That was bad. I’m not sure how much new there is to say about Arsenal at this point. The Gunners were an Alexandre Lacazette goal at the absolute death away from losing to Crystal Palace, the 14th-place team in the Premier League table. That’s just not good enough. Full stop.
Arsenal cannot attack. There is no semblance of a tactical plan and no execution from the players on the pitch. Mikel Arteta started an extra attack-minded player today, and there was precious little to show for it. Both goals came on the follow-up from a corner kick, not from open play. The side is on pace to score 33.25 goals this season in the Premier League. That’s relegation-level stuff.
None of the Arsenal starters, save for maybe Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, played well. If you really want to stretch it: Ben White was fine (but fell off too far on the second goal), Kieran Tierney was okay, Aaron Ramsdale was fine, but that’s it. Martin Ødegaard was poor. Emile Smith Rowe couldn’t pick a pass. Nicolas Pépé was his usually maddeningly enigmatic and inconsistent self.
Thomas Partey was a disaster. It’s a real problem when the guy you want to build the team around has had his best matches playing next to a guy, Granit Xhaka, who is out for three months, and has looked pedestrian or worse most of the time they aren’t paired up.
Fortunately, two of the three substitutes saved the day for the Gunners. Alexandre Lacazette and Gabriel Martinelli were dynamic and gave the side a burst of energy it desperately needed to rescue a point. The third sub, Sambi Lokonga was poor. He’s shown promise and looked good at times this season, but today was not his day.
Lokonga, like Partey, Ødegaard, and most of their teammates repeatedly got caught in possession, and twice it cost Arsenal. Crystal Palace created nothing save for the two breaks off turnovers that they converted. For what it’s worth, both breaks could have been whistled as fouls — Ayew stamped on Partey’s foot, Gallagher ran through Sambi without touching the ball at all. But there isn’t much to be done about that.
More irksome was how James McArthur survived the first half. He should have been booked for a foul from behind on an Arsenal break (as should another Palace player, might have been Gallagher), which would have meant the yellow card for somehow mistaking Bukayo Saka’s leg for the ball and kicking him so hard he had to be subbed off at half with a knock, would have been McArthur’s second. Or Mike Dean could have (rightly) given a straight red for the foul on Saka. Apparently the VAR reviewed the incident and didn’t take issue with the call. Dean was quick to book Bukayo Saka for a foul from behind to break up a counter, by the way. It all makes me wonder why we’ve even have rules or VAR to begin with.
But we’ve known that Mike Dean is bad at his job for ages now. The more pressing concern and the thing that Arsenal can control is how poorly they’ve played in the last two matches. Really, it’s how poorly they’ve played for season, save for half of the Tottenham match. There are problems all over the pitch that need fixing quickly or else it’s going to be another wasted season. And I’m rapidly losing confidence that Mikel Arteta is the right guy to sort things out.