Arsenal now have an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with just 10 matches to play after their latest convincing victory over struggling Crystal Palace 4-1 at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners put on an attacking clinic with left winger Gabriel Martinelli creating the breakthrough goal, and right winger Bukayo Saka netting twice. Forward Leandro Trossard dished out another assist to Granit Xhaka, who also got in on the scoring action.
But visiting Palace, who fired their manager just two days before, could have taken the lead with a little bit of luck after Wilfried Zaha hit the post on 11 minutes and watched the rebound bounce off Arsenal’s ‘keeper and out for a corner instead of goal-bound.
Palace, managed in this game by Under-21 boss Paddy McCarthy, clawed their way back to 3-1 at one point, but that was just their sixth goal scored in their last 13 matches. They are now winless in those 13 contests in all competitions, a barren streak that ultimately cost Patrick Vieira his job, and could cost Palace relegation sitting just three points above the bottom three.
Arsenal, meanwhile, are rolling toward their first Premier League title since 2004 and they next get ready to host another relegation battling side, Leeds United, after the FIFA international break on April 1. Manchester City, who have a game in hand, will have tougher opposition against Liverpool on the same day.
Arsenal lineup (4-3-3, right to left): 1-Ramsdale (GK) — 4-White (Jorginho, 83′), 16-Holding, 6-Gabriel (Kiwior, 86′), 35-Zinchenko (Tierney, 65′) — 8-Odegaard, 5-Partey, 34-Xhaka — 7-Saka, 19-Trossard (Jesus, 65′), 11-Martinelli (Smith Rowe, 83′)
Crystal Palace lineup (4-3-3, right to left): 41-Whitworth (GK) — 2-Ward, 6-Guehi, 5-Tomkins, 3-Mitchell — 4-Milivojevic (Hughes, 65′), 28-Doucoure, 15-Schlupp (Ahamada, 83′) — 7-Olise (Eze, 83′), 22-Edouard (Ayew, 65′), 11-Zaha
No William Saliba, no problem
Much was made in the lead-up about the absence of the French centre-back for the first time this Premier League season, but Rob Holding held his own as his replacement. Then again, Crystal Palace rarely tested Arsenal with only an occasion run by Wilfried Zaha and Odsonne Edouard in the first half — usually triggered by the busy Jeffrey Schlupp.
The Gunners are fortunate that Saliba’s back injury, which should also keep him out of international duty for France, came against Palace and with two weeks to rest up until the next match.
Martinelli, Saka, lead way for Arsenal
With Crystal Palace playing defense-first, and focused on staying organised and breaking up Arsenal’s play, the Gunners needed a magic moment from one of their front players to break open the scoring. Lately, that breakthrough moment has been coming through the fleet feet of Gabriel Martinelli, who danced past Palace right-back Joel Ward and lashed home the first tally of the day that set the Gunners on their way.
It wasn’t lost on Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta that Martinelli was still getting over a failed penalty conversion in a shootout loss against Sporting Lisbon on Thursday. “That was the reaction he had after missing the penalty,” Arteta said. “I asked him [Saturday] how he was and he said ‘I want to go again.'”
Arsenal or Manchester City: Who survives April gauntlet?
Arsenal have an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League, but Man City still have a game in hand with the postponed West Ham match still to be made up.
The head-to-head showdown between Man City and Arsenal on April 26 is going to go a long way toward deciding the title, and Arsenal have a slightly easier path leading up to that match, while Man City are juggling three competitions.
Arsenal in April: The Gunners have home games against Leeds (April 1) and Southampton (April 21), sandwiching back-to-back road trips to Liverpool (April 9) and West Ham (April 16). That’s just four matches until the April 26 head-to-head.
Man City in April: The Citizens also face Liverpool (except at the Etihad on April 1), but they travel to high-flying Brighton (April 23). Matches against Southampton (April 8) and Leicester City (April 15) are also in the mix, along with their UEFA Champions League quarterfinals against Bayern (April 11 & April 19), and an FA Cup semifinal against Sheffield United on April 22.
That’s three more matches on Man City’s calendar. And that’s without accounting for the West Ham game in hand. It’s hard not to like Arsenal’s chances all things considered.
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace updates, highlights
Final: Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace
86th min.: SUB Arsenal. Jakub Kiwior gets his first taste of Premier League action for Gabriel at centre-back.
83rd min.: SUBS for both sides. Jorginho and Emile Smith Rowe on for Arsenal (for Ben White and Gabriel Martinelli). Crystal Palace introduce Naouirou Ahamada and Eberechi Eze (for Jeffrey Schlupp and Michael Olise).
75th min.: Goal Arsenal! And just like that, Arsenal thump home another. And it’s too easy. Kieran Tierney lifts up his head and feeds Saka on the ground, who takes it first time. The Palace goalkeeper is beaten again.