Arsenal bested Crystal Palace 2-0 at Selhurst Park to start the Premier League campaign off on the right foot. Was it the best-played, cleanest match from the Gunners? No. But putting two past Palace and winning at Selhurst Park is not easy to do. They’re a solid side, especially at home. Arsenal’s opener was the first the Eagles had conceded in more than five matches at their ground.
And what a well-worked goal it was. Straight off the training ground. Bukayo Saka took a long corner. Oleksandr Zinchenko stayed high and made a late run towards the back post, creating acres of space for himself, and headed it back across the face. Gabriel Martinelli, who was somehow unmarked inside the six-yard box, headed home.
I’m not sure whether Arsenal let off a bit after going ahead (as they had an annoying habit of doing last season) or if Crystal Palace woke up and came into it, but the match flipped. Palace were in the ascendancy and nearly equalized right before the break. Aaron Ramsdale made a fantastic reaction save on an Odsonne Edouard header from point blank range.
The second half was a bit more even. The Arsenal defense did well to keep Palace’s attack mostly to the outside and to close things down when the ball got into the box, holding the home side to just two shots on target. The first shot was the aforementioned Edouard header. The second came when Wilfried Zaha played Eberechi Eze in brilliantly but Ramsdale was quick of his line, stayed up and big, and made the save.
The Gunners’ salted away the points when Marc Guehi made an absolute meal of a smashed cross from Bukayo Saka and headed it directly into his own net. To be fair, it was a nice attacking move from the Gunners. Eddie Nketiah carried the ball forward, gave it to Martin Ødegaard, who found the Arsenal winger 1-v-1. Note that Nketiah was involved in the build up. His energy and ability carry the ball forward changed the flow of the match. It helped relieve the pressure on the defense and push the action back into the middle third of the pitch. If only Mikel Arteta had made the change earlier.
William Saliba was my Man of the Match for Arsenal. He had a superb game. It’s hard to believe he’s just 21 — he plays with a poise and intelligence far beyond his years. Honorable mention goes to Ben White. Playing out of position at right back, he kept Wilf Zaha quiet with a number of strong 1-v-1 defensive moments against him. And honorable mention to Aaron Ramsdale for the two massive saves previously mentioned. That’s exactly what you need from your keeper — the big saves in the critical moments.
Gabriel Jesus was fantastic, particularly in the first half. He’s everything the Arsenal attack needed. He created chances out of nothing with sublime individual skill. Gabriel Martinelli was quite good as well.
Martin Ødegaard was mostly anonymous. I’m not worried about it. Crystal Palace are among the better teams in the league at clogging and controlling the middle of the pitch. Alex Zinchenko was good on the ball, a bit suspect defensively, which I expected he might be. When Arsenal were in possession, he tucked well inside, almost into a double pivot space, and pushed well up the field. I’ll chalk some of his defensive performance up to that — it’s tough to defend as a left back when you’re getting up the field like a central midfielder.
I have to say I was disappointed with how frequently Crystal Palace threw themselves to the ground Jordan Ayew, Zaha, and Eze were particularly guilty of trying to con the referee. Of course, the only yellow card for diving in the match went to Granit Xhaka. Why would it be any other way?
But it doesn’t really matter. Arsenal won. They got a bit of revenge on Palace for that 3-0 drubbing at Selhurst Park last spring. And they’ve definitely gotten off to a better start than last season!