Welcome to my Arsenal blog for the 2015/16 season; here you can check out my thoughts on the current goings on at the club.
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Monday, 23 February 2015

Arsenal return to top four with win over Palace

Arsenal's recent run of form, excluding a defeat to a team we shan't mention has been particularly good of late and the win over Palace on Saturday afternoon only reaffirmed our credentials in the race for the top four. This weekend was near perfect for the Gunners though as Cazorla and Giroud sealed a 2-1 win at Selhurst Park whilst Spurs, Manchester United and Southampton all dropped points. Although it wasn't the most important of London derbies we'll play this season it was still crucial that we got the win, but it wasn't perhaps as comfortable as first thought. We were pegged back late on but still managed to hold on to leap to third place in the table. Wenger named a slightly changed team from the win over Middlesbrough in the cup; Coquelin and Mertesacker returned to the starting line-up, as Chambers came in for Bellerin. Jack Wilshere was meanwhile back on the bench after 3 months out.
Olivier Giroud scored his 50th goal for the club in the win over Palace
The nature of the game was quite a weird one, especially the opening exchanges. The officials didn't have a great start and there seemed to be a few wrong decisions all over the place. Ozil should not have been offside at one point when he had proceeded to score, and then Coquelin should have been booked for a high foot. Monreal looked to have committed a foul down the left and the decision for the penalty with which our first goal came from was marginal. The original challenge from Souare looked to be right on the edge of the area but Welbeck fell into the area and the penalty was given. It was a debatable decision but nonetheless Santi Cazorla scored to keep his fine run going.

Crystal Palace have been in good form under Alan Pardew and against us they showed that. They did also show signs of their poor form at home this season. Both of which were shown in the ways that they attacked and defended. Palace have the players that can trouble teams and through Gayle and Zaha down the wings they had that. They didn't have the final ball though and that's why they rarely actually troubled Ospina. Bolasie came on late on and caused further problems, and he is where their late burst of pressure came from. He created a chance for Gayle who headed over and his delivery found Murray who hit the post with virtually the last phase of play in the match. Murray however had got one back a few minutes later.

It was a soft goal to concede though having failed to clear the ball. We had managed to clear a lot of balls away throughout the game and therefore it was disappointing not to get rid of the ball on this occasion. With all the bodies in there we should not have conceded but Murray popped up to find the net from short range. It was a very poor final few minutes, and after Wenger had put Gibbs and Gabriel on for his League debut we now had 6 defenders on the pitch. Because of that we should have been able to see the game out more comfortably than we did. Luckily Olivier Giroud had scored on the stroke of half time otherwise it would've been two points dropped.

Olivier Giroud has been in a rich vein of form recently and is starting to score on a consistent basis; he now has 8 in his last 11 whilst the one against Palace was his 50th in Arsenal colours. It was perhaps one of the most simple out of the 50 though, pouncing on a save from Speroni to fire into an empty net. It's particularly good to see him converting chances at a regular rate compared to previous seasons where he's been frustrating in front of goal.

Danny Welbeck was the man whose shot was saved and he made himself busy all game, winning the penalty too. I had originally wanted Theo Walcott to start, and although he looks more threatening in front of goal, Welbeck proved me wrong in terms of his performance against Palace. I criticised him a little after last week's win but what he lacks in composure he makes up for in his running and work rate. He's full of vim and that is very encouraging to see as along with Sanchez, he produces the full backs with a lot of support.

It's worth also touching on the performance of Mesut Ozil. He's been talked about a lot recently, and for all the right reasons. His form has been exceptional and although he didn't score or assist he showed what he could do with the new found strength he has; ushering the ball out of play and even winning a header which came off the bar. He also lead a brilliant break away which we were unlucky not to score from. He flicked the ball over the defender before finding Sanchez who fired inches wide of the target.

It was a good win to continue the momentum we have and of course for our bid for Champions League football next season. Our next game is in fact in that competition as we face Monaco at the Emirates in the first leg of our last 16 tie with them on Wednesday.

The team's line-ups:

Crystal Palace: Speroni, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, Zaha, Ledley(79), Mutch, Puncheon, Gayle(79), Campbell(57).
Subs: Hennessey, Hangeland, Kelly, Jedinak, Bolasie(57), Murray(79), Ameobi(79).

Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck(76), Ozil(76), Sanchez(89), Giroud.
Subs: Szczesny, Gabriel(89), Gibbs(76), Bellerin, Wilshere, Rosicky(76), Walcott.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.
Attendance: 24,721.

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