Arsenal 2-1 Palace | Judge Wenger’s side next month, not on this match

A rusty Arsenal dug deep to claim a crucial victory on the opening day and keep the feelgood factor alive at the Emirates.

To be honest Wenger’s men didn’t really do enough to deserve the victory having failed to open Palace up enough from open play, but winning ugly is a component of a title winning side and shouldn’t be criticised.

Besides which, there were mitigating circumstances to Arsenal’s lack of fizz as three key players were missing (Walcott, Mertesacker and Ozil) whilst the numerous stars who’d been on World Cup duty looked short of match fitness. Wenger claimed before the match that his players weren’t physically ready for the season kick off and he was right, as sloppy passes and a lack of tempo played into Crystal Palace’s hands.

Giroud’s lack of match fitness meant Sanogo was handed a start but the youngster looks out of his depth. He had a couple of good moments, both of which saw him recover a clumsy first touch to work an opening, but in the main the game passed him by. He is very raw and reminds me so much of a young Adebayor when the Togolese first arrived at the Emirates. There’s a chance Wenger can coax Sanogo down the same illustrious path Adebayor trod, but it certainly won’t be this season and we cannot afford to give him many more starts and expect to get away with it.

For me Alexis should’ve started down the middle. He was by far our most creative player, wanted the ball constantly and tenaciously fought to win back possession or get on the end of a pass. You want your best players down the centre where they can hurt the opposition more — we won’t win the title with Sanogo or Giroud playing there (although the latter is a great squad option who gives us power and an aerial threat if it’s needed). Hopefully Wenger will give Alexis his chance sooner rather than later and isn’t waiting for Theo to come back before doing so. A front three of Alexis down the middle flanked by Cazorla and the Ox with Ozil in the number 10 role should be how we set up at Goodison Park next weekend. Let’s see them try to press us high up the pitch with that pace and skill threatening them on the counter!

Encouragingly, there is much more to come from Alexis as you could see that despite his brilliance at times, he was still not match fit. A couple of over-hit crosses towards the end of the match as he tired was testament to that. He was not alone though, as sloppy passes from Wilshere, Cazorla and a couple of others betrayed the general lack of sharpness Wenger was justifiably bemoaning.

All this means now is not the time to assess how well we can do this season. Judge Wenger’s side next month when all of his players are back and most importantly, everyone is match fit. I am not concerned by our lacklustre performance today — the important thing was to keep up the momentum that two trophies and some good signings have brought.

The match itself wasn’t very noteworthy — three set piece goals says it all really. Pulis may not have been in the dugout but he was there in spirit as his players implemented the system he taught them very well. They frustrated us by getting men behind the ball, working hard and taking their only chance of the game to snatch a shock lead. A poor clearance by Szczesny led to a corner which Hangeland glanced in after Koscielny failed to track his run.

Koscielny celebrates his redemption

Koscielny celebrates his redemption

Five minutes later the roles were reversed as Koscielny got the run on Hangeland to head home Alexis’ perfect free kick and the scores were level at the break.

Palace inevitably tired with 20 minutes left and the introduction of Giroud for the hopeless Sanogo and the Ox for Wilshere gave us added impetus, but despite all our possession Speroni still wasn’t really threatened. However, a couple of determined headers from Koscielny and Giroud gave Debuchy an opening in stoppage time which was parried straight to the grateful Ramsey and the three points were ours. Job done and a great start.

The standout players for me were Alexis, as mentioned, and Chambers. He will be tested more in other games but he did his work with a calm authority and confidence that greatly impressed me. He can be our third choice centre half without doubt, but we need another body there otherwise you’re looking at Monreal or Ignasi Miquel for the fourth centre back spot. Monreal doesn’t even convince me at left back, never mind in the middle.

Arteta was also quietly efficient, although against better opposition he’s not quite up to it and won’t last a full season anyway. We desperately need an alternative there, which isn’t Wilshere or Diaby as Wenger has hinted. A specialist defensive midfielder is required, especially if Wenger intends to play 4-1-4-1 as he did today. I think it’s a formation that could get the best out of Ramsey and Wilshere, but only if a Khedira, Carvalho or even Mbia is protecting the back four while our fullbacks are upfield. At the very least I’m glad to see Wenger shaking things up tactically at last — today we tried a different formation in the league for the first time in about five years!

Anyway, if Wenger can get those last two signings done we’ll be in great shape and then we can look forward to really seeing what this exciting squad is capable of when it’s firing on all cylinders next month.

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  1. Rich

    Judge it next month?
    We will finish third or fourth, how many times do people need to see wilshere and Cazorla kicked and out muscled out of games to realise Arsene hasn’t learnt his lesson, we need pace, power and height, so Arsene buys another 5ft7, 60kilo right sided attacker to be forced out to the left when Theo comes back, another square peg in a round hole.
    We should have paid £35mill for Draxler, Cazorla on the left doesnt work clubs just strategically foul him and Wilshere because they don’t have the pace or power to get away from their markers.
    Arsene has no ambition to win the PL

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    • Gooner Steve

      I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a few more weeks Rich, especially as I think he’s attempting to rectify many of the errors he’s made in recent years (ie getting in a top class fitness coach at last, spending big on world class stars etc).

      We need power and height in the defensive midfield role, for sure, but Sanchez through the middle could be a masterstroke. Let’s wait and see.

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  2. Mohd

    Watch how our small players Wilshire,Sanchex and the Spanish imp were easily brushed off.Arsenal did not have such smallish players in the past.Remember the epl is a very physical league where brute strength counts as well.
    The passing frenzy around the box is a familiar theme and that’s why the gunners repeatedly lost to the big teams. Palace scored from a breakaway.Against MC,Chelsea<MU Everton don't be surprised the gunners were to lose again like last season.
    The name of the game is winning .Some time ago Arsenal were renowned for their passing game and were placed top for passing. Whatever for. Scoring asap is it.
    The gunners are forever waiting for the right pass.That's why ,imho,they could be cannon fodder for the top teams.

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  3. Shanzu

    OK, yes it was not a great performance and in the circumstances being our first match of the season and not 100% fit, it was a just win! 78% possession was why we finally penetrated their defence. CP had nothing to offer and mostly panicked to rid of the ball from their half. It is credit to the lads for persevering and thrusting forward to push for the winner. Oh and by the way we still have the regular first team players Ozil, Wallcott and Mert to come plus the Podolski in reserve and hopefully two more signings before the end of the month! Come on surely it is an exciting time ahead and thanks to Wenger/the Board for listening to us, the media, ex Arsenal players and changing his ways for a better season!!

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