Arsenal reclaimed their spot at the summit of the Premier League with a satisfactory performance against a resilient Crystal Palace side on a sunny afternoon at the Emirates. Arsene Wenger was without a host of first team, world class midfielders, so called on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to plug the gap. His selection would prove the vital decision, as the young, England hopeful scored twice within the space of twenty five minutes to ensure Arsenal sent a message to their rivals City and Chelsea before they square off this evening. An expectant atmosphere greeted the fans as they walked out onto the immaculate Emirates pitch. And why not? The home faithful had enjoyed just one defeat in their last twenty, and seen 14 victories. Arsenal had notable absentees Wilshire, Ramsey, Walcott and Flamini but plugged the gaps with able cover; Podolski and Chamberlain were back from lengthy layoffs at just the right time. Tony Pulis resisted the temptation to include any of his five January signings, and had faith with his side that have managed 7 clean sheets in their last thirteen. Would this be a repeat of Chelsea vs West Ham from midweek, with the visitors employing 19th century tactics and parking a bus, or carriage to better suit the metaphor, in front of their goal? From the kick off it appeared this might be the case, with Arsenal's silky passing and rapid movement being combat by Palace's regimented and stern, Pulis-esque defence. Within 6 minutes Monreal was played in with a through ball whipped over the top by Ozil. His control was that of a winger, his finish that off a left back, but it still took Speroni to be at his best quick off his line and spreading himself his left leg kept it at 0-0. No one inside the ground suspected that this would be the home-side's best and one of only two chances in what would be a subdued first half. The Palace forwards did what they could to hold the ball up the field, but otherwise it was the defence who were in fine form, sniffing out any Arsenal attacks and keeping their possession confined to outside the final third. It was the Palace supporters in the lower right-hand corner that were making all the noise. Library doesn't rhyme with Emirates, but most of the home faithful seemed like they would be better suited in one as they made their way to the loos at HT. Within three minutes of the restart, the Gunners were 1-0 up and that man Oxlade Chamberlain was played in by Carzola and lifted the ball over Speroni and into the goal. 1-0 to the Arsenal rang out around the Emirates and suddenly there was an atmosphere in the new ground. However, the away side were not about to lie down and die; within two minutes Szczesny was called upon to make a brilliant save from a Jerome headed just yards out. He got in far too easy; despite Arsenal's huge steps to improve their defence this is proof that they can still be got at. The home team got into a fine rhythm in the second half and it was a string of close but not close enough with the final ball always being a fraction of a fraction away. But then on 73 minutes Arsenal proved all the pundits who predicted a 2-0 victory correct. Chamberlain started the move with a cheeky backhill on the half way line before bursting forward, receiving the ball on the edge of the box and blasting him. Who needs Ramsey?! England. We don't have him, so maybe we need the Ox? The last fifteen minutes was a keep ball session for Arsenal, as Wenger spaced his substitutions out and ensured his side sauntered to victory. While this match is hardly a barometer of Arsenal's ability as a team, it was an important one for the Gunners to win, and showed the depth in Wenger's squad and their resilience to pick up home-bankers when you're without key players. That's the stuff of champions! This should be a great confidence booster for The Gunners as they enter a crucial month of mammoth matches.
Frustratingly argumentative writer, eater, reader and fanatical about film ‘n’ food and all things fundamentally flawed. I have been a member of the WhatCulture family since it was known as Obsessed with Film way back in the bygone year of 2010. I review films, festivals, launch events, award ceremonies and conduct interviews with members of the ‘biz’. Follow me @FilmnFoodFan
In 2011 I launched the restaurant and food criticism section. I now review restaurants alongside film and the greatest rarity – the food ‘n’ film crossover. Let your imaginations run wild as you mull on what that might look like!