Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: three talking points
Following a 2-1 defeat at the Vitality Stadium, it’s been a tumultuous week for Arsenal. Cries for the manager’s head fused with Alexis Sanchez’s dramatic exit.
Arsene Wenger at least has a sense of humour when asked about the Chilean's absence from the squad.
"You cannot drive up north and as well play football."
Supporters probably didn't find it that funny. Regardless, all those woes were put to bed as Wenger’s remaining men put in a scintillating performance at Crystal Palace's expense.
Goals from Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, and Alexandre Lacazette sealed victory. The Gunners dominated possession to the tune of 63.8%. Pending the Spurs' Sunday match, Arsenal is now two points behind Tottenham. Palace remains comfortably clear of danger in 13th. Although he won't say it out loud, Roy Hodgson can consider this one a throwaway.
Here are three talking points that rose from the match:
Arsenal in a 4-3-3
With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan's signings imminent, Wenger may have turned another corner in his winding descent into (long overdue?) retirement. He’s all but admitted his penny-pinching transfer policy hasn’t reaped the expected results.
The boss' new mindset translated into a new set-up. For the first time in over two years, Arsenal lined up in a 4-3-3.
Mohammed Elneny and Mesut Ozil's partnership facilitated the change. The Egyptian played as the holding midfielder; the German went wide right. Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere fronted Elneny, enjoying unprecedented freedom.
The Gunners played their most free-flowing football of the season. They had more bodies in attack without exposing the defence.
Alexis Sanchez is gone but it looks as though the Gunners have found a superstar replacement in-house. Before coming off with a hamstring problem in the 34th minute Nacho Monreal single-handedly decided the outcome.
Not only did he score the opening goal of the game, the Spaniard provided two assists, one each for Iwobi and Koscielny. He managed it all in the opening quarter-hour. The goal was his third, which leaves him well behind Sanchez. Nevertheless fans will be wanting to see more and soon. Hopefully his removal was merely precautionary.
Reiss Nelson Premier League debut
Arsenal’s stunning first half meant the Gunners boss was given the freedom to experiment further after the interval. He did just that by rewarding 18-year-old Reiss Nelson his first ever Premier League minutes. Long known for signing young talent, the Frenchman has stuck to his philosophy despite the team's struggles in the Premier League.
For Nelson it was a memorable occasion. Previously, the youngster had only played 309 minutes of football in Europa League, FA Cup, and Carabao Cup games.Touted as one of the most exciting academy products the Gunners have produced in a long time, he came on in the 72nd minute for Mesut Özil, assuming the right wing role. It may have been a muted appearance for him, but he and Arsenal fans can remember this moment as the day Arsenal’s next mega-star was born.
Remember the face. Remember the name. Reiss Nelson is here.