Goals from Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic condemned the Gunners to a humiliating defeat in south London.And things will only get worse as the inquest rolls on after a gutless, dreadful performance from the visitors. Wilf Zaha shone again for the hosts, who dominated and deservedly saw off a pitiful Arsenal display.
But what did we learn?
1. Arsenal stuck on repeat
There was a growing sense that the Gunners might yet still be able to secure a place among the top four. But tonight’s woeful performance reaffirmed everything wrong with this Arsenal side.Leadership was lacking across the field while the vast majority of Wenger’s men appeared to be afflicted with a crippling lethargy that saw them struggle for ideas and creativity. Wenger has stood poised in recent weeks to recommit his future to the club but there’s no doubt that the Frenchman is running out of ideas. If tonight is anything to go by, a fresh overhaul is desperately needed across the club – both on the pitch and off it.
2. Meek Arsenal overpowered in the first half
Crystal Palace didn’t even fly out of the blocks in this one, they just played like the superior team from the outset and grew into the game. Arsenal allowed them to. Perhaps Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny aren’t the midfield two needed to control a game in the Premier League, because they’ve certainly not seemed like it so far and they were dominated by Jason Puncheon, Luka Milivojevic and a half-fit Yohan Cabaye at Selhurst Park. Without those two purring, the attack failed to get going in any cohesive sense, though still created a handful of chances through individual brilliance.
3. Mesut Ozil disappears
Mesut Ozil has been accused of going missing in the big games, but this was a case of the German being conspicuous by his absence in a match against one of the Premier League’s more unfashionable sides.There are, it seems, two very black-and-white camps in which people find themselves. Either Ozil is a genius and you are a philistine for not appreciating that, or he is a lightweight fraud who is stealing a living. The truth, as ever with these binary things, is somewhere in between but there is one thing that is certain – Ozil had a quiet night. Even with Palace missing first-choice defenders James Tomkins, Scott Dann and Patrick van Aanholt, the German international failed to make an impression on a backline playing only its second game as a unit.
4. Zaha and Benteke are becoming a fearsome strike pairing
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke have become a strike partnership in Sam Allardyce’s rough 4-4-2 at Palace, and they are becoming one of the most disruptive duos in the league. When Benteke is on sledgehammer form like today he becomes a nightmare for opposing centre-backs, occupying both and dragging them all over the field. Zaha’s pace and trickery make him a match-up nightmare too, so when he drifts around to find one-on-one situations it invariably gives his side a chance of making something happen. Today both were firing and, working in tandem, gave Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal a game to forget. Zaha has shrugged off accusations that he doesn’t have an end product by becoming a more productive player than Mesut Ozil or Raheem Sterling this season. Two more assists today help massage those totals further.
5. Twinkle-toes Townsend shines
With his ability to make something out of nothing, Andos Townsend was quite simply magical at times on Monday night. Twisting and turning to worm his way past a shambolic Arsenal defence, the winger caused no end of troubles for the visitors on the left. Even Hector Bellerin struggled to contain him.His goal was well-judged, arriving right on time to meet Zaha’s cut-back and fire the ball into the back of the net. The player looked confident throughout, too, and wasn’t afraid to try his luck with a number of audacious shots on goal – even if many of them failed to find target. Alongside Zaha and Benteke, he was one of Palace’s stand-out places and helped guide them to a memorable victory at Selhurst Park.