Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0: Marouane Chamakh error undoes Tony Pulis' defensive plan at the Emirates
The former striker was at fault to allow Arsenal to make a break through
at the emirates stadium
Monday 03 February 2014
Crystal Palace were nearly perfect for 47 minutes at the Emirates until one mistake undermined everything they had been striving to achieve.
All it took, at the start of the second half, was for former Arsenal man Marouane Chamakh to momentarily forget his defensive duties and neglect to track Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain into the box towards goal.
The frustration, for Chamakh and for Palace, was that his first-half performance was crucial and representative of their excellent start, their immaculate application of the instructions manager Tony Pulis had given them.
That Palace have improved under Pulis is beyond doubt. Even after Sunday’s defeat, they have still won six of their last 13 league games – having won just one of their first 11. Still one point outside of the relegation zone, nothing is certain but they are far likelier to stay up than they were under Ian Holloway.
Aside from those crucial wins, there were impressive performances in defeat – a 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge and a 1-0 defeat at Manchester City that looks better every time another team is shredded there. It was the only time in the league this season that City have been so restricted.
Marouane Chamakh (left) and Mikel Arteta compete for the ball Despite Chamberlain’s second late goal, this display certainly belongs to that same category of commendability. Some sides come to the Emirates and fold but Palace did not, providing – for the first half at least – the model lesson in playing here.
It was a display based around system and shape, rather than individuals. Of Palace’s four deadline-day signings – excepting Jason Puncheon, who was already there – only unused substitute goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was in the match-day squad.
After West Ham’s display at Chelsea last week, defensive tactics have a new label – “19th century football” – but this was a precise, considered plan. The back four were perfectly arranged while the midfield was similarly well-drilled. There was almost no room in between the two banks for Arsenal to exploit, leaving Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil lost in the first half, often resorting to desperately hopeful diagonal balls.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scores his second against Crystal Palace Of course, Arsenal play an ambitious 4-2-3-1, and with Cazorla coming in from the right, they tried to swamp midfield. The response was to have Chamakh – nominally Cameron Jerome’s strike partner – drop when Arsenal had the ball.
This might have surprised some but it worked perfectly. Chamakh, when he is on song, is diligent and intelligent. Arsène Wenger described him last week as “a good football player” and his first-half display underlined that.
The extent of Arsenal’s threat in the first-half were two chipped Özil free-kicks, the first of which Laurent Koscielny flicked on, forcing a good save from Julian Speroni. But beyond those there was very little. The only space was out wide and with Cazorla and Lukas Podolski coming in from the flanks, Arsenal had no real wingers.
For Pulis, the frustration must have been that they got halfway to what would have been a crucial point. But this was a demanding approach, requiring mental focus and physical fitness from his players. In the 47th minute, Chamakh made one brief mistake and Chamberlain put Arsenal ahead.
Palace needed to attack and they came very close to an equaliser. Puncheon, moved onto the left wing in the second half, crossed for Yannick Bolasie, who nodded the ball on to Jerome at the far post. His header was powerful but Wojciech Szczesny kept it out with his legs.
As impressive as Palace’s collective performance was, more individual quality might just have found them a goal. Tom Ince could provide that during the run-in. Application and discipline, though, could count for most.
Watch Tony Pulis explain why his side suffered defeat below:
Latest in Sport
Fifa corruption: Could Fifa's president Sepp Blatter face arrest as part of the FBI investigation into alleged corruption?
Paul Scholes column: With Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Bath vs Saracens live: Saracens win Premiership final with 28-16 victory thanks to tries from Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Chris Wyles
Fifa corruption live: Sepp Blatter tries to shift attention to Uefa and says he expects more from US investigators
Young Preston fan who had Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley presented with replacement signed by the play-off hero
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote