45 min: Another corner for Arsenal, after Kouyaté diverts a cross by Bellerin behind. Saka is taking them from both sides. This one is delivered with plenty of fizz, but Palace cope with it well.
44 min: Smith Rowe wins a corner after Arsenal make an increasingly rare venture forward. Saka’s delivery is substandard this time, allowing Benteke to clear at the near post.
42 min: Mitchell gallops down the left and hoists over a fine cross. Benteke leaps above David Luiz to send an excellent header towards the corner of the goal from 10 yards. Leno flings himself across goal to make an even better save, pawing it away and then springing to his feet to collect Zaha’s follow-up from a tight angle.
38 min: Xhaka treads on Zaha’s toe, fooled into a foul by the winger’s trickery. Palace have a freekick about 25 yards out, to the left of the box. Eze floats in a teaser … Tomkins outjumps Holding … and heads against the bar! A let-off for Arsenal!
37 min: Kouyaté clumps into Saka, giving Arsenal a freekicking near the right-hand corner flag. Saka takes it himself, depositing the ball in a dangerous position in front of goal. Tomkins takes charge, heading powerfully clear.
35 min: Bellerin does his job well at the defensive end, tracking Zaha’s run and then blocking the winger’s cross.
34 min: After a patient Arsenal build-up, Smith Rowe tries to pick out Lacazette from the right. But Kouyaté gets a touch on it to deflect it unwittingly into the path of Bellerin, charging into the area But Bellerin wasn’t expecting it and can’t adjust his feet quickly enough to guide his shot on target, or anywhere near it.
32 min: A sharp pass by Xhaka to release Aubameyang down the left. The forward’s low cross is put behind for a corner. Saka delivers a fine pass beyond the back post. David Luiz backpedals to meet it but nods his header into the keeper’s arms.
29 min: Benteke skies the ball from 15 yards after a nice cut back from the left. Apart from their finishing, Palace are really worrying Arsenal now.
28 min: Another good tackle by Xhama, who kept his eye on the ball as Zaha tried to sell him lollipops.
26 min: Benteke races on to the ball down the left. He drifts inside then rasps a low shot from 16 yards. IT’s a comfortable save for Leno.
24 min: The threat from Palace is growing. McArthur scampers through midfield and lifts a dainty pass through for Zaha in the box. Bellerin gets back smartly to smother the danger. But Arsenal have been warned more than once.
23 min: Nifty work by Zaha and Benteke, with the winger playing a give-and-go with the striker and darting into the box. Xhaka makes a splendid sliding tackle to block his shot.
21 min: Saka glides past two opponents and drills a low shot goalward from over 20 yards. Nice run, but Guaita is not really troubled by the shot.
20 min: Tomkins heads Saka’s corner away. But Arenal retrieve it on the left, from where Aubameyang cuts inside and unleashes a curling shot that Guaita pushes up into the air. Then he catches it when it drops.
19 min: Arsenal apply some pressure. Bellerin skips past Eze into the box but has to retreat under pressure from Mitchell. In the end he has to settle for winning a corner…
17 min: In keeping with the sloppiness of the game so far, Maitland-Niles overhits a backpass, giving a corner to Palace. In keeping with the sloppiness of the game so far, the corner amounts to sod all.
16 min: A mistake by Mitchell gifts the ball to Bellerin, who can’t take advantage.
15 min: Xhaka lays his hands on Zaha’s back and the ref decides that’s a foul. So Palace have a freekick in a dangerous position, a couple of yards outside the D. Eze’s curled shot is not worthy of description.
13 min: Ceballos sprays a lovely pass from the right to Aubameyang on the left. But that’s as good as the move gets, as Arsenal lose possession immediately after.
11 min: The tempo has not exactly been breakneck so far, perhaps not even break-sweat.
9 min: Eze and Benteke swap passes as Palace make moves towards the Arsenal box for the first time. Townsend even gets off a shot, wafting one way over from 25 yards.
7 min: Smith Rowe’s influence is already clear. He’s popping up everywhere, with his teammates always happy to feed him. Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil has popped the kettle on.
5 min: Smith Rowe releases Maitland_Niles down the left this time. The left-back did well to dash into space but his cross is overhit. “If Tierney’s absence means Benteke makes more points I won’t be too frustrated, as a tormented fantasy league manager,” writes Paul Dorning, who, if he has Benteke in his strikeforce, has surely brought most of that torment on himself.”
4 min: So far Arsenal have directed most of their forays down the right, through Bellerin, Saka and Smith Rowe. Guaita’s first involvement is straight-forward, collecting a cross by Smith Rowe under no pressure.
2 min: It’s been a sedate start: Arsenal knocking it around, Palace compact as they watch and shuffle from side to side.
The teams make their way out on to the pitch, greeted by gentle rain.
“The two league games before this one were OK, I thought. They’ve given us four points and I’ve got to be satisfied with that. Schlupp’s absence is a major blow because he’s been a very important player for us. Unfortunately we’re going to miss him for a period of time because his thigh injury is serious.”
“We need much more consistent form at home. Today has to be another good day. [Tierney] had some muscle soreness. He wasn’t comfortable, and in this period we cannot take the risk. [Gabriel] is feeling much better, he had a complete week of training. And I think Thomas could have some minutes today so it’s good news that we are getting some players back.”
“I write from plague and civil war-torn California,” announces Mary Waltz. “Trust me, football makes perfect sense in comparison. If Arsenal pulls three points out of this fixture, then the pressure on Arteta should ease. I think if they give him enough time he will prove to be a top rank manager.” He’d need more than time to make Arsenal top-rank.
Arsenal have explained the absence of their best left-back thus: “Kieran Tierney is rested for tonight’s game as a precaution, due to muscle tightness.” It’s as if they don’t care how many fantasy league team managers they torment.
Arsenal: Leno; Bellerin, David Luiz, Holding, Maitland Niles; Ceballos, Xhaka; Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Subs: Runarsson, Soares, Chambers, Gabriel, Willock, Partey, Pépé, Nketiah, Willian
Palace: Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Kouyaté, Mitchell; Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Eze; Benteke, Zaha
Subs: Butland, Van Aanholt, Dann, Ayew, Clyne, McCarthy, Cahill, Batshuayi, Riedewald
Referee: A Marriner
Hello and welcome. These are disorienting times and it’s hard to make sense of anything. So please be gentle if I suggest Arsenal look like they might be getting things together. Emile Smith Rowe is starting to look like the player Mesut Ozil is paid to be, Bukayo Saka is a 19-year-old of outlandish elegance and composure, Kieran Tierney is an extraordinary leftback and leader (but isn’t playing today), Rob Holding earned the new contract he got this week, Thomas Partey is on the way back and Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang seem to be regaining form. Mikel Arteta’s men have won three league games in a row and if they whip Crystal Palace today, they could move into the top-half of the table. And yet, who amongst us would be surprised if they messed up again?
As for Palace, they go into the match only a point below Arsenal but are perhaps an even bigger enigma, being as capable of devastating bursts as they are of very boring dross. They have won only one of their last seven matches. You have to fancy they’ll be up for this one, though, with the prospect of climbing above their north London chums likely to bring out the best of them. Maybe. In short, anything could happen at the Emirates today. You’d best follow the action right here. Roll up! Roll up! Read all about it.
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