Premier League English

Arsenal’s failure to strengthen key areas laid bare in Crystal Palace defeat

Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the top four took a huge knock on Monday after losing 3-0 to Crystal Palace with the performance bringing into focus several weaknesses in the Gunners.

Treated to a slice of humble pie with the defeat, Mikel Arteta was left to rue the distasteful frustrations of another “unacceptable” display by his men, although in reality the result is something that could have been foreseen months ago.

Having convincingly recorded six wins in their last seven Premier League matches, the Gunners looked a safe bet to secure a top-four finish ahead of Tottenham and Manchester United and a win in this game would have advanced them three points ahead of the former and six clear of the latter with a game in hand.

However this was not to be as the north London side were left feeling awkward by Patrick Vieira’s men, with the energetic Conor Gallagher and Wilfried Zaha being menacing with their determined pressing. And when Palace had their chances to score, they took them with precision as Jean-Philippe Mateta, Jordan Ayew and Zaha sealed a convincing victory.

Arteta had neither answers nor excuses for defeat and labelled the performance “unacceptable”, saying: “We discussed it just before kick-off, the way you win here is when you compete the way you should.

“That means you win duels, have presence and the composure on the pitch to manage certain situations. They are a really physical team and the pitch is not the best to do that, so you have to find a way to do other things that usually you don’t have to do. We didn’t manage to do that.”

Arteta’s squad lacked adequate depth in defence with two of his key defenders Kieran Tierney and Takehiro Tomiyasu both injured, leaving Arsenal’s hopes of securing Champions League qualification in jeopardy.

It was already a foregone conclusion that Arsenal needed to sign a striker to offset the eventuality of Alexandre Lacazette and possibly Eddie Nketiah leaving on free transfers, after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his exit. As a result the Gunners were left woefully short up front.

The problem was further compounded when the Gunners allowed Calum Chambers to join Aston Villa, leaving Arteta with only Cedric and Nuno Tavares to provide back-up to Tomiyasu and Tierney. Although Cedric has been generally adequate as a deputy, the same can’t be said of the fast but infinitely raw Tavares.

Arsenal’s failure to reinforce the squad in the winter transfer window has been starkly highlighted by Tottenham’s mind-boggling improvement of late, aided and abetted by the inclusion of Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur from Juventus whom Antonio Conte brought in. Tottenham are now ahead of Arsenal on goal difference after demolishing Newcastle 5-1.

Now, with nine games left in the season, it is all up to the Gunners gaffer to do all he can with the players at his disposal, come what may. It’s a tough route that’s immediately ahead of them with heir next two fixtures against Brighton and Southampton now holding much greater importance, not to mention the with tough fixtures against Chelsea and Tottenham also looming ahead.

Hopefully there will be no regrets for ignoring the warning signs back in January if the Gunners are unable to finish off what they started to secure a top four finish.