Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal: Young Gunners start new season with win
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal recap: Mikel Arteta’s young Gunners got kicked off the 2022-23 Premier League season with a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park on Friday.
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Gabriel Martinelli bagged the new season’s first goal midway through the first half and Marc Guehi was charged with an own goal, turning home Bukayo Saka’s cross, with only a few minutes left to play.
As Friday’s game was the Premier League curtain-raiser, Arsenal remain atop the PL table (they began the day there, alphabetically) ahead of nine more games still to be played on Saturday and Sunday.
What we learned from Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
Arsenal possession mouth-watering; corner-kick routine clever (goal video)
The technical ability of every player in the Arsenal squad is rarely, if ever, questioned, yet it’s still downright mesmerizing to watch the way they scoot the ball around the field, playing casual one-touch passes and continuing their run to receive the next one in the same motion. Technically and creatively, they’re every bit Manchester City and Liverpool’s equals, and it was on display very early on Friday.
The irony of Arsenal opening the scoring, after such a period of possession play, from a cleverly designed and drilled set-piece routine lands just right. The ability to simply put the ball over the line when the pretty possession isn’t paying dividends has been missing from Arsenal for a number of years. Perhaps they’re not yet ruthless, but opportunistic would still be a step forward for the young Gunners.
Crystal Palace not without a few chances, largely holding their own
With all of the Arsenal superlatives out of the way, it must be said that Crystal Palace eventually settled into the game and had ample opportunity to grab a (mostly) deserved equalizer. There was plenty of space down the left side of attack, where Ben White admirably filled in for Takehiro Tomiyasu. Arsenal were particularly flustered and threatened when Palace pressed the backline trying to play out of the back. Two chances sprang up from absolutely nothing in the first half, when Aaron Ramsdale found himself caught between two minds while playing back-and-forth with William Saliba and Gabriel Magalhaes.
Continuing on from the above point, Arsenal were eventually forced to go long with their goal kicks, forcing the Eagles to break them down defensively with four across the back and a pair of defensive midfielders sitting just in front. As has been the case for years now, Crystal Palace’s best moments began, and typically ended, with Wilfried Zaha getting on the ball out wide — wide wide — to stretch the field and open up lanes for runners from midfield, but Arsenal’s central numbers were too great and though they bent often, they never broke.
Stars of the show
Wilfried Zaha - Zaha’s numbers have been consistent as you could hope for years now, but it’s worth noting that he’s an incredibly high-usage player, which makes it worth pondering the possibility that building the attack around him, and only him, might not be Crystal Palace’s best path forward. Again, he was part of everything, but when “everything” amounts to nothing, well…
Oleksandr Zinchenko - Signed from Manchester City for $35.9 million this summer, Zinchenko has taken to Arsenal’s free-flowing football like a duck to water, which is hardly a surprise considering he played six seasons under Pep Guardiola. The Ukrainian international tallied the assist on Martinelli’s goal and was at the heart of everything Arsenal did going forward, a la the Joao Cancelo role at Man City — by definition, playing left back, but doing so with the freedom to drift inside and overload the middle anytime he wants.
Up next for Crystal Palace will be a trip to Anfield, where they’ll face last season’s Premier League and UEFA Champions League runners-up, as well as the FA Cup and League Cup winners, Liverpool. The Reds will begin their 2022-23 season away to Fulham on Saturday (WATCH HERE).
As for Arsenal, they’ll head home and welcome Leicester City, who begin with Brentford this Sunday (WATCH HERE), to the Emirates Stadium next weekend.