Arsenal’s loss at Crystal Palace serves as a warning for Arteta’s threadbare squad in top-four race

LONDON — It is nearly 5 years to the day since Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal had been overwhelmed 3-0 at Crystal Palace, selling the away supporters to chant “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” at underperforming full-back Hector Bellerin.

Monday’s defeat by the identical rating on the identical floor featured one other shambolic show from a defender, Nuno Tavares, nevertheless it didn’t immediate related derision given the crew’s latest buoyancy underneath Mikel Arteta. Yet that sense of historical past repeating shall be a selected supply of frustration for Arteta, who has centered a lot of his work since taking cost in December 2019 on eradicating a tradition of underperformance that set in underneath Wenger and reared its head once more right here.

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A spirited Palace facet brutally exploited Arsenal’s shortcomings in a displaying that raises severe questions concerning the Gunners’ sturdiness within the race for a Premier League top-four end. With no European or home cup soccer to sate a big squad, Arteta streamlined his group in January, permitting 5 gamers to depart the membership with out a single first-team signing, within the perception a leaner Arsenal can be higher geared up to fulfill the only real demand of capitalising on a promising place to safe Champions League qualification for the primary time since 2017, that penultimate season underneath Wenger wherein the membership’s 19-year keep in Europe’s premier competitors got here to an finish.

Recent outcomes — six wins previously eight league video games — have made that look a shrewd name, however it could solely take a few accidents to underline the dimensions of that gamble, and that’s exactly the place Arteta finds himself now. Defender Kieran Tierney will see a specialist on Tuesday with the membership fearing a knee drawback may sideline him for the remainder of the season.

“The feeling that he had, it wasn’t really positive and what the scans showed either, but we have to wait and see what happens,” Arteta mentioned.

Tavares, his pure understudy, lasted simply 34 minutes earlier than being substituted in January’s FA Cup third-round defeat at Nottingham Forest. He threw his gloves to the ground in frustration at being singled out. This time, on his first begin since, he was withdrawn on the interval and by that stage, Arsenal had already thrown within the towel.

“We weren’t at the races today and especially in the first half we were late to every ball, we were soft in the duels and we didn’t earn the right to play,” Arteta mentioned. “When we did a little bit, we were sloppy on the ball. We didn’t have any dominance, any sequences of play where we could take control of the game and we conceded two poor goals as well, so overall it is unacceptable, put our hand up, apologise, regroup and tomorrow is a new day.”

Palace started with vibrancy and goal, Jean-Philippe Mateta opening the scoring with a Sixteenth-minute header as Joachim Andersen steered again a Conor Gallagher free kick. Ben White‘s foul to provide Gallagher an opportunity to ship was poor however Gabriel‘s positioning eight minutes later was worse, failing to chop out Andersen’s cross to Jordan Ayew, who steered a low shot previous Aaron Ramsdale.

Arsenal continued to lack conviction of their play and depth of their urgent. Tavares was maybe unlucky to be singled out on the break given the Gunners’ collective malaise, a choice that feels greater within the context of Tierney’s probably absence.

Arteta has different choices at left-back, particularly midfielder Granit Xhaka, who deputised there within the second half, and Cedric Soares, who may swap from right-back if Takehiro Tomiyasu returns from a calf harm. Yet Tavares now has one other humiliation to beat, one thing Arteta defined away as a “tactical reason … I’m sorry it was Nuno again but we had to do it,” and the Portugal youth worldwide could but be required within the closing 9 matches given how stretched the squad could turn into.

Winger Nicolas Pepe was lacking with sickness and midfielder Thomas Partey may now be one other absentee. The Ghana midfielder misplaced the ball to Wilfried Zaha late within the second half and pulled up with a limp. Zaha burst ahead and was clipped within the field by Martin Odegaard, incomes a penalty he dispatched moments after Partey hobbled off injured, holding his thigh.

“He felt something in the same area that he got injured previously, so [it is] a big concern,” Arteta mentioned.

Arsenal did enhance within the second half, however whereas beforehand the supporting solid have been in a position to offset Alexandre Lacazette‘s modest objective return, Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe had been all unable to take presentable possibilities that might have triggered a revival.

This was a nasty evening for Arsenal’s objective distinction corresponding to Tottenham Hotspur, who finish the weekend in fourth place and have now emerged because the Gunners’ most severe rivals for that top-four spot. Palace’s shutout right here accomplished a seven-goal swing in Spurs’ favour.

It was additionally additional proof of the effective job Patrick Vieira is doing at Selhurst Park. He was thought of for the Arsenal job following Wenger’s departure, and on this proof will certainly be a candidate to return to his former membership once more in future, though Arteta can rightly proceed to consider the membership stay on an general upward trajectory regardless of a tough evening.

He shall be conscious of Arsenal’s historical past, nevertheless. Arteta has spoken repeatedly concerning the bond with supporters and he went to applaud the away part at full-time, lots of whom stayed to indicate their assist. They have come a great distance collectively, far sufficient to not permit one poor outing alone to divide them.

Yet Arsenal recovered from dropping to Palace in 2016-17 by successful seven of their closing eight league matches. Although in addition they received the FA Cup, the Gunners missed out on a top-four end to Spurs — dropping to their bitter rivals within the run-in to fall quick by a solitary level. This chastening night should function a warning.

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