Result: Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal
Competition: Premier League
Date: 5 August 2022
Venue: Selhurst Park
Arsenal: Ramsdale, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko (83), Partey, Xhaka, Odegaard (90+3), Martinelli, Saka, Jesus (83)
Subs: Turner, Tierney (83), Cedric, Holding, Elneny, Lokonga (90+3), Nelson, Pepe, Nketiah (83)
Gabriel Martinelli’s header and a Marc Guehi own goal helped Arsenal to a 2-0 win at Crystal Palace as Mikel Arteta’s side made the perfect start to the new campaign at Selhurst Park.
Blown away by Palace inside 30 minutes when the two sides faced each other in April, it was clear the Gunners needed to get an early foothold in the game this time, especially with the home fans making lots of noise following a pre-match tifo display.
We did exactly that. The high press that has been such a feature in pre-season was gainfully led by Gabriel Jesus and the passing was crisp and the tempo high. We should have had an early goal as a reward but Martinelli shot wide with the goal gaping after a brilliant jinking run by Jesus ended with a shot deflected into his teammate’s path.
Zinchenko was the next to try his luck, fizzing an effort that Guaita parried and Partey had a shot from the edge of the box blocked at close quarters.
The breakthrough came on 20 minutes from a well-worked corner. Saka floated a curling ball beyond the far post to Zinchenko who headed back across goal where Martinelli, inside the six-yard box, diverted the ball home with a header of his own. After his earlier miss, the Brazilian’s celebration was probably tinged with relief. (GOAL – 1-0)
Having been completely in control of proceedings, we started to get sloppy, exemplified by Ramsdale twice dwelling too long on the ball in his box. His nervousness gave the home side hope and they started to test us with long raking diagonal balls from defence to the flanks.
Cheap fouls given away by White and Partey allowed Palace to throw more balls under the crossbar which we dealt with well. In between Ramsdale made a very decent stop to prevent an Edouard header from finding the net.
There was a quick VAR check on a potential handball by Gabriel – rightly dismissed – Xhaka went into the book for a dive, just seconds after accusing Eze of doing the same thing, and Edouard again came close but saw his effort deflected over by the Swiss. All in all, solid but not spectacular.
Palace maintained the frenetic pace as they continued their hunt for an equaliser. They should have had one on 52 minutes when Zaha split us open and Eze had only Ramsdale to beat. The keeper stood his ground and made an excellent save. Saliba then came to Ben White’s rescue with a crunching challenge on Zaha as the Ivorian continued to cause problems. White didn’t look like he was enjoying life at right-back and ended up in the book before the hour mark for a tug of Zaha’s shirt.
At the other end, Odegaard whipped a free-kick just wide of Guaita’s post and then turned down the chance to shoot after being played in by Jesus.
Those moments aside, Palace had the better of things and pressured us into mistake after mistake on the ball. Of the players in pink, only Saliba looked calm every time the ball came his way. It was an impressive debut from the Frenchman.
Having been bright before the break our other debutants, Zinchenko and Jesus, were muted. The latter took a couple of heavy challenges and looked very frustrated when fouls weren’t awarded. Both men were subbed off with seven minutes remaining to be replaced by Nketiah and Tierney.
The changes came as a reaction to more concerted pressure by Palace who did very well to stymy any Arsenal flow through the middle of the park. It didn’t look like we’d be the side to score next but with our first attack after the changes, we did exactly that.
Nketiah moved the ball to Saka who into the box from the right and smashed the ball across goal tempting Marc Guehi into an ill-judged attempt to clear. The ball flashed off the defender’s head and into the corner of the net. (GOAL – 2-0)
Arsenal’s travelling fans met the goal with wild celebrations and rounded off the evening by saluting Palace boss Patrick Vieira with repeated renditions of the song he so loved at Highbury.
A clean sheet and three points on the road. You can’t ask for much more from the start of a new campaign. Well done, boys. Onwards.