Arsenal 4-1 Palace
I know, I know. It is several days after the fact, and we are over it already. I apologise unreservedly to those of you that care for the lateness of this report (although report might be a bit strong for what is likely to follow). I only remembered on Tuesday that I had not written one, I can’t imagine why writing it on Sunday slipped my mind. So, I will touch on a couple of observations below and leave it at that.
A disastrous opening 22 minutes for Crystal Palace saw them blown out of the water by an Arsenal side that was preparing for life with Alexis Sanchez. Maybe, losing the Chile international is not such a bad thing for Arsene Wenger’s troops.
Roy Hodgson’s men were 4-0 down quicker than one could say Erdal Rakip and Jaroslaw Jach as the hosts scythed through the 442 set up employed by the former England gaffer. By the time the response came to switch to a 451, Arsenal were out of sight with goals from Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexander Lacazette.
The two Arsenal defenders scored from corners where James McArthur lost Monreal on both occasions. The first the Spaniard headed home himself, the second he cut back for his French counterpart to tap home from close range.
Monreal delighted anyone who had him in their fantasy team by creating Arsenal’s second goal as well. You know you’re having a bad day when Iwobi scores against you.
There was also enough time in the opening twenty minutes for Wayne Hennessey to once more show off his chocolate wrists as he weakly palmed a Lacazette shot into the bottom of the goal.
Palace then pulled Bakary Sako out wide, and McArthur moved central, and this would see the Eagles win the last 68 minutes 1-0 with a string of Petr Cech saves denying a combination of Palace players.
Are slow starts becoming a Roy Hodgson trait?
In his short time as Palace manager, Hodgson has displayed in-game tactical-nouse that we haven’t seen at Palace for years. His ability to influence games with half-time team talks, substitutions and formation changes have seen us win 11 points after conceding the first goal. The problem is, against teams like Arsenal a slow start can see you out of the game before it has barely started.
In the 20 league games that Roy has managed, we have conceded the first goal in 12 of them. We’ve gone on to win 3 of these games, draw 2 and lose 7. We have scored first in 5 games under Hodgson, winning 3 and drawing 2.
60% of the time we are facing an uphill battle in matches and in the long run, this will cost us greatly. As well as Roy has done, and I am sure that he and his team are on the ball with this, but it is certainly an area of concern early on in his reign.
Playing 4-4-2 was suicide
Hind-sight is 20/20, but I don’t think that hindsight was needed here. Quite simply do not play 442 against a good team if Andros Townsend is not playing.
The midfield in this one was Milivojevic and Cabaye, with Zaha and McArthur wide. Zaha does not run as much as Townsend does defensively, and this enabled Arsenal to stretch Cabaye and Luka, pulling them all over the shop. With Zaha not being able to fulfil the Townsend role this meant that McArthur started trying to tuck in which opened space out wide and resulted in all four of them chasing shadows. This disjointing doesn’t happen if Townsend is in the team as his pace and industry mean that Cabaye and Luka can stay central and McArthur can hold his wider position. With Townsend the winger the midfield is a four, with Zaha it is a three and up against a team that can carve you open with quick short passing, it is suicide.
This match was perhaps a scenario where a player’s good form has forced the hand of the manager. What is Hodgson supposed to do here? Sako has been fantastic (and was unlucky not to score in this one) and deserved to start. Away at a top six side, you need an outlet up top meaning Benteke should play. You can’t drop Zaha. So, all three must play in the eyes of many. Sacrificing Sako for Riedewald and a five-man midfield might have given us more of a fighting chance, but I understand why that didn’t happen.
Man of the Match: James Tomkins
It seems weird to give the award to a defender when the team has shipped four, but Tomkins was near faultless for the entire 90 minutes. I seriously have no idea what West Ham were thinking when they let him go.
- Passing: 94.3%
- Tackles: 4 (Only Cabaye had more with 5)
- Interceptions: 7 (Most in the game)
- Clearances: 4
Up Next: West Ham
Talking of West Ham, Tomkins has the opportunity to go to his old stomping ground (well, sort of) and rub their noses in it. With the curses that are Lanzini and Carrol out injured, and with Arnuautovic also missing this could be an excellent opportunity to put more distance between us and the drop.
Come on you Palace!