Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal
Goals: Jordan Ayew (£5.0m) | Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m)
Assists: Cheikhou Kouyate (£4.9m) | Alexandre Lacazette (£9.3m)
Bonus Points: Ayew x3 Kouyate x2 Aubameyang x1
Jordan Ayew (£5.0m) rescued a point for Crystal Palace against a dogged, and arguably unlucky, Arsenal.
Fantasy managers looking for further evidence of Mikel Arteta’s benign influence on the Gunners found it in abundance during the first half at Selhurst Park.
The visitors controlled the match up until the break, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£10.8m) giving them a deserved lead when he produced a no-nonsense finish from Alexandre Lacazette‘s (£9.3m) astute pass.
Arsenal under their new manager are already a mile away from the disjointed mess they were towards the end of Unai Emery’s reign, with left-back Sead Kolasinac‘s (£5.2m) frequent forays down the flank covered by Granit Xhaka (£5.1m) and the entire team defending as a unit when required.
But a combination of the high wind and Palace’s standard obduracy meant the Gunners couldn’t turn their early fluency into a second goal.
And everything changed after half-time.
The influential Lucas Torreira (£4.7m) had to be replaced at the break, with Arteta’s initial diagnosis a vague one.
“It looks like (an injury). He had to come off at half-time. I don’t know (what it is). I’ll have to check with the doctor.” – Mikel Arteta
What did become clear was how well Torreira and Xhaka had nullified Palace’s midfield, because without the Uruguayan, Arsenal struggled to contain their hosts, who were level within ten minutes of the restart.
Cheikhou Kouyaté (£4.9m) fed Ayew, whose shot took a big deflection off David Luiz (£5.7m) on its way past Bernd Leno (£5.0m).
Things then turned from bad to worse for Arsenal when Aubameyang was shown a red card, following an intervention by VAR, for a challenge on Max Meyer (£5.2m) that might have been lacking in malice, but was definitely mistimed and decidedly ugly.
The Arsenal coach had no complaints with the decision.
“I just watched it and it looked nasty, to be fair. Knowing Auba, there’s no intention to make such a tackle. Hopefully, he hasn’t been injured and we are sorry for that. The decision was made and we have to accept it.” – Mikel Arteta
His Palace counterpart, Roy Hodgson, was not so hopeful that Meyer had escaped without injury.
“The position of his ankle as the challenge comes in is not a pleasant thing to see. I’d be very surprised if there isn’t any ligament damage there, but we won’t know that until Monday.” – Roy Hodgson
Pre-Arteta Arsenal might well have crumbled after the dismissal, but there was none of that at Selhurst Park.
They rode their luck when a looping header from James Tomkins (£5.0m) had to be cleared off the line, but even better chances came at the other end, with Nicolas Pépé (£9.1m) seeing his shot brilliantly tipped onto the post by Vicente Guaita (£5.1m), who then bravely saved the rebound at Lacazette’s feet.
A win would probably have flattered the Gunners, but their defensive solidity was generally impressive – Ainsley Maitland-Niles (£4.6m) did a particularly good job keeping Wilfried Zaha (£6.8m) very quiet – and their front three are likely to prosper against less well-drilled opponents.
Unfortunately for Fantasy managers, the most in-form of that trio, Aubameyang, won’t be adding to his three goals from the last four Gameweeks as he’ll now be suspended for the next three matches.
Arsenal have a very attractive long-term schedule, but investing in their improved defence still feels risky on the evidence of Arteta’s first three league games in charge.
Lacazette and Pepe might step up in the absence of Aubameyang, but Mesut Ozil (£7.2m) was little more than a bit-part player against Palace.
As for Roy Hodgson’s side, their defenders remain the best bet for points as they embark on a good eight-match run during which the first fixture, away at Manchester City, is by far and away the toughest test.
Zaha continues to be a misfiring luxury, while new loan signing Cenk Tosun (£5.7m) was starved of service during his 22-minute debut – a state of affairs he will probably have to get used to when playing for a side who’ve managed a league-worst 213 attempts this season.
Crystal Palace XI (4-5-1): Guaita; Riedewald, Cahill, Tomkins, M Kelly; Zaha, McCarthy, McArthur, Kouyaté, Meyer (Tosun 68′); Ayew.
Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Kolasinac, D Luiz, Sokratis, Maitland-Niles; Xhaka, Torreira (Guendouzi 46′); Aubameyang, Özil (Martinelli 70′), Pépé; Lacazette (Nelson 90+2′).
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