EPL: Gutsy Gunners

EPL: Gutsy Gunners

Crystal Palace 0

Arsenal 2
(Mikel Arteta 47-pen, Olivier Giroud 87)

Arsenal held on to their place at the top of the English Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday, but they were made to work far harder than anyone might have expected.

The hosts - managerless and second bottom of the table - were tenacious and brave.

They could easily have taken the lead in the second half. But they were beaten by a team determined to prove their mental strength.

The Gunners lost one midfielder to injury, another to a contentious red card and were rescued by two outstanding saves from TNP's Man of the Match Wojciech Szezesny.

But they kept their nerve, held their lead and continue to confound their early-season critics.

Arsenal have been accused of complacency in the past, but you couldn't level that charge against them this time.

Arsene Wenger picked the strongest side available to him, determined to take advantage of Palace who had lost their last six league games.

One of a kind

Even Olivier Giroud was sent out for his 17th appearance of the campaign.

Unfortunately, so was Mathieu Flamini.

The Frenchman offers so much protection that he should be sold in packs of three at the chemist.

How Wenger will wish that was the case. He is the one kind of player for whom there is no replacement in the ranks.

Flamini, concussed against Norwich last week, was withdrawn after just seven minutes.

But, then again, would Arsenal really need a holding midfielder against a team in Palace's position?

Surely, this would be a walk in the park for the league leaders?

Palace didn't agree. Under the aegis of caretaker manager Keith Millen, they had a point to prove.

Former manager Ian Holloway, who resigned earlier in the week following the 4-1 defeat by Fulham, had been highly critical of the players' atttiude.

This was their riposte. Having absorbed everything that the Gunners could throw at them for half an hour, they had the temerity to push out and create their own chances.

Indeed, had Marouane Chamakh been less profligate, they might have gone down the tunnel at half-time with the lead.

Arsenal dominated possession, but the disciplined positioning of Palace meant that there was no room for them to play.

For all of Mesut Oezil's jinking and swerving, clear-cut chances were hard to come by.

Arsenal might have earned a penalty when a low cross appeared to be caught in the hands of Damien Delaney, but referee Chris Foy was unconvinced.

There was no way that Foy could ignore the next one.

Sixty seconds into the second half, Adlene Guedioura slid in on Serge Gnabry like a truck with no brakes. Mikel Arteta stepped up and clipped the penalty home.

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