Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0 match report: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's return lifts burden on Arsenal ambitions

With Manchester City not playing until Monday night, the Gunners rose to the summit of the Premier League

Emirates stadium

The last goal of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s career before today was the one he drove past Julio Cesar in June for England against Brazil at the Maracana Stadium, an achievement to which only a very select group of English footballers can lay claim.

Back then, with two full seasons behind him in Arsenal’s first team and the status as one of Roy Hodgson’s young prospects for the new post-Euro 2012 era, life looked pretty good for the man they call “the Ox”. The Ox was on Theo Walcott’s case for a place in the Arsenal team and there was not another teenage footballer quite so in demand from the sponsors; he even narrated the Football Association’s 150-year anniversary video.

That week in Brazil, he had been fast-tracked up the hierarchy of Nike endorsees to the extent that he was invited to stay on in Rio for a few days after the game to take part in a commercial with some of their stellar names. One imagines that the Ox did not take too much persuading on that score, and who can blame him? But it all came crashing down with the posterior cruciate ligament injury that he sustained in the first game of the league season against Aston Villa.

Since then it was less of the Rio experience, more, one imagines, of the rehab, physio treatment and lonely days glimpsing the training pitches from the gym window. Not much fun for the Ox, all considered, but for a sunny character who has always acquitted himself well with fame, it will have made those two goals yesterday, scored on his first start since August, all the more special.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scores his second against Crystal Palace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scores his second against Crystal Palace He scored them in spite of being selected by Arsène Wenger to play alongside Mikel Arteta as one of the two holding midfielders, a position to which the Arsenal manager seems keen to adapt this pocket-rocket winger. They came from his bursts forward from midfield and demonstrated that the 20-year-old finishes well when the opportunity presents itself. Hodgson will take note when it comes to selecting next month’s squad to face Denmark.

Oxlade-Chamberlain is back and a happy consequence for Arsenal is that they return to the top of the Premier League, for 24 hours at least until Manchester City face Chelsea on Monday night. If City do win to re-take first place from Arsenal, the consolation comes from the fact Chelsea will be five points adrift of second place in third. After the draw against Southampton last Tuesday this was a welcome return for Arsenal to the business of ticking off the wins, one at which they have proved surprisingly efficient.

A win was just the ticket, after the transfer window closed on Friday night without a single signing capable of playing within the next four weeks. Wenger’s admission after the game that he would not have bought Kim Kallstrom on loan on Friday had he known of the player’s microfracture to his back “two to three days earlier” was not quite the glowing terms of welcome that the Sweden international will have hoped for.

Marouane Chamakh (left) and Mikel Arteta compete for the ball Marouane Chamakh (left) and Mikel Arteta compete for the ball It was classic Wenger, strangely unwilling to try to put a positive gloss in events. You have to admire the Arsenal manager’s honesty, if not his forward planning. His argument was that as free loan signings went - and Spartak Moscow will pay Kallstrom’s wages until he is fit - there were no other options available. That is the aspect which many will find hard to understand, especially given that Wenger’s attitude to emergency signings has softened in recent years.

With Aaron Ramsey out for the next six weeks, Jack Wilshere injured again and Mathieu Flamini suspended, there was bound to be some adapting and Arsenal finally struck soon after half-time. Until then, Tony Pulis’ side had done a very good job of keeping their opponents at bay. In fact Nacho Monreal’s foul on Joel Ward seven minutes from half-time looked, in every aspect, like a penalty.

Marouane Chamakh, back at his former club, was played behind Cameron Jerome in a 4-4-1-1 formation and did a good job of making a nuisance of himself. However, it was the Moroccan who failed to track the run of Oxlade-Chamberlain for the first goal allowing him to run onto Santi Cazorla’s chip over the Palace back-line and lob Julian Speroni.

There was always likely to be one chance afforded to Palace and it came immediately after Arsenal’s first goal. Jason Puncheon crossed from the left, Yannick Bolasie’s header made it as far as the back post where Jerome had a chance to put his header past Wojciech Szczesny. Instead, it went straight at the Arsenal goalkeeper, who nonetheless spread himself well to save, and the moment passed.

Other than half a chance for Barry Bannan, there was not much else to speak of in the way of Palace chances. Later Pulis conceded that goals were an issue. Glenn Murray is nearing fitness again and it was obvious from what the Palace manager said that he sets great store in Thomas Ince being able to score him a few. Along with Joe Ledley, Ince and Scott Dann were signed too late in the window to play yesterday.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second goal came when he played the ball into Olivier Giroud and then ran off the French striker to take the pass back and plant a right-footed shot past Speroni. Giroud himself barely had a sight of goal all afternoon and he will realise that this hard shift will have to continue to the end of the season, with no cover in the attacking positions signed last month. Wenger was able to give him a well-earned rest in the latter stages of the game.

Wenger will face the usual criticism over the Kallstrom signing, although given what we know about him there is a certain logic to Arsenal’s decision. It is hard enough to persuade Wenger to make short-term signings, even more difficult, when he has made his peace with one, to convince him at the last minute to change horses mid-stream.

On the positive side, his defence looked as composed as ever. Now it is over to Manchester City and while one expects them to be back at the table by the end of today, all Arsenal can do now is keep putting the pressure on.

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Szczesny 6; Sagna 6, Mertesacker 7, Koscielny 7, Monreal 6; Oxlade-Chamberlain 7, Arteta 6; Cazorla 6, Ozil 6 (Gibbs, 85), Podolski 4 (Rosicky, 72); Giroud 6 (Bendtner, 85).

Substitutes not used: Fabianski (gk), Jenkinson, Gnabry, Zelalem.

Crystal Palace (4-4-1-1): Speroni 6; Ward 5, Gabbidon 6, Delaney 6, Parr 6; Puncheon 5, Dikgacoi 5, Jedinak 6, Bolasie 5; Chamakh 6 (Gayle, 84); Jerome 5 (Bannan 5, 58).

Substitutes not used: Mariappa, McCarthy, Wilbraham, Hennessey (gk), Guedioura.

Booked: Arsenal Mertesacker Crystal Palace Chamakh, Delaney

Referee: J Moss

Man of the match: Oxlade-Chamberlain

Rating: 6

Attendance: 60,005

Watch Arsene Wenger admitting he was happy with the manner of Arsenal's win below:

Suggested Topics
News
US comedian Bill Mahr
people
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Sport
football
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Life and Style
The Oliver twins, Philip and Andrew, at work creating the 'Dizzy' arcade-adventure games in 1988
techDocumentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Arts and Entertainment
Krall says: 'My hero player-singer is Elton John I used to listen to him as a child, every single record
music
News
Friends for life … some professionals think loneliness is more worrying than obesity
scienceSocial contact is good for our sense of wellbeing - but it's a myth that loneliness kills, say researchers
Arts and Entertainment
The Wu-Tang Clan will sell only one copy of their album Once Upon A Time In Shaolin
musicWu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own only copies of their latest albums
News
i100
Environment
Number so freshwater mussels in Cumbria have plummeted from up to three million in the 20th century to 500,000
environment
Life and Style
Models – and musicians – on the catwalk in Dior Homme for the men’s 2015/16 fashion show in Paris
fashionAt this season's Paris shows, various labels played with the city boys' favourite
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us