C Palace 3 – 0 Arsenal

Arsenal’s top-four hopes took a significant dent in a 3-0 defeat by Crystal Palace that leaves Tottenham in fourth place after the Premier League weekend.

The Gunners do have a game in hand on their north London rivals but this was an out of character performance from Mikel Arteta’s side, as first-half goals from Jean-Philippe Mateta and Jordan Ayew and a second-half Wilfried Zaha penalty handed fantastic Palace just their second win over Arsenal at Selhurst Park since 1980.

The rearranged postponed derby between Spurs and Arsenal, to be shown live on Sky Sports on May 12, is shaping up to be a potentially decisive encounter in the race for Champions League qualification.

Crystal Palace have now lost just one of their last 11 games in all competitions as former Gunners legend Patrick Vieira continues to do a fine job.

Buoyed by three of their players – Conor Gallagher, Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi – winning caps for England over the international break, Palace were aggressive from the first whistle. That desire to win the second balls forced the opening goal when Mateta headed home from close range after Joachim Andersen forced the ball across goal without knowing too much about it.

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Mateta heads in early Palace opener

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Ayew doubles Palace’s lead!

Palace are yet to be beaten when scoring the first goal in the Premier League and only Wolves have taken fewer points than Arsenal from losing positions, so it was not overly surprising to see Palace double the lead before the break. Ayew galloped onto a crisp pass from Andersen that split Gabriel and Nuno Tavares and slotted home for just his second goal in his last 55 Premier League appearances.

Arsenal have not come back from a two-goal deficit at half-time to win in the Premier League in 14 years and Arteta withdrew the ineffective Tavares, starting in place of the injured Kieran Tierney, with Gabriel Martinelli called for from the bench for the second half.

It took Arsenal 67 minutes to create a meaningful chance against a well-drilled Palace side but Martin Odegaard fired wide from just 10 yards out. But any hope of a comeback was dashed when Odegaard fouled Zaha in the penalty area.

The winger dusted himself down and fired home to seal the points.

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Zaha wins penalty and smashes home Palace’s third

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Nketiah’s long-range effort smashes the post

Eddie Nketiah struck the bar with a beautiful late effort but it was just one of those nights for Arteta’s lethargic side that not many people will have seen coming.

What went wrong for Arsenal?

Arteta’s team came into this game on the back of five straight away wins, scoring 14 goals along the way. For the first time in many years, genuine hope has been seen amongst the fanbase that this young team could take the club back to the heights of yesteryear.

So, where did this first-half performance come from? The only outfield change of personnel from their last victory at Aston Villa was at left-back where Tavares replaced the injured Tierney, who suffered a knee injury while on international duty with Scotland after playing in both of their friendlies.

Arteta said: “He came back from international duty and he felt something wrong in his knee. We scanned it and there is some damage there.

“He’s seeing the specialist on Tuesday and hopefully we will know more but it’s not looking good.”

It’s harsh to say Tavares’ inclusion was the reason behind the lack of rhythm of the team but the inexperienced full-back looked miles off the pace – as he did on his last appearance when he was substituted after just 35 minutes in the FA Cup defeat by Nottingham Forest. It was his indecision, along with Gabriel, that caused the space for Ayew to scamper through and double Palace’s lead.

“I think Nuno Tavares has to come off,” said Jamie Carragher at the break.

“He’s at fault for the second goal. But you’ve got to admire Ayew’s goal from Palace’s point of view.

“As a young player you’re taught to think that the player next to you is a dummy or a poor player. Tavares stops because he thinks Gabriel is going to cut it out but Ayew keeps running.”

Tavares’ performance was a stark reminder of the work still needed to be done at Arsenal in terms of strengthening their squad. The 22-year-old was indeed replaced at half-time by Martinelli with Granit Xhaka moving to the left-back spot. It certainly helped with their performance in the second period but not enough to even threaten a comeback.

What’s next?

Arsenal host Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday, April 9; kick-off 3pm.

Up next for Crystal Palace is a trip to Leicester in the Premier League on Sunday, April 10; kick-off 2pm.

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