Three things we learned: Crystal Palace - Arsenal
Arsenal spoiled Roy Hodgson’s final game as Crystal Palace boss — and perhaps his final game in management — with a pair of stoppage-time goals in a 3-1 win at Selhurst Park on Wednesday.
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Nicolas Pepe scored twice — once early and once late — to go with Gabriel Martinelli’s stoppage-time winner, as Arsenal overtook Leeds United for 9th place in the Premier League table. The Gunners sit one point out of 7th place and European qualification with one game left to play.
2 things we learned: Crystal Palace - Arsenal
1. A platform to build upon: It’s been said many times already, but Arsenal already have a strong core of players around which a future top-four side can be built… if only they fully commit to that idea and let the young Gunners run wild next season. Pepe has been the best (Arsenal) version of himself down the stretch this season, while Bukayo Saka, Kieran Tierney, Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel each improved from the start of the season. The key question is: Does Mikel Arteta feel he has the job security to commit the longer-term plan, rather than prioritizing every last point on offer?
2. Crystal Palace, on the other hand…: The average age of Palace’s 12 most-used players this season (minutes played) is 29.4 years old. The rebuild for Hodgson’s successor will be no small task.
Arsenal had just three shots in the first half, but Pepe managed to find the back of the net with one of them. The chance was exceptionally worked by the Gunners down the left side, as has become increasingly common of late. A clever backheel freed Tierney along the end line and the Scotsman’s cross found the late-arriving Ivorian for an impressively athletic volley.
Though Crystal Palace out-shot Arsenal 12-5 over 90 minutes, the Eagles weren’t able to make their advantage pay off until the 62nd minute. Andros Townsend lofted a free kick into the penalty area and Benteke, ever so narrowly onside, directed a diving header past Bernd Leno for the deserved equalizer.
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Crystal Palace looked like escaping with a point with the score 1-1 into second-half stoppage time, but Martinelli’s nose for the goal sniffed out a winner in the 91st minute.
Pepe dazzled with some lovely dribbling to beat four Crystal Palace defenders and bag a sensational solo goal with 95 minutes on the clock.