Arsenal cruised to a 4-1 victory over Crystal Palace at the Emirates. The Gunners cut through a flimsy Palace defense with ease and were in full control of the match from pretty much start to finish. Bukayo Saka and Ben White were the standout performers on the afternoon on the attacking end. It was great to see Gabriel Martinelli follow up the disappointment of missing the penalty with a goal. And Aaron Ramsdale had a strong performance down the other end.
Despite the Gunners’ dominance, the match could have played out a bit differently if it weren’t for Ramsdale. About 10 minutes into the match, Thomas Partey gave the ball away (for the second time) leading to a Palace break, helped by an aggressive step from Rob Holding and an unfortunate bounce off him. Wilf Zaha found a bit of space to the outside of Ben White and fired a shot low to the near post. Ramsdale did really well to get a fingertip to it to push it onto the post, and he got a bit fortunate that the ricochet off the post onto his back went out for a corner instead of into the Arsenal net. The Arsenal keeper also made two or three good saves on Palace chances that wouldn’t have counted for offside, which doesn’t change the quality of the stop.
Bukayo Saka’s two-goal, one assist performance takes him to 12G, 10A for the season. He’s the first player to double digits in both categories in the Premier League this season. Martin Ødegaard’s 10G, 6A and Leandro Trossard’s 8G and 8A look most likely to join Saka in hitting that milestone this year. Saka’s fantastic afternoon was enabled by Ben White’s MOTM performance. White looked every bit the revelation at right back that he did early in the season, and the two combined time and again to tear Palace apart down the flank.
The one blemish on the afternoon was the Crystal Palace goal. Arsenal have conceded 5 goals from set pieces in their last 10 Premier League matches, a definite cause for concern. Also a bit worrying, probably more of an oddity: Arsenal have conceded just 9 goals in 14 games away from the Emirates, but have shipped 17 in 14 games at home.
A few other odds and ends. Jakub Kiwior made his Premier League and Emirates debut. He wasn’t asked to do much, but he casually ran down Wilf Zaha, contained him, and knocked the ball away really well. They said Kiwior had pace, and it looks to be that easy pace that William Saliba has. They both have those long strides that make it look as if they’re hardly moving, but when you see either of them catch up to an attacker you know has pace, you realize how fast the centerbacks are.
We learned that with Takehiro Tomiyasu likely out for a while through injury, Thomas Partey is the backup right back for the Gunners. Late in the match, Ben White came off, Jorginho came in to the middle, and Partey slid to fullback. It was nice to see Kieran Tierney get an assist. He found Bukayo Saka at the top of the box for the winger’s second goal of the day. Watching Granit Xhaka do his hand to nose celebration for his daughter, which he did again today when he scored, is absolutely adorable.
The Gunners go into the international break on 69 points (nice), 8 points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, with City having played one fewer game. Arsenal have 10 cup finals remaining. 9 wins guarantees a title.