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Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal: Three talking points from Selhurst Park

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Photo: Reuters

Arsenal moved to within a point of rivals Liverpool in fourth place in the Premier League table as Alexis Sanchez’s sublime second-half double ended Crystal Palace’s unbeaten run on Thursday night.

In Arsene Wenger’s record-equalling 810th Premier League match in charge of the Gunners, the Frenchman saw his side lead early on when Shkodran Mustafi poked in unmarked at the far post.

The visitors failed to convert their first-half dominance into further goals before the break though and it seemed like they may pay the price for it when Andros Townsend turned home Wilfried Zaha’s cross shortly after the break.

Palace well and truly had momentum – and the Selhurst Park crowd – on their side after that but two wonderful goals from Alexis Sanchez in the space of four second-half minutes knocked the wind out of the home side’s sails, with the Chilean thumping home before deftly touching into the net.

Roy Hodgson’s side refused to roll over and hit back with a period of pressure of their own, with the influential Zaha skewing a late header wide before substitute Bakary Sako blazed over when well set.

The hosts did pull one back when James Tomkins nodded home in the 89th minute but it was a case of too little too late for Palace, who tasted defeat for the first time in their past nine league matches.

Just a third away victory of the season sees Arsenal move onto 37 points, the same number as Tottenham in fifth, whilst Hodgson’s side remain a point above the relegation spots in 16th place.

Arsenal nullify in-form Palace

Heading into Thursday night’s match Arsene Wenger’s side possessed one of the worst away records in the Premier League this season with just two wins in their nine outings, and the prospect of a trip to a rejuvenated Crystal Palace – without a loss in eight – could have served up another banana skin.

And whilst the 3-2 final score-line suggests that it was a close game, there were times during the first-half especially where the Gunners were playing some fluent football close to their very best.

The dangerous duo of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were influential in attack, combining with intricate one-touch football on numerous occasions only to be lack the telling finish in front of goal.

There was one particular move before the break that scythed open the heart of the hosts team in emphatic fashion, building up five or six one-touch passes and edging towards the area before the ball broke to Granit Xhaka on the edge of the box, whose goal-bound effort was blocked.

Yet for all their signs of promise – and moments of individual brilliance from Sanchez during his quickfire double – their defensive fragility almost let the hosts back in when the game seemed gone.

At 3-1 ahead and in the 80th minute they all of a sudden became a bit frenetic, lifting Palace hopes by allowing them to have a few chances before they grabbed a deserved second, and had there been another five minutes of football the host most probably would have scored again.

If anything it was a performance that summarised everything both good and bad about Wenger’s tenure in charge on his milestone 810th match, but he’ll be quietly pleased about his side’s display.

Zaha will gain interest in January

If Crystal Palace had in fact managed to get anything out of the match then they would have been completely indebted to a wonderful performance from Wilfried Zaha.

The ex-Manchester United winger has come in for criticism throughout his career for his lack of consistency on the field but there was nobody doubting his prowess at Selhurst Park last night as, time and time again, he showed why he’s cut out for a better side than Palace.

He was their most potent threat from the start, being the man to drive forward when his midfield sat deep in their own-half, and by the second-half he had Calum Chambers on toast down the left.

It was a trademark darting run that set-up Palace’s equaliser, twisting and turning before smartly pulling the ball back for Andros Townsend to tuck home, but more than that he ran his socks off right until the full-time whistle such is his determination now. Yet this could be bad for Palace fans.

With the January transfer window creeping up around the corner there’s no doubt that Zaha’s season so far will garner attention from the top teams, and deservedly so as most would agree.

His future may lie away from Selhurst Park but for now he deserves the plaudits for leading the Eagles’ revival over the past two months, turning things around from their perilous early position.

Sanchez puts himself in the shop window with brace

You could almost hear every football fan across the country think the same thing when Alexis Sanchez’s second went in on Thursday night – isn’t it funny he’s scoring now January draws near?

The Chilean’s failed move to Manchester City on deadline day during the summer was as well-documented as it was poorly executed, and the fact that contract negotiations are still yet to take place when his current deal runs out at the end of the summer suggests an Emirates exit is nigh.

But whilst the conjecture will go on over Sanchez’s whereabouts come February let it not detract from an excellent, and well overdue, individual performance that showed he still has a lot to offer.

He has somewhat struggled so far this season to reach the heights of last year where he carried the current Arsenal team. For a point of comparison, this time 12 months ago he had already scored 12 times and assisted five times, but fast forward and he’s ‘only’ managed to find the net on seven occasions and assist three times in the 2017/18 campaign.

That said, he still has higher tallies than Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, and it’s just the ridiculously high standards that Sanchez himself set last season that mean he’s come in for some criticism this year.

Within the space of four second-half minutes he had snatched the initiative back away from the hosts after a period of pressure following their equaliser with two finishes right from the top drawer.

His first was the definition of a snap-shot, working less than a yard of space before thumping in at the near post, whilst his second was a far defter touch into the net from Jack Wilshere’s superb raking ball over the top of the defence.

Arsenal fans will be rightfully fearing the worst ahead of the January transfer market but, until anything is concrete with regards to his exit, all he can do is keep contributing in an Arsenal shirt.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.

Arsenal

Despite Celtic success, Arsenal should avoid Brendan Rodgers

Arsenal will be faced with looking for a new manager this summer.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

The end had been coming for a long time, but it was a surprise on Friday when Arsene Wenger announced he would be standing down as Arsenal manager.

The tributes quickly followed and a manager that had cut a sorry figure for the past few seasons was forgotten. Instead, his successes and impact on English football became the focus.

It is too soon to tell who the club’s priority target is to replace their legendary manager, but the early favourite with the bookies is Brendan Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman is arguably the best British coach in football at the moment and his experience at two big clubs, Liverpool and Celtic, puts him in contention for the Arsenal job.

The Celtic majority shareholder has already commented on the rumours and told Sky Sports that the club wouldn’t stand in Rodgers’ way if he wanted to move back to the Premier League with Arsenal:

“I’m glad he’s the favourite. He’s an outstanding person. We wouldn’t want him to leave but we won’t force him to stay. Hopefully, his love for the club and the setup here will enduce him to stay at the club.”

Although they provide a good starting point, the odds from various bookmakers aren’t reliable at this stage of the recruitment process. It would be expected that Arsenal have a number of managers in mind, but there is a long way to go before an appointment is made.

A number of the media have already talked up Rodgers as the best candidate for the role, due to his style of football and experience at two big British clubs. At Liverpool, he came close to winning the club’s first Premier League title during the 2013-14 season and got the team playing some excellent football.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The 45-year-old has continued to impress with Celtic as he guided the club to an unbeaten domestic season during his first year in charge. There are question marks over the quality of the Scottish League, but Rodgers has stood out as the best manager the club have had in a number of years.

In addition to the domestic success, he has overseen some good performances in Europe, albeit their overall achievements on the continent have been modest.

By being the best British candidate, there will be a lot of people pushing for Rodgers to get the job, but it would be a poor appointment by Arsenal.

Despite his Liverpool teams playing some exciting football, he failed to win a single trophy during his time at Anfield. He came close to lifting the Premier League title, but in hindsight, the reason for that was the genius of Luis Suarez and goal-scoring form of Daniel Sturridge rather than the influence of Rodgers.

The best managers deliver results on a regular basis and can establish their team as regular contenders. The 2013-14 season will be remembered fondly by Liverpool fans, but their failure to build on it didn’t reflect well on Rodgers. They were quickly knocked out of both the Champions League and the Europa League before limping along to a 6th place finish.

During his time at Anfield, Rodgers did okay without ever looking like he belonged at one of England’s biggest clubs. His success at Celtic has seen him repair his reputation, but it is a huge change to go from being the dominant team in Scotland to rebuilding Arsenal.

The Gunners need to bring in a proven winner to instantly win over the players and have the authority to rebuild the club from top to bottom. Rodgers isn’t that man. He needs to show he can win major honours outside of Scotland before being considered for a top Premier League job again.

This summer is too soon for him and Arsenal would be foolish to consider him as an option.

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Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere should consider success of former team-mate and leave North-London

The England international looks set to leave the Emirates outfit this summer.

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Jack Wilshere
Photo: Getty Images

If anyone this season can speak of a season defined by their rejuvenated form then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would take the gold as the once rejected. The once-out-of-favour winger at Arsenal has now transformed himself into one of the key additions to Liverpool‘s settled central midfield three.

Jürgen Klopp has well and truly got the best out of the 24-year-old this term and this marked improvement could inspire the Ox’s former team-mate, Jack Wilshere, who may considering that a move away from North London is now necessary to reignite his career.

Wilshere was hauled off in embarrassing fashion on Thursday night during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with CSKA Moscow, with the Russians leading 2-0, and the player’s reaction to being axed early highlights just how unsettled at his boyhood club he  has become.

Reports in the Telegraph claim that, despite enjoying a rare, relatively injury-free campaign for the Gunners this season, Wilshere chose to turn down a new deal at the Emirates after refusing to take a pay-cut. Arsenal are keen for the England international to stay but won’t increase their original offer.

With the World Cup coming up and the 26-year-old still yet to establish himself as a regular England starter it remains to be seen whether Arsene Wenger can get the best out of the man that was once hailed the ‘future of the Three Lions’, even by the likes of footballing legends such as Barcelona’s Xavi.

This season Wilshere has featured in 33 matches for the London outfit and has made a personal record number of appearances since the 2013/2014 campaign.

(Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images,)

However, since the offer of a new deal was made to Wilshere earlier this year, Mesut Ozil has signed a new contract that almost trebled his salary to £350,000-a-week.

In that time, Arsenal have also agreed to pay £200,000-a-week to Henrikh Mkhitaryan and £180,000-a-week to club-record signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Thus highlighting just how far Wilshere has fallen down the financial pecking order at the Emirates.

Currently, the Englishman is set to become a free-agent in June.

After watching former Emirates team-mate Chamberlain firing Liverpool to the Champions League quarter-finals, with his sensational strike against Premier League champions Manchester City, should Wilshere look to the Klopp effect to get his fading career back on track?

It would definitely prove a risky move for both parties, if the Merseysiders were to pursue the signing.

However, flying high in Europe with once-written-off forward and PFA Player of the year favourite Mohamed Salah, who is already on 40 goals for the season, Liverpool are beginning to represent the perfect club for players to reignite their careers.

Wilshere should take comfort in the knowledge that Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is the perfect manager to revive some of football’s fallen giants.

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