Crystal Palace at home without Tony Pulis in charge was not expected to be difficult for Arsenal, but it took Arsene Wenger’s side until the first minute of injury time to secure the three points in their opening game of the new Premier League season on Saturday.
Brede Hangeland put the Eagles in the lead at the Emirates Stadium much against the run of play on 35 minutes, but Laurent Koscielny headed home Alexis Sanchez’s free kick from close range on the stroke of half time to restore parity for the Gunners (click here to read more).
Although Arsenal dominated the second half, they failed to break down the stern resistance of a determined 10-man Palace side currently being managed on a temporary basis by Keith Millen until injury time, when Aaron Ramsey shot home the winner from close range.
If Palace had gone on to claim a point against their London neighbours, then it would not have an injustice to either side – but as it turned out, the hosts picked up the win.
Interestingly, during the match, Arsenal’s official twitter page posted the following tweet that summed up the entire contest:
Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) August 16, 2014
It was precisely the problem that Arsenal struggled to cope with on Saturday: lack of creativity and imagination.
There were no fewer than four attack-minded players on the pitch behind striker Yaya Sanogo, with Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Ramsey and Alexis Sanchez all well known for their quality.
Yet Arsenal struggled to create as many clear-cut chances as they would have wanted to, with just six of their 14 attempts on target.
|Ontarget Scoring Att||Accurate Cross||Accurate Pass||Accurate Through Ball||Final Third Entries||Pen Area Entries||Touches||Apps||Mins|
Of course, credit should be given to Palace for their determined display in midfield and in defence, but there was a lingering feeling that Arsenal could have done more.
Perhaps the presence of star midfielder Mesut Ozil would have helped. Or maybe the players were still getting used to competitive football. Or maybe it was just ‘one of those days’.
Whatever the reason was, it may not be a concern for Arsenal right now. After all, this was just the opening game of the season and they did emerge with the three points.
However, it is clear that despite the presence of a number of top-quality players, Arsenal can still struggle to create clear-cut chances.