the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Post Match: Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal

The penultimate fixture of 2017 ended in our favor, but only by the smallest of margins. Just like last time out, a neutral fan would have probably been very upset to hear the final whistle, as the action was almost relentless. However, just like the last game, Gooners will feel a bit uneasy about the final result. While Arsenal did bag all three points, it was a struggle at times, and they needed a few moments of brilliance to offset a few moments of wastefulness. To mirror the scoreline here’s the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Arsenal’s Win

Good: Three Points

No matter how you do it, you need to win games in the Premier League. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the title hunt, the race for top four or the fight against relegation, wins get you where you want to be.

Especially considering the recent results in the league for Arsenal, this game was almost a must-win, even only halfway through the season. In the five PL fixtures leading up to the game, the Gunners won just once and drew three times, finding themselves in a deserved sixth place.

While the win only keeps us level with Hots***, a loss would have left the team uncomfortably close to Burnley and with lots of ground to make up going into a very busy January schedule.

No doubt there would have been hope to stay relevant in the race for top four, even with a loss, but three points makes a jump into a Champions League place much easier. Let’s also not forget just how important momentum is in sports; winning one game makes it easier to win another, and winning week in and week out is the only way to get back where you want to go.

Bad: Poor Finishing

I could list off all the chances which were not converted from throughout the match, but instead of telling you what you already know, let’s leave it at this; the team should have scored more.

Credit Roy Hodgson’s men with a good defensive performance, they made sure to keep the ball away from the danger areas for the most part. There were also a few good blocks from the Eagles’ defense, despite allowing so many scoring opportunities.

However, especially once they opened up to try and level the score, our boys did plenty to breach the back of the net on a plethora of occasions. Mesut Ozil alone could have bagged a brace, but then again that wouldn’t have made things quite as exciting as they were, which would be out of character for the Arsenal.

Playing with a back three does leave one fewer man forward to join in the fray, but the combination of Alexis/Ozil/Lacazette is plenty good enough to put away the many chances the team created.

Especially against the big boys, such wastefulness leads to dropped points. Don’t believe me? Just ask David De Gea.

Good: Passing Play

To set up all those lost chances, the buildup play has to be superb, and it certainly was yesterday for Arsenal. The team has been criticized this year for doing so, however it paid dividends at Selhurst Park.

Not only the passes themselves should be praised, but also everything that is necessary for such elegant play as well, like the vision of the players on the ball as well as the movement of those who are off it.

Case in point is probably the Wilshere assist to set up Alexis’ second from the halfway line, plus let’s not forget the Chilean’s deft first touch to make things look easy.

The passing hasn’t always looked that good this season and, in fact, Wenger had his team ticking like a Swiss watch. Personally, I think the difference has been confidence instead of any formation changes.

After all, if anything a back three stifles creative play instead of helping, so perhaps the team has just begun another (temporary) run of form. If they have, it came at a good point in the campaign.

Bad: Defensive Errors

Thus far this year, Arsenal have seen eight defensive errors turn into goals for their opponents, according to the Premier League app. Compare that to just five in all of last year and that just about sums up how the 2017-18 league season has gone for Arsene Wenger’s men.

It may be a bit nit-picky to complain about the goals conceded after a win, but I’m going to do so anyway.

The first goal shouldn’t have happened. There’s no reason a winger should be able to trot into the opponent’s box completely unmarked and be given the time and space to finish. Especially when his club is behind.

However, that’s exactly what Andros Townsend was able to do to level the score just after halftime. Perhaps Kolasinac should have marked him, or perhaps one of Mustafi or Koscielny should have intercepted.

Either way, the winger should not have been able to find the other end of Wilfried Zaha’s pass, or at least not as easily as he did.

I won’t even go into detail about the set-piece which led to Palace’s second, as we all know what happens when Arsenal give up a corner. However, suffice to say, no fan should be happy about the second goal either.

Say what you will about the dip in goals scored this year, but it wouldn’t be as big of an issue if the team defended properly. I think it’s also worth noting that the majority of our defenders have surpassed their 30th birthdays.

Mr Wenger, if you’re reading this (don’t worry, he isn’t), please sign another CB, preferably a young one.

Good: Away Performance

Yes, the defense was bad, but as a whole, despite the errors, this was a decently good road win. The most important part of any Arsenal team, at least since the French connection was made with Arsene, is attack, and the offense was, in general, good.

As I said above, winning breeds winning, so this could (hopefully) be a springboard to another successful road trip on Sunday.

Some stats to take home for you:

65.2% possession

16 shots, 9 on target

865 touches, 654 passes, 84.6% pass accuracy

66.7% tackles won, 49.3% duels won

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