Arsenal’s 3-0 loss to Crystal Palace tonight was a “snap the wristband” match. Growing up playing sports, we would say that as a reminder to ourselves to let bad performances and results go and to look forward to the next one. Because everything that could have gone wrong for Arsenal tonight went wrong.
The opening 25 minutes from Arsenal were dreadful, as bad as the club has played all season. They looked disjointed, unorganized, and unsure of themselves and their teammates. The Gunners were as harshly punished for their poor start as they could have been. For all their dominance of the play, Palace created two chances. Unfortunately, they scored both. The first on free kick needlessly given away by Ben White, weak defending from Nuno Tavares (who I think was fouled in the back for what it’s worth), and non-existent marking. The second on Tavares tracking several yards behind the defensive line and playing Jordan Ayew onside.
I don’t want to pick on Tavares too much because he’s young, inexperienced, and put into a tough spot, but he’s not up for it right now. And I don’t see how Mikel Arteta can put him back into the lineup after yanking him at halftime when he was pulled after 34 minutes his previous time out.
It’s also harsh to single out Tavares because several more experienced players, guys Arsenal have relied on during their run of form, were terrible on the evening. Alexandre Lacazette was a walking giveaway. Martin Ødegaard couldn’t control the ball. Thomas Partey (and a few others) couldn’t hit simple passes. Cedric was kicking the ball to nobody in particular. Emile Smith Rowe and Granit Xhaka were complete non-factors in the first half. More or less to a man in the first 45, the Gunners put in 2/10 performances.
The play improved in the second half, perhaps helped a little bit by Palace being happy to defend a two-goal lead. Either way, the Gunners were the better side for the second 45. They created two fantastic chances but failed to convert either of them. Emile Smith Rowe shot it right at the keeper from 8 yards out. Ødegaard missed the target from a similar distance. Eddie Nketiah put one off the the crossbar.
The game highlighted the need for summer signings. Arsenal need players who score. A new striker to replace Alexandre Lacazette, who once again showed his significant limitations, and a left-sided #8 to replace Xhaka, who contributes nothing going forward. The club could also do with the players they have improving their finishing. Great teams, teams that challenge for trophies and titles, don’t miss chances like the ones Arsenal missed today.
I’ve said it time and again this season, but apparently I’ve got to say it once more. Arsenal don’t get the 50-50 calls right now. The Gunners had two penalty shouts not given. One when Jeffrey Schlupp kicked Alexandre Lacazette’s foot in the box, which to be fair, you’re probably not going to get (but I’ve seen them given). Another when Cheikhou Kouyaté tangled legs from behind with Bukayo Saka. That one had shades of David Luiz against Wolves (but with more significant contact), and I’m not pleased it wasn’t given.
To add insult to injury, Wilfried Zaha won a penalty towards the end of the match that falls into the “no way Arsenal would have gotten it” category. Yes, Martin Ødegaard clipped his heel. I totally understand why it was given. But Zaha was already starting to slip and lose his balance, for me. It was also naive from Ødegaard and not the first time this season he’s put in an ill-advised challenge in the box to concede a penalty. There were three Arsenal defenders back. Zaha was heading away from goal. Just contain him!
The loss is whatever, honestly. Teams have bad games. Arsenal had a bit of wiggle room coming into the evening, and now they don’t. But they still control their own fate. Much more concerning are the injuries. Kieran Tierney may be out for the season. Thomas Partey had to be subbed off for what looked to be a thigh or hamstring problem. Takehiro Tomiyasu is still MIA recovering from his calf problems. The side is thin, especially and unfortunately at the positions those three guys play. I’m not sure there could be three more harmful injuries for Arsenal.
I guess we’ll really get to see what this team is made of in the remaining nine matches.