A trip to Selhurst Park is never an easy one to navigate but a stellar opening 30 minutes was all it took for Arsenal to manage a 2-0 victory over Patrick Vieira and Crystal Palace. A first-half goal from Gabriel Martinelli and an unfortunate second-half own goal from Marc Guehi were all it took for Arsenal to see out the victory as their defensive spine was stout. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko made their full Arsenal debuts to good effect.
While Jesus didn’t score, he was a menace in the press and creating chances but the team just needs more chemistry to turn his chances into goals. Martinelli dragged a big chance wide that was created by Jesus in the opening minutes, but made up for it via a set play. In a goal made on the training ground, Bukayo Saka floated a corner to an oncoming Zinchenko who headed it across goal for an easy finish.
Defending set plays was a challenge for Crystal Palace last season as they conceded 16 goals from dead ball scenarios. Getting this season off to that start won’t inspire confidence that things are changing for Vieira’s side anytime soon. Crystal Palace did claw back into the match with Odsonne Édouard testing Aaron Ramsdale before the half but William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhães were strong to deny good chances.
Granit Xhaka’s yellow card for simulation after being grazed by Joachim Andersen in the 44th minute felt like a turning point as it led to another chance by Édouard, but Saliba was excellent in his positioning to deny the chance. After the half, Vieira’s tweaks began to show as Palace were sending long balls over the defense to Jordan Ayew in behind Zinchenko, who forced another save out of Ramsdale.
He wanted to target space that was left in behind after Zinchenko was doing his best Joao Cancelo impression pushing high up the pitch for Arsenal on the left and it worked to good effect. Once Ben White entered the book after his long day trying to contain Wilfred Zaha, the Palace attack only got stronger as Zaha had more space to interchange with Eberechi Eze, who had been kept in check by Saka’s help defense in the first half. But it wouldn’t be enough to get back into the match against a strong Arsenal side.
Just when Crystal Palace thought there was hope, Saka dashed it with a cross into the box that deflected off of Guehi for an own goal. After losing at Selhurst Park last season, winning in a tough match shows growth for Arsenal.
Here are a few takeaways from the match.
Shaky moments didn’t cause the Arsenal defense to break
Last season if Ramsdale lost the ball out of the back or dropped a corner kick, it was getting turned into his own net. We’re only 90 minutes into the new season but the hope is that Arsenal need to be beaten and they won’t beat themselves with mistakes. Even with White conceding chances as an experimental right back — an experiment that will likely end when Takehiro Tomiyasu is back in training soon — the defense held strong. This is mainly due to calmness in the middle from Saliba and Gabriel.
Saliba’s seven recoveries were second on the team as his calmness earned him the man of the match award. His composure on the ball allowed him to play out of trouble and not create extra issues for Ramsdale. Combine that with the press being led from the top of the pitch by Gabriel Jesus and it’s no wonder why Crystal Palace struggled to create good chances.
Crystal Palace miss Conor Gallagher, but they might miss Michael Olise more
While this is a promising performance for the Eagles, it felt like something was missing. New Signing Cheick Doucouré partnered with Jeffrey Schlupp and Eze in midfield but they were unable to create much when Arsenal pressed heavily in the opening minutes. While Doucouré wanted to sit deeper and Schlupp is more comfortable higher up the pitch, it left Eze alone to create chances. He did a good job registering Palace’s most dangerous chance per expected goals (xG) at 0.45 but he needed someone else to create space in the final third.
Last season that was Gallagher who scored eight goals and assisted three more in the league but this season Vieira is counting on Olise being that person. Olise scored two goals assisting five in less than 1200 minutes but he’s currently out injured with an ankle issue. He’s back training with the team, but, per Vieira, it may take a few weeks to get up to speed after not having a proper preseason. Once Olise is back, Palace could be in for quite an uptick as going toe to toe with Arsenal is impressive.
Arsenal will have another tricky tie against Leicester City on August 13. While it’s another matchup versus a team that can cause them issues, the friendly confines to the Emirates Stadium will make things easier to cope with. Crystal Palace will be heading into one of the toughest environments in the league with a trip to Anfield awaiting on Monday, August 15. It’s good that they’ll get the extra rest and Vieira would rather play Liverpool now than when they hit their stride but facing two teams from last season’s top five in your first two matches isn’t what the doctor ordered.
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Not a pretty performance but three points are three points
No one at Arsenal will complain with a 2-0 victory in a hostile environment. Crystal Palace created chances but Arsenal held strong to ensure a victory.
INSURANCE! A moment of magic from Bukayo Saka! 2-0 Arsenal
It took a big deflection off of Marc Guehi so will likely go down as an own goal but you can’t score if you don’t try and Saka is certainly inventive.
Ayew on the dribble, can’t beat Gabriel in the box
The ball made it out to Zaha but neither Mateta or Ayew could get enough on it to turn the ball toward the goal. Fresh legs are coming for Arsenal as the new recruits exit for Eddie Nketiah and Kieran Tierney.
Mateta tumbles but it’s a free kick for Arsenal
Arsenal are regaining control as Crystal Palace are being forced into shots from bad areas and some of that is because of the strong performances of Gabriel and William Saliba in the center of defense. Arsenal have yet to make a change but one could be coming to get fresh legs on the pitch.
The game is getting tight
Both sides are putting extra effort into their challenges and we may see a red card before another goal. Arsenal still seem like the more dangerous team but with Ben White on a yellow card, Wilfred Zaha has gotten too much space this half.
A chaotic corner doesn’t lead to anything for Palace
It’s a back and forth game but Crystal Palace look more confident about taking their chances. Martin Odegaard had a chance in the box but instead of shooting he passed and the chance was lost. When Palace get the ball in the box they at least know what they want to do with it creating trouble for Arsenal who now have two players on yellow cards.
Patrick Vieira makes the first change
It’s Jean-Philippe Mateta to come in for Odsonne Édouard. Édouard had a positive shift taking three shots putting one on target that forced an excellent save out of Ramsdale.
Mitchell concedes a free kick in a dangerous area
Odegaard takes but it doesn’t come close to troubling Guaita. Things are evening up between the two sides after a strong opening 30 minutes from Arsenal.
Ramsdale is there again!
Eze was free in on goal and the Arsenal keeper held strong. It’s concerning that Crystal Palace are beating Arsenal over the top easily in the second half. The gunners need a second goal so that they can pack things in deep because Palace are growing in confidence by the minute.
Back underway for the second half
Andersen is continuing to cause issues with his distribution by playing long balls over the defense. Crystal Palace already earned a corner from it less than two minutes into the second half. The tinkers are coming.
At the Half, Arsenal lead by one but they’ll need to be wary
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Arsenal dominated play and only lead by one goal. It was a fortunate one as well when Crystal palace didn’t track ZInchenko on a corner giving him an open header to Martinelli. But despite the Gunners taking five shots, and putting two on target, Martinelli’s miss earlier in the match could make things a lot more comfortable. After taking 30 minutes to get their first shot off, Palace have grown into the match with Eze and Edouard in particular causing Arsenal problems. In a clash of two good managers, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are tweaks at the half.
Anthony Taylor is letting them play
Xhaka goes down after minimal contact from Anderson and is yellow carded for the flop. Considering how Xhaka plays, that could loom large later.
Ramsdale is forced into a good save
Andersen played a ball across the face of the net and Ramsdale was ready for Edouard’s header. Crystal Palace are doing a little better running the game through Eze but they need to get a little more help somehow.
These attacks are relentless
Arsenal constantly have four players in the box troubling Palace. All things considered, the Eagles are defending pretty well but this is an Arsenal team that can create at will if they aren’t pressed. Will changes come or will Vieira play it safe considering that if Crystal Palace does press that it could be easier to play through them?
Saka’s help defense prevents a good chance
Ben White was overmatched by Zaha but Arsenal slowed the play down just enough for Saka’s wing back instincts to kick in and clean things up. Now they’re back on the attack but Palace are much more organized defensively lately.
A little better for Crystal Palace
After good play from Docoure and Eze, Crystal Palace got a shot off but it ended up in a goal kick. They’ll take a little more of that as it was their first shot of the game almost 30 minutes in. A suffocating performance from Arsenal so far.
A look back a the first goal of the new season
Zinchenko has been the best player on the pitch
While his assist was too easy, Zinchenko is emulating his former teammate Joao Cancelo from the left. He has the most touches for Arsenal, put a shot on target, and now has his assist. Always a strong player going forward, if he’s truly freed from his defensive duties now, Arsenal could steamroll some teams.
And that’s the first goal of the season! 1-0 Arsenal
Zinchenko to Martinelli for the finish. It’s one from the training ground as Zinchenko was able to run onto Saka’s corner and head it to Martinelli for the finish.
Zinchenko tests Guaita now
Arteta wanted free flowing soccer and he’s surely getting that. Zinchenko and Thomas Partey both got shots off as Arsenal are already pushing about 60% of the possession. Will they be able to keep up this pace? One thing in their advantage is that Arteta can make five substitutes if needed.
Oh no Martinelli!
So close to an Arsenal opener as Gabriel Jesus played the ball into the box but Martinelli pushed his shot just wide. So far it’s all Arsenal as Crystal Palace can’t get a foot on the ball.
Time for Ben White at Right Back
One of the interesting quirks that Mikel Arteta has setup to make the team tick with Zinchenko is moving Ben White to right back so that there are strong defenders back when the team goes forward. He’ll likely be targeted by Crystal Palace so it’ll be a matchup to keep an eye on.
The season is almost here!
Only five minutes until kickoff!
There has also been a bit of transfer news dropping with Christian Benteke heading to D.C. United
Crystal Palace are kicking off the Premier League season on Friday, but a familiar face won’t be at Selhurst Park as Christian Benteke is heading to D.C. United. The deal went down to the wire but was agreed to before the MLS transfer window slammed shut on Thursday but Benteke will be heading to MLS to hopefully reinvent D.C. United.
Crystal Palace sport one of my breakout players to watch this season in Eberechi Eze
One of the most exciting players in the Championship when he was signed from QPR, Eze hasn’t been able to replicate his strong first season with the Eagles where he scored four goals and assisted six more. After missing significant time due to an Achilles injury, he’s back with a full pre-season under his belt and the number ten shirt showing that he has also earned Patrick Vieira’s trust. With Conor Gallagher back at Chelsea, Eze will shoulder the responsibility of being the creative focus of the Palace attack which could see him easily clear double digits in combined goals and assists this season. Vieira is building something special in South London and Eze’s performances will be at the center of making it work this season.
Check out the rest of the Premier League superlatives here
Chris Richards will have to settle for a place on the bench today
Starters: Guiata, Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell, Schlupp, Doucoure, Ayew, Eze, Zaha, Edouard
Reserves: Ward, Milivojevic, Mateta, Hughes, Johnstone, Ebiowei, Riedewald, Plange
No surprises in Arsenal’s lineup
Starters: Ramsdale, Gabriel, Saliba, White, Zinchenko, Xhaka, Partey, Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli, Jesus
Reserves: Tierney, Nketiah, Holding, Soares, Pepe, Lokonga, Nelson, Elneny, Turner
Can Crystal Palace overcome a tough preseason?
Thanks to tours of Australia and Singapore, Crystal Palace had the unique challenge of needing to have split squads during preseason which didn’t give Vieira the best chance to work on all of the players together. Some of the players didn’t meet the entry requirements of each country but they’re all together now as he also looks to integrate new signing Chris Richards into the side. Most of the squad will be available but Michael Olise, Sam Johnstone, Jack Butland, and James McArthur will be unavailable for the match.
How to watch and odds
- Date: Friday, August 5 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Selhurst Park — London, England
- TV: USA | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
- Odds: Crystal Palace +340; Draw +260; Arsenal -121 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
Hello and Welcome!
The Premier League season is back and we couldn’t be more excited. Chris Richards and Crystal Palace will be hosting Arsenal in a London derby to kick off the season. Even without Conor Gallagher roaming the midfield, Crystal Palace will look to hold their own against Arsenal using the energy of their home support to their advantage.