If Arsenal needed Patrick Vieira’s managerial credentials ramming home, the message was delivered here. It should have been embossed with three points but Crystal Palace, who had been the better side for more than two thirds of the game, were denied at the very last and their players’ immediate reactions were of the kind more commonly associated with a chastening defeat. For those picking over the touchline battle, though, this was only a win for Vieira: while Mikel Arteta’s players struggled for cohesion and fluidity, Palace looked supremely composed once they had cleared their heads from an early setback and performed with a conviction that augurs well.
They only needed to maintain it for another 10 seconds when Arsenal won a corner in the fifth minute of added time. But their defence could not clear and Ben White was allowed to control before volleying through a crowded box 12 yards out, his effort taking a deflection and squirming off Vicente Guaita’s foot. Alexandre Lacazette was given a gift and Vieira, who had celebrated lustily as his side overhauled a potentially disastrous start to lead, would have to stomach a third straight draw.
“On merit I think we were the better team today,” Vieira said. “I think it’s two points lost for us. The draw hurts because of the performance we had today. I’m really disappointed for my players because they played well, showed a lot of character and personality.”
Those attributes were required in spades because, by the time Palace had come out of the traps, they were a goal down. At that point it was hard to see an outcome beyond an analogue of Arsenal’s evisceration of Spurs: only eight minutes had passed when Nicolas Pépé, allowed time to cut inside and execute his signature move, curled a left-footed shot that Guaita tipped away. The keeper’s respite lasted a split second, because Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was careering in at the far post and jabbed into the open goal at a moderately taxing angle.
That was the only clear chance Arsenal created until Lacazette’s introduction midway through the second half. Palace wrested control of midfield and Arteta’s decision to field Thomas Partey as his sole defensive conscience in the engine room came to look foolhardy. While their possession only brought two genuine near misses before half-time, Odsonne Édouard lofting a half-chance over and Aaron Ramsdale clawing Conor Gallagher’s volley wide, they had shown enough to feel confident of turning things around.
The argument Arteta could deploy was that they should not have been able to do so with a full complement. With the interval three minutes away James McArthur cocked his boot in what, presumably, was an attempt to volley at goal after a Palace free-kick was cleared. Bukayo Saka reached the ball first but McArthur completed his action anyway, following through and cracking his opponent on the calf. It was a desperately poor challenge, although that word would appear generous, but VAR did not interfere with Mike Dean’s decision to settle for a booking.
“I cannot believe how the player stayed on the pitch,” Arteta said, questioning the lack of intervention. “What was explained to us at the start of the season and what happened tonight doesn’t make sense.”
Source: The Guardian