescue a point, he didn’t trust his weaker foot, cut back and the chance was gone. If we are a goal down and chasing a point, I want one of at least Zaha or Bolasie on the field. If Bolasie had been on the bench, he could have come on for Zaha and had 15 minutes to run at Arsenal and perhaps affect the game in a more positive fashion than he did in the first half.
James McArthur off for Patrick Bamford is not horrible. Psychologically I would have liked to see Glenn Murray come on instead. He caused havoc when he came on against Arsenal last season and nearly snatched a point that time around. That would still be in the Arsenal defence’s head and knowing that, with tired legs, Murray is going to come off the bench and not give you a moment’s peace for that last 15 minutes might have caused the visitors to slip up.
Again, all this being said, we have a fair few new faces and it will take a few more games for them to gel and for Pardew to understand fully what his best team for each style of opposition is.
Referee Watch: Lee Mason
I know that it seems rich moaning about the referee after being on the right side of a couple of, arguably, wrong decisions last week but my word was Mr Mason atrocious on the day. To not send Francis Coquelin off in the first half and then moments later book James McArthur for an almost identical foul was a joke, especially considering that the ref wasn’t going to book him until Coquelin got in his face and demanded a yellow card. If Arsenal go down to ten men the game is a very different one and maybe we go on and win. Wenger was very wise in taking his captains advice and immediately taking Coquelin off but the Arsenal gaffer should never have had the opportunity to do so - Lee Mason you "bottled it".
I think that there is no better way to sum up his day than the picture below. He awarded Arsenal a free kick for this. What for? A dangerous high head from Connor Wickham?
Talking of Connor Wickham, we got to see him for 90 minutes today and I thought that he did well. He was unlucky not to score and some of his hold up play was excellent. He doesn’t out himself about as much as Glenn Murray does and he certainly isn’t as good in the air, however, on the deck with his back to goal he rarely loses the ball – and on the deck is where Pardew wants the ball, so in the long run our style of play is going to suit Wickham a lot more than it will Murray.
Man of the Match: Alex McCarthy
A string of fine saves and a drastic improvement in his distribution. It would appear that he really let the goal get to him last week in the game at Norwich as before that he was in good form and his distribution went unnoticed. The goal went in and his confidence was shot. This week his distribution was more than adequate and some of his saves were amazing. One with his feet in the second half particularly stands out.
Great come back, Alex.
Honorable mentions, Yohan Cabaye, Pape Souare and Scott Dann.
The Holmesdale Fanatics Display
Hours and hours go into the preparation and execution and thousands of pounds are poured in. Then at the moment the display is about to be unveiled in its entirety, the stewards wade in and stop the centre piece from being displayed because it would block a Sky Sports camera. What a disgrace!
What is the problem if the camera is obscured for a few minutes? It’s not like there isn’t another 100 cameras around the stadium that can capture the action.
#YouAreFootball says the Barclays adverts, referring to the fans? Should I be suing them and the Premier League for false advertising?!
Thankfully I know that the HF will not be discouraged by such stupidness and will continue to put together displays for the Holmesdale but today’s scenario deeply saddens me and is another nail in the coffin of the football that I grew up with and loved.
Modern Football 1-0 Football
Up Next: Aston Villa
Since snow stopped me from getting to the City Ground on December 18th 2010, I have not missed a Palace game. 217 games in a row. This run of games comes to an end next week as I will not be at Selhurst Park. Who gets married during the f****** football season? And to make things worse, the groom is a season ticket holder at Fortuna Dusseldorf. He should know better!
Anyway, I will still write about the game as I will find a stream if it kills me.
Come on you Palace!