After surrendering eleven points in their last five matches, Arsenal was eager to secure a crucial three points following their mid-winter break, and a home match against Crystal Palace provided the perfect opportunity for a rebound. The confidence of Roy Hodgson’s team had been on a downward spiral, mirroring their hosts’ struggles.
Despite decent performances in two out of their recent three league defeats (excluding Fulham), Arsenal faced a goal-scoring challenge. The team addressed this issue during their training camp in Dubai, focusing on set pieces. The strategy paid off, with both first-half goals originating from dangerous corners, highlighting the impact of their preparations.
The first goal, a result of a well-delivered corner by Declan Rice, saw Gabriel making a fantastic connection, causing chaos for the Palace defense. The second goal, initially credited to Gabriel but later ruled as an own goal, came from a Saka corner. With a 2-0 lead, the game seemed secure, as Palace struggled to mount a significant offensive threat.
Roy Hodgson’s tenure at Palace appeared uncertain, reminiscent of Patrick Vieira’s situation before him. Despite the lack of intensity in Palace’s play, Hodgson remained in charge, sparking speculation about an impending announcement. The game lacked intensity, and even with a 5-0 victory, Arsenal didn’t need to showcase their best. The cold weather or the gloomy January day might have contributed to a somewhat dull atmosphere.
While Palace defended resolutely in open play, the danger of counterattacks became evident as they chased the game in the second half. Arsenal’s goalkeeper, David Raya, had a minor distribution mishap but otherwise had an impressive performance with crucial saves and good command of his box.
The three second-half goals, two in injury time, were courtesy of Martinelli, with Trossard finishing one. Palace’s offside trap left the scorers with ample space to capitalize on. Smith Rowe and Nketiah had runouts, with Nketiah’s assist standing out. Declan Rice exited the game with a hamstring strain, raising hopes for a full recovery before the next match.
Arsenal’s move to third in the table sparked optimism, but the manager’s decision to reject West Ham’s loan offer for Smith Rowe hinted at the player’s potential importance. The rest of the season will reveal whether Smith Rowe is a long-term asset or just an insurance policy for Mikel Arteta. The team’s current position in the title race is optimistic, but challenges from Manchester City and Liverpool loom large.
Calls for Arteta’s dismissal after a tough league run and a cup defeat are emotional reactions, overshadowing the manager’s past successes. Financial constraints due to the lack of Champions League income for six seasons are impacting the rebuild, which initially seemed ahead of schedule in 2022-23. Arsenal hopes for a strong European campaign and an end to their recent goal-scoring drought.