Arsenal beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park...here are the stories emerging from the game
Arsenal claimed all three points at Selhurst Park on Thursday night, dominating the match for long periods and running out 3-2 winners thanks to two fine goals by Alexis Sanchez and a Shkodran Mustafi strike.
The Gunners had one or two nervy moments and were put under pressure in the final minutes after James Tomkins headed a late goal from a corner, but they held on for an important victory.
Here are five things we learned from the game:
Has Sanchez refound his appetite?
Cynics will say it is the sound of the transfer window's hinges creaking open which has jolted Alexis Sanchez into life, while a more generous assessment might be that brilliantly talented players simply cannot be kept down for long. Either way, this was a much improved performance by the Chilean which recalled some of that familiar flair which underpinned last season's displays when he racked up 24 Premier League goals. Sanchez almost certainly won't repeat that feat this term, but this match was a fleeting reminder of just what a talented player he is – especially when he is fully committed to showing it.
Wilshere is back where he once was
Jack Wilshere's beautifully weighted pass into Sanchez for Arsenal's third goal illustrated just how well the midfielder is playing right now. It is not only that he is back playing regularly in Arsenal colours; he is fast becoming a crucial cog in the Gunners' machine, keeping them ticking in the centre of the pitch. Consistent performances like this one will be impossible for Gareth Southgate to ignore as the summer approaches.
Palace must cling on to Zaha
Three days before the January transfer window opens, Wilfried Zaha provided a timely reminder of his qualities, jinking in off the left wing before cleverly cutting the ball back for Andros Townsend to slam home Palace's equaliser. It didn't bring any points but it once again showed how critical the winger is to everything the team does well. He could be the difference between winning and losing their relegation battle – the club must surely dig their heels in and rebuff any incoming bids, at least until the summer.
Arsenal win, but they are going backwards
The Gunners' victory should not mask the fact that after 20 league games they are sixth, with 37 points. At the equivalent stage last season they were fifth with 41 points and it is hard to argue that they are making any kind of progress. With the futures of Sanchez and Ozil still in doubt, wins like this one will provide only a short-term tonic but no long-term solutions to the difficulties facing the manager and the club in the coming months.
Wenger's tactical indecision a concern
In the build-up to the match Arsene Wenger said he was ready to return to a more 'attacking' back-four, yet proceeded to start the game with three defenders and two wing-backs. It is not as though he has a reputation to uphold as a tactical maestro in modern management, but Wenger's indecision and inability to clearly explain his tactical choices is a worrying trend.
(© Independent News Service)
Independent News Service