Arsenal vs Crystal Palace: Five things we learned as Eagles hold Gunners to a draw at the Emirates

The visitors came from two goals down to take a point at the Emirates

Callum Rice-Coates
Sunday 27 October 2019 19:32
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Arsenal were held to a draw against Crystal Palace as Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw a late goal ruled out by VAR.

The Gunners were 2-0 up inside ten minutes, twice scoring from corners as Sokratis then David Luiz converted from close range.

But the visitors hit back, winning a penalty after Wilfried Zaha was brought down in the box by Calum Chambers. Luka Milivojevic made no mistake from the spot, and Palace equalised after the break when Cheikhou Kouyate met James McArthur’s cross to head home at the back post.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

1. Palace’s vulnerability from set pieces exposed

Prior to this game, Palace had not let in goal from a set piece. At the Emirates, though, they looked disorganised and chaotic in the opening ten minutes, first allowing Sokratis to fire home after failing to clear a corner, then letting Luiz escape his marker to convert from a few yards out.

It put the visitors on the back foot from the outset, giving an Arsenal a head start before they had even really got going. It is exactly what Roy Hodgson would have wanted to avoid.

Palace have generally defended well so far this season, so two lapses of concentration in the early stages of this game will be a concern.

2. Clean sheets still elude Arsenal

Arsenal’s home form has been strong and they have little trouble scoring goals. But a lack of clean sheets – the Gunners have managed just two in the Premier League so far – will be a concern for Unai Emery.

A rash challenge in the box on Zaha from Chambers allowed Palace back into the game (although the Palace man was originally booked for diving until a VAR check saw the decision changed). And in the second half Kouyate was given far too much space to sneak in at the back post and head home from a few yards out.

Arsenal, if they hope to challenge for the top four, will need significant improvements at the back.

3. Pepe proves effective from dead ball situations again

On Thursday night, with Arsenal 2-1 down against Vitoria de Guimaraes in the Europa League, Nicolas Pepe was introduced as a substitute. By the end of the game he had scored twice, both superb free kicks, to turn the game on its head and earn his side the victory.

Clearly, the Frenchman is an adept set piece taker. Against Palace, he turned provider, twice swinging in corners from the right which the away side could not deal with.

Arsenal’s record signing has, perhaps, yet to really inspire from open play. But if he is efficient as the last two games suggest from dead ball situations, that alone will make him an invaluable part of this team.

4. Palace beginning to replicate away form of last season

Hodgson’s side were excellent on the road last season, boasting an away record only bettered by Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea.

A disciplined and well-organised approach and the ability to break rapidly brought wins at City and Arsenal. Conversely, only one team – bottom side Huddersfield – collected fewer points at home.

It has been a different story so far this season, though. Palace had won two and drawn two of their four away games before their visit of the Emirates, and looked short of their usual confidence on the road.

They will be pleased, then, that Sunday’s game hinted at a return to last season’s away form. Palace were a threat on the counter attack throughout, particularly through Zaha, and forced Leno into some important saves.

Xhaka is booed after being taken off

5. Xhaka takes brunt of criticism as fans voice discontent

Granit Xhaka is a divisive figure at Arsenal. He is the club captain, a technically-gifted midfielder capable of producing moments of brilliance on his left foot.

But he is too often wild and erratic, too often anonymous when Arsenal need a leader. The reaction from the home supporters when he was withdrawn was one of contempt, and that is concerning for everyone at the club.

It is a sign of a growing feeling of uneasiness at Arsenal. The season so far has not been disastrous, but the club’s fans expect far more than they are getting.

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