Feb 2, 2014, 12:54 PM EST
On his first full return from a long-term knee injury, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed Arsenal – and the rest of the Premier League – just exactly what the title contenders were missing.
The 20-year-old England international picked up a brace to make the Gunner midfield look even scarier than it did coming in, and they returned to the top of the Premier League table with the 2-0 win at the Emirates.
Arsenal dominated the first half, owning nearly 80% of possession through 25 minutes. They couldn’t break through early, however, with Crystal Palace’s defending not pretty but effective.
While Arsene Wenger struggled with the zipper on his puffy coat, Arsenal struggled with a final product in the Crystal Palace half.
They continued to probe and prod the Palace defense, but nothing would come of it in the first half as Crystal Palace’s shape actually improved as the first 45 drew on. Arsenal finished the first half with 75% of the possession, but only had one successful take-on out of seven they attempted.
Out of the break, though, the Gunners attack made much better use of the open areas they’d been given, and they delivered straight away.
Santi Cazorla ran through acres of space in the midfield, and he found Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making a far-post run. The winger got Speroni to commit and then touched effortlessly over the keeper’s head for the opener.
Oxlade-Chamberlain made his run behind Palace defender Joel Ward who had completely lost touch with the young England international until it was too late.
With the visitors pegged back, they nearly had a chance to draw level just after the goal. A deflected cross from the left flank found Yannick Bolaise in the box who headed on for Cameron Jerome. The striker remained onsides and had a brilliant chance to score with a diving header, but the angle was too tight and Wociech Szczesny came to Arsenal’s rescue.
Arsenal stepped it up after that, and while a nervous 25 minutes went by without any insurance, Oxlade-Chamberlain returned for an encore. A brilliant one-two with Giroud saw Ox crash the box and cut back across goal before finishing low into the far corner.
It finished out with Arsenal maintaining that high possession number, and the pair of breakthroughs were enough to fell an otherwise staunch Palace defense on the day. Marouane Chamakh was largely a nonfactor on his return to the Emirates ,where he was generally a disappointment during his time at the London club.
Arsenal return two points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table, with the Citizens to play Chelsea tomorrow. With the West Bromwich Albion point earlier in the day, Palace fall to 17th, just a lone point off the relegation zone.
Arsenal – Oxlade-Chamberlain 48′, 73′
Arsenal – Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Ozil (Gibbs 84′), Podolski (Rosicky 71′); Giroud (Bendtner 84′).
Crystal Palace - Speroni; Ward, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr; Bolasie, Dikgacoi, Jedinak, Puncheon; Chamakh (Gayle 82′), Jerome (Bannan 56′).
Jan 31, 2015, 7:27 PM EST
The actual games took a backseat to shenanigans as two of four semifinals places were booked on Saturday.
Jan 31, 2015, 5:55 PM EST
All of Saturday’s action from Spain and Italy.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:57 PM EST
Arsenal and Southampton hope to keep their assaults on the Top Four in order, while Aston Villa and Swansea City hope to snap skids.
Jan 31, 2015, 4:19 PM EST
And to think, we’ve still a pair of Sunday matches on the slate. Let’s go through what’s done and dusted.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:40 PM EST
There were eight games in the PL on a busy Saturday. Here’s how it all went down with recaps, analysis and much more.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:20 PM EST
Manchester City’s boss thought his charges were very good, but is disappointed to snare a solitary point against Chelsea.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:12 PM EST
Lampard was the last player on the pitch, saluting both groups of supporters.
Jan 31, 2015, 3:06 PM EST
What did we learn from the tense draw at Stamford Bridge? Here’s three things.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EST
Giving Chelsea and City’s players a mark out of 10.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:21 PM EST
All the goal scoring came within the 41st and 45th minutes at Stamford Bridge, as City failed to cut into Chelsea’s first-place advantage.
Jan 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Want to see Benzema’s brilliant bender? Of course you do.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:40 PM EST
Blind believes United are getting close to what LVG expects.
Jan 31, 2015, 1:21 PM EST
It started off slow and tentative, but the big match between Chelsea and Manchester City is opening up
Jan 31, 2015, 1:04 PM EST
Moyesy is learning Spanish from a Manchester United fan…
Jan 31, 2015, 12:50 PM EST
For the Toffees, defense is the way forward for the rest of the season.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:33 PM EST
“It’s always difficult to be honest when you’ve had a long break,” Defoe said. “But I’ve had a mini-pre-season and I’m getting sharper and sharper.”
Jan 31, 2015, 12:16 PM EST
Sunderland now has four points breathing room from the drop zone, and three points space from Burnley.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:10 PM EST
Walters grabs first career hat trick as R’s still searching for first road point.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EST
Losses from QPR, Hull and Leicester keep West Brom three points shy of the drop zone.
Jan 31, 2015, 12:04 PM EST
Toffees put in resolute display to climb clear of danger.
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