Starting formation - Arsenal vs Crystal Palace
Starting formation – Arsenal vs Crystal Palace

First game of the season – Arsenal started brightly by keeping the possession. Crystal Palace scored in the 35th minute to take the lead. Arsenal made a comeback and bagged three points.

Arsenal dominated from the first minute itself. Arsene Wenger’s side, which played a 4-1-4-1 formation with captain Mikel Arteta as the holding midfielder, kept 77.7% of possession.

Crystal Palace, with caretaker manager Keith Millen, went into the game as underdogs and used negative tactics – “time-wasting”. Most part of the match was played in Palace’s half.

Throughout the match it was Santi Cazorla vs Martin Kelly, Alexis Sánchez vs Joel Ward, Kieran Gibbs vs Jason Puncheon and Mathieu Debuchy vs Yannick Bolasie on either wings, Jack Wilshere vs Mile Jedinak and Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley in the midfield region. Arteta on the center of the field and the two center backs of Arsenal were the freest players on the pitch and of course Palace’s Frazier Campbell.

Tight marking from Crystal Palace, pressing and closing down –

Palace’s manager Toni Pulis resigned just a few days ago. Having lost the man who was the reason for the club’s success last season was a huge blow to the players. Palace’s interim manager asked his players to stay deep and soak up the pressure. They were also asked to tightly mark a few players and press continuously in the midfield region, where Arsenal launched most of their attacks last season.

Arsenal’s players on both the wings were completely man marked – the fullbacks marked the wingers and wingers marked the wingbacks.

Ward marking Sánchez. Dann marking Sanogo.
Ward marking Sánchez. Dann marking Sanogo.
Puncheon tracking Debuchy deep into his own half. Sánchez being marked by Ward in the midfield.
Puncheon tracking Debuchy deep into his own half. Sánchez being marked by Ward in the midfield.
Sánchez and Ward.
Sánchez and Ward.

Sánchez was not allowed to make his usual straight forward runs.

Jedinak and Ledley pressed and occasionally marked in the midfield. Their main duty was to protect the defenders and to intercept the through balls from Ramsey and Wilshere.

Wilshere being closed down by Palace's central midfielders.

Arsenal attack through their center (as usual) and right –

Palace rarely put pressure on Arsenal’s defense and never tried to press higher up the pitch. Palace’s interceptions were made in the midfield region. Majority of tackles were also made in the midfield region.

Interceptions and tackles by Crystal Palace - Four Four Stats Zone.
Interceptions and tackles by Crystal Palace – Four Four Stats Zone.

Reason for this was – Arsenal always tried to attack through their center and right. In the middle Ramsey and Wilshere controlled the game. Arteta also posed some threats to Palace by passing the ball over the defense.

Ramsey trying to make a run through the channel.
Ramsey trying to make a run through the channel.

On the right new boys Sánchez and Debuchy orchestrated the attack. Sánchez and Debuchy formed a great partnership and threatened Crystal Palace. Bolasie, who likes to play higher up the pitch, was forced to track Debuchy. Palace’s left back Ward had a tough time coping with Sánchez.

Sánchez's take ons and Ward's tackles - Four Four Stats Zone.
Sánchez’s take ons and Ward’s tackles – Four Four Stats Zone.

Arsenals’ left –

Palace’s right wing was rarely tested by the forwards of Arsenal. Man marking was done by Palace’s players on Arsenal’s players on this side of the pitch also, but the concentration of attack on Arsenal’s right flank meant the players were freer on Palace’s right.

Ramsey and Wilshere swapped positions to make up for this but it looked as through Wenger was satisfied with Arsenal’s one-sidedness while attacking. It was only in the dying stages, when Alex Oxlade Chamberlain came on, that Wenger asked Sánchez to team up with Nacho Monreal and play on the left flank.

Palace’s left back Kelly, who rarely played for Liverpool last season, put on a good performance on his Palace debut. Along with Puncheon, Kelly put pressure on Gibbs. Gibbs had to pin back to his place due to this.

Goals-

All the goals came from defensive errors.

Crystal Palace went ahead with Brede Hangeland’s header in the 35th minute. It was Sánchez who was marking Hangeland. Taking advantage of his height and physicality, Hangeland slipped away from Sánchez and rose above Laurent Koscielny to score.

Arsenal’s equalizer came from Koscielny’s header off Sanchez’s free kick – the two responsible for conceding the goal earlier joined to undo their mistake. Koscielny was not marked at all – neither did Hangeland nor did Jedinak.

Ramsey’s winner was a mistake from substitute Dwight Gayle. He let loose Ramsey inside the box.

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