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

LONDON — It’s nearly 5 years to the day since Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have 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, however it didn’t immediate related derision given the staff’s latest buoyancy below Mikel Arteta. But that sense of historical past repeating shall be a specific supply of frustration for Arteta, who has targeted a lot of his work since taking cost in December 2019 on eradicating a tradition of underperformance that set in below 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 go away the membership with no single first-team signing, within the perception a leaner Arsenal could 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 below Wenger wherein the membership’s 19-year keep in Europe’s premier competitors got here to an finish.

Latest outcomes — six wins previously eight league video games — have made that look a shrewd name, however it might solely take a few accidents to underline the scale 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 downside might 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 stated.

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 This time, on his first begin since, he was withdrawn on the interval and by that stage, Arsenal had already thrown within the towel.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 stated. “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 move 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 call that feels greater within the context of Tierney’s seemingly absence.

Arteta has different choices at left-back, specifically midfielder Granit Xhaka, who deputised there within the second half, and Cedric Soares, who might swap from right-back if Takehiro Tomiyasu returns from a calf harm. But 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 might but be required within the closing 9 matches given how stretched the squad might grow to be.

Winger Nicolas Pepe was lacking with sickness and midfielder Thomas Partey might 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 stated.

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

This was a nasty night time for Arsenal’s aim 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 nice 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 total upward trajectory regardless of a tough night time.

He shall be aware 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 point out their help. They’ve come a good distance collectively, far sufficient to not enable one poor outing alone to divide them.

But Arsenal recovered from shedding to Palace in 2016-17 by profitable seven of their closing eight league matches. Though in addition they gained the FA Cup, the Gunners missed out on a top-four end to Spurs — shedding to their bitter rivals within the run-in to fall brief by a solitary level. This chastening night should function a warning.

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