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Slumping Arsenal claim point with last-kick leveller against Palace

Arteta insists Arsenal were not lucky against Vieira's Eagles

18 October, 2021 — By Richard Osley at Emirates Stadium

FA Premier League
ARSENAL 2 (Aubameyang 8, Lacazette 90+5)
CRYSTAL PALACE 2 (Benteke 50, Edouard 73)

ARSENAL manager Mikel Arteta punched the air with delight as the Gunners salvaged a point with the final kick of the game at the Emirates Stadium tonight, still perhaps too green to understand that a draw against Crystal Palace is hardly what the fans pay £70 a ticket for.

In game 246 (estimated figured) in this slowish but sure decline of a once invincible football club we are witnessing, dancing around after securing a point against the Eagles is another milestone on the road. Time was when Arsenal would be imperious about such a fixture; Palace were relegated at Highbury in the 1990s.

Now, the visitors arrive with three forwards on the pitch and confident, not unreasonably, of leaving with victory.

If it carries on like this – and with the billionaire advances appearing at other clubs – Arsenal will miss the jump again and could soon become one for the jumble sale Shoot albums which parents flick through and tell their offspring that ‘they were good once’. A Nottingham Forest of the future.

At this post-lockdown crossroads, Arsenal are still the ‘superpower’ which remarkably appointed a manager with no previous experience as a No. 1 and embarked on an adventure into unknown with what seems like only a reference from Pep Guardiola to wave around.

If they wanted to take a chance on a former player, they could have gambled on a genuine fans’ favourite. Patrick Vieira has carefully conducted his apprenticeships at New York City and Nice, and his steady progress has landed him at Palace where he appears to be squeezing the best out of the players he inherited and has bought well.

The gulf that once stood between the two teams was non-existent here – Palace were right to feel devastated by the drama in the final ten seconds; they had a better structure, a better gameplan.

Vieira has even got the often-maligned Christian Benteke slicing through the Arsenal defence on foot.

If you have watched any match during Arsenal’s downtick years, then the whole scenario was all so painfully predictable. They started confidently and secured an early advantage when Nicolas Pepe curled a shot goalbound.

It was palmed away by the Palace keeper Guaita, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had arrived at the back post to slide the ball into the net.

The Gunners then enjoyed most of the possession but in this period they failed to add to a 1-0 lead. And you know what tends to happen next with Arteta’s men.

The warning signs were there when first Odsonne Edouard spooned a shot over the bar when well placed and then Aaron Ramsdale had to save athletically from a Conor Gallagher shot.

Arteta, however, seemed preoccupied with an injustice he had seen. James McArthur only received a yellow card for kicking out at Bukayo Saka; the England international so bruised he had to be withdrawn at half time.

It’s not the first time that Arteta has rapped on about a refereeing decision. He might have done better on concentrating on how to convert an interval lead into three points.

Then came more oh-so familiar antics: Soon after half-time, Thomas Partey, full of overambitious shots today, was brushed off the ball and it fell to Benteke who enjoyed himself as the Arsenal defence capsized, racing through and kicking the ball beyond Ramsdale.

In a way, this was already a must-win for Arsenal, if not for Arteta – who often appears to have a ‘job for life’ protective shield of some sort. If you take out the north London derby triumph against Spurs, it’s hard to think of a good league performance.

And yet the urgency wasn’t there. Passes were rolled sideways across the centre circle line. It wasn’t until Alexandre Lacazette was summonsed from the bench that we really saw some animation He urged the crowd to increase the volume.

It did go up briefly, but then Albert Sambi Lokonga – Saka’s replacement – surrendered the ball lightly and Palace went from back to front at speed. With Ben White backing off generously, Edouard flicked his shot in off the crossbar.

Francis Tierney hit the bar too in the final passage. He was not as lucky and the ball crashed away to safety.

Palace looked like they had done enough at that stage but right at the death, Lacazette pushed the ball over the line after a scramble ensuing from a corner kick.

“No, I don’t think we were lucky,” insisted Arteta after the match; his side still locked in 12th place.  “You can say we were lucky because we scored in the last kick of the game, but overall in the game I don’t think we deserved to lose the game.”

Thousands who left early didn’t look like they agreed.

ARSENAL: Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, Tierney, Gabriel, White, Partey (Martinelli 81), Odegaard (Lacazette 67), Saka (Lokonga HT), Smith Rowe, Pepe, Aubameyang
SUBS NOT USED: Elneny, Holding, Leno, Maitland-Niles, Soares, Tavares

CRYSTAL. PALACE: Guaita, Ward, Mitchell, Andersen, Guehi, Milivojevic (Kouyate 67), McArthur, Gallagher, Ayew (Olise 71), Edouard (Tomkins 82), Benteke
SUBS NOT USED: Butland, Clyne, Hughes, Kelly, Mateta,  Schlupp

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