Arsenal saw off Crystal Palace in comfortable fashion to go third in the Premier League on New Year’s day.
A sublime effort from Olivier Giroud and a looping header from Alex Iwobi were enough to ensure Arsenal came away with all 3 points against a Crystal Palace side playing their first game under the management of Sam Allardyce. Arsenal were rarely troubled and were dominant throughout the game, with Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott both missing from the side.
The result means that Arsenal have now moved into third place, although they are just one point ahead of Tottenham and Manchester City who are both tied on points in 4th and 5th respectively. Arsenal are still 9 points behind league leaders Chelsea but Arsene Wenger will be encouraged by the performance they put in against an admittedly toothless Crystal Palace side.
Olivier Giroud’s goal likely the goal of the season
Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal the lead on the 18th minute with an absolutely incredible scorpion kick that left Crystal Palace goalkeeper Wayne Henessey with no chance whatsoever.
Having started the move with a smart flick to Granit Xhaka, the Frenchman made a lung-bursting run into the box as Xhaka played the ball to Alex Iwobi, who set Alexis Sanchez loose on the left.
Sanchez then crossed the ball into the box and it looked like the move had broken down as the ball was played behind Giroud. But the Arsenal centre forward pulled of a superb piece of skill to open the scoring. Showing some impressive audacity and technique, Giroud pulled off a scorpion kick with his left leg that he connected with perfectly, sending the ball flying into the top-left corner.
Giroud’s – who has hinted at a contract extension – performance when called upon cannot be sniffed at. Arsene Wenger has admitted that Giroud is annoyed whenever left on the bench and while many players would sulk and create tension for the team, Giroud has simply let his performances do the talking and has scored some very important goals off the bench for Arsenal this season.
He can sit back and enjoy a job well done tonight, and Arsenal fans are going to be talking about his goal for a long, long time to come. Gary Neville – commentating for Sky Sports – said it was one of the best goals he had ever seen and quite rightly so. It is not often that such improvisation is on show in football, and it’s safe to say that Giroud’s is up there with the best.
Olivier Giroud’s game by numbers vs. Crystal Palace:
4 aerial duels won
3 tackles won
1 chance created
1 scorpion kick goal 🦂pic.twitter.com/UMQD6zkYq3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2017
— Arsenal Related ⚽🔥 (@ArsenalsRelated) January 1, 2017
Sanchez the conduit for Arsenal
Alexis Sanchez may not have scored against Crystal Palace, but he did pick up an assist and everything ran through the Chilean. Playing in a No.10 role due to the absence of Mesut Ozil, the Chilean did not disappoint.
Sanchez constantly teased the Crystal Palace defence on the edge of the box and created several openings for the Gunners.
Sanchez ended the game with an impressive 5 key passes, 1 assist and 4 successful dribbles. Even when he isn’t scoring, he can be the difference for Arsenal. He has now been directly involved in 19 goals in 19 Premier League games, having scored 12 and assisted 7 this season. Arsenal fans will be praying that he can stay fit and firing for the rest of the campaign.
Lucas Perez still hasn’t settled completely
Lucas Perez made a rare start for Arsenal today in the absence of Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil. Perez has hardly featured in the Premier League this season, with today representing only his second start in the league in 6 total appearances. Perez works hard and has been effective in other competitions, but was clearly a little off the pace in this game.
A few poor first touches and ineffective crosses emphasised this and Perez cut a frustrated figure after he was withdrawn on 72 minutes. His effort can’t be questioned, however, as it was his determination to track back and win the ball that started the move leading to Olivier Giroud’s opening goal. The Spaniard still needs time to adapt, and will be hoping for more minutes to do so.
Lucas Perez has got very limited gametime but I like his attitude of the pitch. Never afraid and always working hard.
— Sir Jenkinson (@theEpicGooner) January 1, 2017
Koscielny and Gabriel effective on the day
Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel Paulista managed to keep Christian Benteke quiet with ease and their performance tonight will encourage Arsene Wenger. With Shkodran Mustafi watching from the bench, Gabriel looked much better than he has in recent games and made a number of important clearances with the threat of Benteke’s heading ability looming.
The Brazilian will definitely drop to the bench when Mustafi is fully fit but having come in for some criticism over the last few weeks, he can be proud of the performance he put in today. Koscielny and Mustafi have formed a great partnership already but Gabriel is slowly starting to form an understanding with the Frenchman as well.
Gabriel & Koscielny have absolutely bossed Benteke. Not given him a sniff. If you told me Benteke wasn’t playing, I’d believe you.
— Pádraig 〽️ (@VintageOzil) January 1, 2017
Granit Xhaka growing with every game
Granit Xhaka put in another impressive shift for Arsenal tonight. Paired with an unfamiliar partner in Mohamed Elneny – who will depart for the African Cup of Nations following this match – Xhaka was another player who stood out for Arsenal. Xhaka looks like a left-footed Xabi Alonso at times, always picking out passes that other players might not think of in the same situation.
The Swiss midfielder made 113 passes, 5 crosses, won 3 tackles, made 2 clearances and created 1 chance for Arsenal in what was a near-complete performance in midfield. With his ability to accurately play passes to any area of the pitch, Xhaka controlled the game against Palace and seems to be growing into his role with every game he plays.
Granit Xhaka’s long passes are unreal. Simply class. What a player.
— Ö (@WengerTactic) January 1, 2017