Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Bukayo Saka fires Gunners EIGHT points clear of Man City in title race with superb double
WHAT do points make? Prizes.
And if Arsenal continue to play their cards right, there’s absolutely nothing Manchester City can do to stop them from claiming the jackpot.
GettyGabriel Martinelli fired Arsenal ahead on 28 minutes[/caption]
Bukayo Saka doubled Arsenal’s lead just before the breakGetty
ReutersGranit Xhaka scored his second goal in two games for the Gunners’ third[/caption]
ReutersSaka swept home Arsenal’s fourth to make the points safe[/caption]
Pep Guardiola’s free-scoring team might be running riot in the Champions League and the FA Cup.
But the gap at the top of the table is now up to eight points and even with Erling Haaland in your team, that is going to take some closing.
And while Arsenal might not have a 42-goal striker in their ranks, this sixth straight League win was welcome confirmation that they are not about to lose their nerve any time soon.
Mikel Arteta’s youngsters now have just ten more games remaining while City have a minimum of 14 and maybe as many as 18 still to play.
It was Arsenal’s opening day win at Selhurst Park which gave the first hint that they just might be a force to be reckoned with this season.
They have continued to lead from the front pretty much ever since and can now see the finishing line hoving into view.
This was their ninth London derby victory of the season, a new top flight record, and one which leaves Crystal Palace managerless, rudderless and pretty much hopeless.
The sacking of former Arsenal idol Patrick Vieira on Friday failed to produce the response which chairman Steve Parish had been hoping for.
It means they are still without a single win in 12 League games in 2023 and are now contemplating sending out an SOS call to 75-year-old Roy Hodgson.
At least they managed to end their 444 minute goal drought when Jeffrey Schlupp finally found the target with the game already lost.
But it was scant consolation for a team who are now just three points above the relegation zone having played more games than most of the teams below them.
It is almost impossible to understand how Palace have remained 12th in the table throughout their long winless run stretching all the way back to stretching all the way back to New Year’s Eve.
But like a marathon runner who has hit the wall, the chasing pack are now about to swallow them up and that’s why panic has broken out in their boardroom.
And with their ten-year run in the top flight now seriously under threat, you have to wonder if Under-21 coach Paddy McCarthy is the right man to save them.
This might have been their final match in a run of fixtures from hell for Palace and from here on in their schedule looks considerably kinder.
But that won’t mean a thing unless they can remember how to start winning again.
Yet it might all have been so different if Wilfried Zaha’s tenth minute shot against the base of the post had rebounded in off Aaron Ramsdale instead of just wide.
It was another eight minutes before Arsenal tested rookie Joe Whitworth with a shot from Martin Odegaard which the 19-year-old keeper, playing only his second game for Palace, was more than equal to.
But the 19-year-old keeper had no chance when Bukayo Saka’s 28th minute cross picked out Gabriel Martinelli to cut inside Joel Ward and fire an unstoppable shot into the far corner.
That was Martinelli’s 13th goal of the season and it was certainly bad luck for the struggling visitors.
They had already lost central defender Joachim Andersen to an injury suffered in the pre-match warm-up and must have known right then that this was not going to be their day.
Those fears were confirmed just before the break when Arsenal doubled their lead to leave poor Palace needing snookers.
Granit Xhaka’s drive across the face of goal was retrieved by Saka and when he exchanged passes with Ben White, Zaha didn’t even bother to chase him back to leave Saka free to pick his spot.
Xhaka put the game beyond doubt when he stabbed home from Leandro Trossard’s 55th minute through ball despite a shove in the back from the hapless Ward.
And though Schlupp briefly reduced the arrears when Odegaard failed to deal with a 63rd minute corner, that just heralded the introduction of Gabriel Jesus from the bench.
Zaha went close again with a low shot which flashed just the wrong side of Ramsdale’s far post.
But any fanciful thoughts of a Palace comeback were ended in the 75th minute when Saka struck again from Kieran Tierney’s low cut back.
Palace claimed that Jesus was obstructing Whitworth’s view from an offside position but even VAR was not on their side as things went from bad to worse for the sorry South Londoners.
Now Arsenal can look forward to the two-week international break to regroup and rest up some of their key players.
And Palace have two weeks to come up with a new manager before it is too late to stop the rot.
GettyJeffrey Schlupp pulled one back for Crystal Palace[/caption]