Wilfried Zaha Stars, Gunners Fire Blanks in Shock 3-0 Defeat to Crystal Palace

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Disaster struck for Arsenal on Monday night, thanks to a brilliant performance from Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace. A couple of defensive blunders allowed Crystal Palace to take a 2-0 lead into the break, through Jean Phillip Mateta and Jordan Ayew. Arsenal showed a will to fight back in the second half, but a third error from Arsenal proved too costly as Wilfried Zaha shut the door on Arsenal’s hopes, winning then converting Palace’s third from the spot.

Coming into tonight’s match, Arsenal conceded 4th place to Tottenham following the latter’s impressive 5-1 comeback victory against Newcastle on Sunday. However, Mikel Arteta’s men had played two fewer games than their North London rivals, guaranteeing they controlled their own destiny as they took on Crystal Palace in yet another London derby. Palace, on the other hand, has enjoyed a fairly stable season as they are safe from relegation, yet too distant to think about challenging for a place in Europe next season.

A boisterous atmosphere coupled with Crystal Palace’s intensity proved to be too much for the Gunners in the first half, as they succumbed to a two goal deficit within 25 minutes as Arsenal sputtered through their worst 45 minutes of 2022. A relatively even initial quarter of an hour appeared to be heading towards Arsenal assuming an expected control of the match, but a silly foul by Ben White on Wilfred Zaha awarded Crystal Palace a dangerous crossing opportunity from a freekick. Connor Gallagher’s lofted ball towards Arsenal’s back post wreaked havoc, as Gabriel’s attempted clearance ricocheted off Palace defender Joachim Andersen, before finding its way into Jean Phillip Mateta’s path as he headed home from close range to ignite Selhurst Park as Crystal Palace took a shock 1-0 lead.

Defensive disaster struck once again for Arsenal, as Jordan Ayew doubled the home side’s lead 23 minutes in. Andersen provided his second assist of the night, as his sweeping through ball caught out Gabriel and found Ayew who’s fantastic first touch allowed him to take it across Arsenal’s Nuno Tavares and curl it past helpless goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale from 12 yards out. It was indeed another mistake from Gabriel and Nuno Tavares, as the duo were responsible for the first goal as well.

Arsenal will consider themselves lucky that the halftime scoreboard read 2-0 and not 3-0, as Mateta’s hunt for a second goal was thwarted by Ramsdale in the 38th minute. Arteta’s men couldn’t have been more relieved that the halftime whistle came, as they looked flat, devoid of ideas, and simply inferior to the infectiously energetic Crystal Palace side.

Mikel Arteta instantly made changes to the eleven, as Nuno Tavares’ woeful game came to a close with Brazilian winger Gabriel Martinelli coming in. Granit Xhaka assumed Tavares’ left back position and Emile Smith Rowe dropped in to fill in Xhaka’s center midfield spot. Tavares’ hadn’t started a Premier League match since Arsenal’s 3-2 defeat to Manchester United back in December, and he certainly didn’t do himself any favors in today’s match.

Arsenal improved markedly in the second half and seemed a certainty to find the net as the changes made by Arteta seemed to spur the away side on. Emile Smith Rowe had a chance from point blank range to fire past Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita in the 62nd minute, but his effort was tame and proved the simplest of saves for Guaita. A lovely Arsenal combination found substitute Eddie Nketiah who fired a low cross to find Martin Odegaard on the penalty spot, only for the Norwegian prodigy to uncharacteristically misfire and send it wide. Those same misses would come back to haunt Arsenal and against the run of play, Wilfried Zaha ran onto a woefully timed Thomas Partey miscontrol in the middle of the field. Zaha’s pace and trickery was a nightmare for Arsenal defenders all night long, and this time proved no difference as he was brought down in the box after he cut back and was tripped by the trailing leg of Odegaard. The penalty was given and Zaha cooly dispatched it in the right hand corner, sending Ramsdale the wrong way.

Zaha was the best player on the pitch, and the Selhurst Park faithful matched his performance with a celebratory atmosphere omnipresent throughout the match. From then on, Arsenal fashioned a few more chances although the game was well and truly over, most notably Nketiah’s curling effort from 20 yards out cruelly hitting the post.

A brilliant result for Crystal Palace, who have deployed a refreshing attacking style this season under former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. The Eagles now find themselves in 9th place, sitting comfortably on 37 points in a mid table position, with a tricky trip to Leicester looming next. As for Arsenal, this result keeps them in 5th place below Tottenham. Mikel Arteta’s men do have a few games in hand compared to their rivals, but many of the remaining fixtures are against top 6 sides. Saturday will provide Arsenal a chance to bounce back with a home encounter against a reeling Brighton side that has only picked up 3 points twice in 2022.

About Post Author

Adam Echchaibi

Sports journalist who made the mistake of supporting Juventus and Arsenal. Attended the University of Colorado-Boulder 2017-2022.
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  • Sports journalist who made the mistake of supporting Juventus and Arsenal. Attended the University of Colorado-Boulder 2017-2022.

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