Arsenal 0 Crystal Palace 0: Gunners' winning run comes to an end but Arteta and Co stay above dangerous Eagles in table

OVER the top celebrations? Chance would be a fine thing.

On the day that football launched a Covid crackdown Arsenal and Palace turned the Emirates into a totally sterile zone.

In fact there was more chance of the players catching frostbite than coronavirus on a freezing night of thrill-free football.

Mikel Arteta has now been in charge of Arsenal for 38 Premier League games, the equivalent of a full season.

They were 11th in the table when he took over from interim boss Freddie Ljungberg and they are still 11th after a year under the new regime.

Three weeks ago it looked as though they were in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap before a run of four straight victories lifted the mood.

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But they still appear to be running through treacle as they struggle to bring any kind of consistency to their play.

Arteta blames the uncertainty of football in a pandemic for his team’s problems to live up to expectations.

Yet they were contained with relative ease by a Palace team who arrived at the Emirates with the aim of snatching a point and could easily have left with all three.

Their early game plan was quickly apparent as they set up in two rigid banks of four and challenged Arsenal to break them down.


And it didn’t take long for Arsenal’s frustration to set in as they found themselves constantly crowded out by their well drilled opponents.

Only Dani Ceballos had the vision and passing ability required to find the gaps.

But he had precious little movement ahead of him as Palace dug in for the long haul.

It was a full 20 minutes before either keeper was called into action when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cut inside to sting the palms of Vicente Guiata.

The out-of-touch Arsenal skipper admits that it has been tough for him to stay positive this season after struggling so badly in front goal.

And even when he did manage to get in behind the Palace defence he couldn’t find the finishing touch needed to force a breakthrough.

Bukayo Saka’s optimistic shot from distance was comfortably gathered by Guaita as it slowly dawned on the visitors that they weren’t up against that much.

And having comfortably ridden out the initial pressure, Palace threw off their defensive shackles to take their game to the Gunners.

Christian Benteke was the first to try his luck with a shot so tame it barely reached keeper Bernd Leno.

But there was nothing half-hearted about his thumping header which required a flying save from Leno shortly before half-time.

That came just minutes after James Tomkins had struck the bar after outjumping everyone to get to Eberechi Eze’s teasing free-kick before James McArthur’s follow-up was charged down.

Suddenly Arsenal were looking as rattled as their woodwork and they were relieved to reach the interval still on level terms.

And whatever it was that Arteta said to them during the break clearly had an effect as they came out for the second-half with a renewed sense of purpose and urgency.

Hector Bellerin fired narrowly wide and Alexandre Lacazette’s shot on the turn flew just the wrong side of the near post.

But for all the optimism generated by their recent winning run, they were still crying out a creative spark to turn their possession into scoring opportunities.

Arteta had resisted the temptation to throw Thomas Partey straight back into the fray after the £45million midfielder’s recovery from his latest injury.

And the former Atletico Madrid must have been wondering just what he had signed up to as he suffered in freezing silence among the subs.

He was finally introduced to the action for the final 20 minutes, seconds after McArthur had failed to turn in another Benteke header from close range.

But determined Palace were back in the groove by then and not even the Ghanaian powerhouse was going to knock them out of their stride.

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