Tottenham lost. Man United lost.
When it comes to Arsenal and making the most of opportunities though, it always seems we enjoy doing things the hard way.
Instead of leapfrogging our neighbours into 3rd spot and putting daylight between us and United, we too slipped and now, with four games to go – three of those are away games – we can’t afford to drop any more points.
On this performance, that doesn’t seem likely.
Crystal Palace rocked up to The Emirates and were their normal obdurate selves, fighting tooth and nail for every ball and absolutely rapid on the flanks. Delivery to their target man Christian Benteke was excellent, and the big Belgian enjoyed probably his best game in the entire season.
Unai Emery opted for a spot of rotation in this game, with this being the third game in eight days for our men. In came Carl Jenkinson at right-back and Mohamed Elneny and Matteo Guendouzi in the centre of the park.
Regardless of the changes though, we put in a first half performance that lacked bite and intensity, too often opting for safe possession rather than risk and reward.
So Palace took the mantle and made us pay.
How exactly did we lose the game? Can we learn these lessons and move on from what is a huge chance wrecked?
Here are four things we must rectify before we play our next game:
Mohamed Elneny Is Not Good Enough
The Egyptian has been a reliable, if unspectacular squad player in his time for us. While the midfielder can bemoan a lack of game time and sharpness, his choice of passing and his lack of forward momentum cost us dearly, and sharpness doesn’t affect decision-making. Elneny let us down here, but there were far bigger culprits…
Mustafi Hasn’t Learned A Thing
The German is the focus for our ire and has been for the whole season. Emery insists that Mustafi has been consistent so far and I would agree, but his penchant for making woeful choices normally ends up with the ball in our net. He was at it again today, inexplicably trying to block off Zaha without actually tracking him, leaving him shoulder barging thin air and Zaha bearing down on goal. If he could cut out these errors, we’d have a decent defender on our books. The trouble is, he can’t.
Rotation Is Key – And Wasn’t Responsible For Our Loss
Many will point to the inclusion of Jenkinson and the untried combo of Elneny and Guendouzi in midfield as the main reason for our implosion. True, it didn’t give us the greatest start, but the second half saw these changed and we still conceded another two goals. The problem was reckless defending and a lack of intensity. We had it in Napoli, but we couldn’t carry it on. Worryingly, our players looked tired, and our fixture congestion isn’t over yet.
No More Losses
Wolves at Molineux, Leicester at the King Power, Brighton at home and then Burnley at Turf Moor. All three away games that would prove a stiff test to anyone, never mind a team that has failed to convince away from home. Trouble is, with this loss, we can’t afford to lose any of them. If we do, then never mind catching Tottenham for third spot, we’ll be lucky to avoid sixth spot again. The Brighton game isn’t even a gimme, with the Gulls still fighting for survival. With our continued inclusion in the Europa League, the games will continue to be one every three days at best, so our whole squad needs to step up. Emery tried to ensure a little freshness with this game, but his men let him down. Also, we underestimated the opposition, which we can ill afford to do again.
Next up, we have a trip to Molineux to take on Wolves, followed by Leicester at the King Power stadium. Let’s hope for a positive response.