ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
Crystal Palace 1
LONDON • Mikel Arteta is learning all the time but the manner in which his Arsenal side squandered an excellent start to be deservedly pegged back 1-1 by Crystal Palace was hardly anything new.
They were in total control for the first third of their Premier League match at Selhurst Park yesterday, leading through a smartly conceived goal by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but tailed off sufficiently to let Jordan Ayew equalise.
And worse was to come.
The defining picture of this game will be the moment Aubameyang's sickening 65th-minute challenge made contact with Max Meyer's lower leg, which appeared to bend slightly under the force.
It rightly earned the Arsenal captain a red card after a VAR (video assistant referee) check. While a draw here was ultimately fair, the Gabon striker's imminent suspension will do nothing for Arteta's hopes of drilling some long-absent consistency into his team.
"I think the first 35 minutes were exactly what I want our Arsenal team to play like," the manager said on BT Sport after the game.
"We were at it, we were very dominant, we controlled the game, we were in the right positions and we were so good in transition.
"But after that we had a spell when we started to give free kicks away. We conceded a goal where we switched off completely and it's unacceptable, I am upset with that.
"We reacted very well after conceding and after Auba's red card, we were the team that I expected because everyone was at it again."
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The Spaniard had, at the outset, been able to field the same side that defeated Manchester United 2-0 on New Year's Day.
Roy Hodgson, with a sizable injury list, had no such luxury and the sense was that Palace would have to be at their punchiest to escape unscathed.
They appeared to be asleep for the opening 12 minutes and were punished before they had made a meaningful entry into the visitors' half.
It was a beautifully worked move that released Aubameyang, who was slipped through by Alexandre Lacazette after David Luiz's straight ball from defence had been laid off first-time by Mesut Ozil.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the third Arsenal player to score and be sent off in the same Premier League match, and the first since current manager Mikel Arteta did it against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park in October 2013.
The entire sequence was a snapshot of the slick, incisive football that Arteta demanded of his players.
From the 25th minute, Palace finally managed to apply pressure and a scuffle between Ayew and Sokratis Papastathopoulos sparked the kind of righteous indignation that can change a game's tone.
By half-time, the uplift had brought only a shot from Cheikhou Kouyate, but at least this was now a contest.
The second half swiftly showed why Arteta will need far longer to cut out a deep-rooted lack of attention to the simple things.
They switched off at a quick free kick and Meyer was allowed space and time to cross from the right. Ayew's left-footed effort then ricocheted off Luiz and over goalkeeper Bernd Leno.
Arsenal had become sloppy and, to Aubameyang's cost, terribly loose. When Meyer nicked the ball past him on halfway, he was booked by referee Paul Tierney for what seemed at full speed to be a careless clip.
Replays instantly offered no doubt as to what would be going through the minds of the VAR.
It had in fact been a reckless and potentially career-threatening tackle, Aubameyang's studs crashing into Meyer's grounded ankle.
Meyer limped off, and the inevitable red card was shown after a two-minute delay.