Interesting note from the commentator before the match who said that this was the first time in a year that Arsenal named the same starting XI in a Premier League match. This won’t be the case for at least another two games.
The Gunners came out strong right off the first whistle, and dominated the entire half of play. It only took 12 minutes to break the 0-0 deadlock as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang added another goal to his tally. 18 team passes ended with Mesut Özil playing the ball into Alexandre Lacazette, who laid a fantastic through ball to Aubameyang. It was sublime play from Arsenal.
18 passes before Aubameyang slotted it home, Arteta's Arsenal are flying! pic.twitter.com/x8Sh8d3gWW— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 11, 2020
One way traffic. Crystal Palace could not find a way to get anything working. It was beautiful, free-flowing play that I keep seeing under this new Arteta Arsenal. However, Roy Hodgson proved that he lives up to the reputation of being a defensive coach. Despite 68% possession at the break, Arsenal’s goal was the only registered shot on target of the half.
Please note: In the first half, a message that is shown by the Crystal Palace fans expressing their opinion on VAR. This will be of brought up again later.
You may want to stop reading here.
This was a very painful second half to witness after a beautiful opening period from Arsenal. Lucas Torreira went off for Matteo Guendouzi for what seemed to be an injury, and immediately Arsenal looked a different team.
It did not take long for Palace to get their goal. On the 54th minute, Palace had a free kick from a seemingly innocuous place on the midfield line. Martin Kelly saw an unmarked Meyer on the outside of the box and Arsenal began to split at the seams. A ball from Meyer was driven into Kouyate, who made an easy layoff to Jordan Ayew. It only needed a small deflection from Luiz to make it past a helpless Leno.
Just like that. 1-1.
Things went from bad to worse at this point. In my opinion, referee Paul Tierney had a stinker today. He was woefully inconsistent, exemplified best by not showing a yellow card to Jordan Ayew for seven fouls — but booking Maitland-Niles for his first foul in the 49th minute. But he would not make the harshest call of the day. VAR would.
Aubameyang made a strong tackle in the 64th minute that saw him get a yellow. I didn’t think twice about the challenge until I saw it in slow motion. NBCSN kept playing the replay and each time it got worse and worse to watch. Arsenal fans seemed to be torn on whether they believed that should be a red or not. You can see the video below and decide for yourself.
As the VAR check for violent conduct began, there was a feeling it was going to end poorly for Arsenal. After two minutes, referee Paul Tierney called over Auba and showed him the red.
The challenge that saw Aubameyang sent off. pic.twitter.com/1tSVBTgwQR— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 11, 2020
Remember that banner about VAR in the first half? Ironic that what was “killing the game” was now giving Palace more life. A game where Arsenal were fully in control of before the half had now completely turned on it’s head.
Down to ten men, the Gunners were facing an uphill battle. While a point was likely what they would’ve taken, Arsenal were still driving forward. Pepe had a solid chance in the final minutes that went off the inside of the post and fell in the lap of Guaita. It was an amazing save by the keeper to push it onto the woodwork.
Arsenal couldn't have been closer pic.twitter.com/mRlntZmj2M— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) January 11, 2020
Arsenal now will lose their captain for their matches against Sheffield United, Chelsea, and their FA Cup match against Bournemouth. Arsenal will surely miss their golden boot candidate as they look to close in on the gap between Sheffield United and Chelsea in the table in those first two matches.