After a poor transfer window for Arsenal many fans were left frustrated at Arsene Wenger for not being able to bring in another striker to the club, putting all title hopes on the shoulders of Olivier Giroud. Arsenal welcomed their noisy London rivals Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium for the first time.
Arsenal were expected to dominate the game and hit the ground running from the kick off, but this was not the case. New gaffer Tony Pulis is often known for playing not exactly the most attractive football but football that gets results, being previous manager of Premier League hard boys Stoke City. Coming from the school of hard knocks Tony Pulis set his side up to match Arsenal in every area and for the duration of the first half that is exactly what Palace done. Arsenal couldn’t get into any creative play and for much of the first half Arsenal were flat and just did not look to be playing with any energy at all and certainly didn’t look like a team playing for the Premier League. Crystal Palace defended well and broke out on a number of counter attacks and were only denied by the centre back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny who have been in absolutely outstanding form for the Gunners this season and much of the teams success has been awarded to the performances of these two.
Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker has been in remarkable form this season and his performance against Crystal Palace was just another game to admire and appreciate the ability of the German. The stats from the game show that Mertesacker won 100% of his aerial duels (6/6) which is impressive as the German was up against ex Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh and Cameron Jerome with both players holding heading ability being able to win flick on headers and shooting headers. Mertesacker also won 3/4 ground duels, 100% successful clearances and a 97% pass completion. Mertesacker picked up a yellow card in the 85th minute for fouling a Palace player and this was the only fault that could be picked on the player.
With a tough run of fixtures now haunting over the Gunners, this can be seen as “make or break time”. Arsenal will have to battle it out with Liverpool (Away), Manchester United (Home), Liverpool (Home), Bayern Munich (Home/Away), Tottenham (Away), Chelsea (Away) and Manchester City (Home) all within the coming 2 months. Arsenal fans will be hoping that the brother like partnership between Mertesacker and Koscielny can withstand the pressure but all the while will be hoping that Giroud can remain fit and fire the Gunners through this title deciding fixture list.