Crystal Palace v Arsenal: match report

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Arsene Wenger endured another humiliating night as his side were soundly thumped 3-0 by Crystal Palace. Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and a first Crystal Palace goal for Luka  Milivojević saw The Eagles add to Arsenal’s woes.

 

For Sam Allardyce he collects his second scalp in nine days as his Palace side started April by beating Chelsea 2-1.

 

Wenger will now face a fresh inquest surrounding his future. In contrast, the Allardyce-effect is in full flight and the future of Crystal Palace looks to be edging closer to playing in the Premier League next campaign.

 

On a night when Arsenal looked half-asleep throughout, Palace were the sharper side from the first whistle with Wilfried Zaha and Townsend tormenting the Gunners’ back four with their lightening pace down the flanks.

 

The game was only 17 minutes old when Zaha burst into the penalty area and, even though he slipped, his cross met Townsend sneaking in between an oblivious Hector Bellerin and Shkodran Mustafi to bundle the ball into the back of the net from close range.

 

Arsenal retainined much of the possession but made it count for little. Mohamed Elneny saw a long-range effort tipped wide by Wayne Hennessey in the Palace goal and Alexis Sanchez saw his effort trickle wide but Arsenal muster no clear-cut chances throughout the 90 minutes.

 

Granit Xhaka was perhaps the worst player in yellow on Monday night. The Swiss international was sluggish across the ground allowing Cabaye and company to exploit the spaces in midfield and his usually sound passing range was well out of sync.

 

In a bid to claw his side back into the contest Wenger sent on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud in place of Elneny and an isolated Danny Welbeck. Yet, three minutes later, Arsenal found their deficit doubled thanks to a superb finish from Cabaye. The Frenchman collected a pass from Zaha before unleashing a delicious curling shot into the far side of Emiliano Martinez’s goal to send the home support into ecstasy.

 

Zaha continued his rich vein of form, ending the night with two assists and a standing ovation as he was withdrawn from proceedings on 88 minutes. The Ivory Coast winger is now beginning to fulfil the potential Sir Alex Ferguson saw in him when he paid £15m to bring him to Manchester United.

 

The Gunners had no plan B. Persisting to dominate possession of the ball and hit hopeful crosses into the box. The dismal performance continued, Martinez committed himself to a 50-50 ball with Townsend and sent the England winger tumbling – while little contact was made it was enough to convince referee Michael Oliver to point to the spot. Milivojević did the rest to put the home side three to the good.

 

Palace hounded the visitors into mistakes and the bouncing Selhurst Park played its part, too, creating a hostile atmosphere which saw players in yellow wilt.

 

Palace and their supporters enjoyed the game thereon in. ‘Ole’ chants greeted every completed Palace pass while Arsenal fans commenced their ongoing witch hunt for Arsene Wenger’s head, chanting “Arsene Wenger, we want you to go.” Perhaps this may be the straw which finally breaks the camel’s back, only time will tell.

 

Down the years, Wenger has often been the architect of the tactical masterclass. On this night, he found himself on the receiving end of one from long-time nemesis Big Sam.

 

Palace could have extended their advantage further with Christian Benteke having half chances to add a fourth goal, and, but from a credible performance from Martinez between the sticks for Arsenal, they may well have got it.

 

The autopsy of Arsenal has now reached new heights. The futures of key members of the squad still way up in the air, their once masterful manager, increasingly looking a caricature of his former self, yet to decide his fate and now Arsenal’s Champions League hopes hang by a thread. Currently seven points off the pace for fourth spot perhaps their lacklustre season looks ever more like marking the end of two decades of Champions League football, and perhaps Arsene Wenger.

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What we learned: 5 things from the F.A. Cup semi final

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A late Anthony Martial goal sent Manchester United into their first F.A. Cup final since 2007. At the expense of Everton, and an under pressure Roberto Martinez, Louis van Gaal will now compete for his first piece of silverware as Man United boss. Here are five things we learned from the pulsating semi-final.

 

  1. Roberto Martinez is almost certainly leaving Everton this summer

In what was a pivotal week for the former Wigan Athletic manager Martinez saw his side played off the park in the Merseyside Derby in a 4-0 drubbing which only got worse as the game went on. The rotten cherry on top of this stale cake is Martial’s late winner in Saturday’s semi-final. With fan patience now at the end Martinez is walking a tightrope and looks almost certain to lose his job this summer with underperforming stars, an inability to defend and lack of tactical flexibility.

 

Everton face four more games this season against: Bournemouth, Leicester City, Sunderland and Norwich City. Even if Martinez manages a clean sweep and collects 12 points from the remaining fixtures it will surely be nothing more than a last act of defiance before the Everton board pull the trigger on the Spaniard.

 

  1. Martial, Rashford & Lingard are the makings of a fearsome front three

Be it by managerial brilliance or luck – be that good or bad – Louis van Gaal has integrated Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard into the Manchester United side with great success. Add the superstar in the making that is Martial and they have the makings of a truly terrifying front three. Not since Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez have United had an attack so full of pace, directness and trickery. The chances are this will not be the permanent front three of The Red Devils going into next season – especially if Jose Mourinho takes charge. The trio clearly have a bond on the field which sees them bring the best out of each other and the sample size is becoming larger to show that it is not fluke that they are quality players together. Against Everton’s back line they constantly ran at them forcing the defenders to back off and created the lion share of Manchester United’s chances.

 

  1. Lukaku and Stones need new voices

This could go for the entire Everton team but no players need a new voice in their head quite like Romelu Lukaku and John Stones do. Both have had their heads turned by potential moves to bigger clubs in England and abroad and the inconsistencies of The Toffees has not helped matters. On a day when Everton needed their big players to have a big game they were left disappointed – particularly in the case of the big Belgian. Lukaku saw his penalty saved by David De Gea and that summed up what was an overall poor performance, Lukaku has had attitude problems in the past and they surfaced again today with the former Chelsea hitman not being at his terrorising best which has seen him find the net 25 times this campaign.

 

Stones by contrast had a mixed bag but his regression throughout the season is clear for all to see. He needs a new coach and manager before he forever lingers in the bracket of looking better than he is. Stones failed to steal the ball from Rashford in the build up to United’s opener and then allowed Marouane Fellaini to steal a yard on him giving the Belgium international a goal against his former employers. Perhaps this summer will see the pair shipped out of Goodison Park and for their sake they may need it.

 

  1. Semi-finals can be amazing

Often semi-finals can be dull one goal affairs with both teams often looking not to lose the tie before going on to win it. Not the case with this one, attack was the best form of defence and, although van Gaal’s men bossed the opening 45 minutes, we were treated to a mouth-watering clash with bags of chances and barely a moment to send a tweet out before the next bit of drama unfolded. Martial’s goal was a fitting finish to 90 minutes of rollercoaster action.

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during the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.

 

  1. The F.A. Cup still matters

Of course it still maters and it always will. The F.A. Cup is part of the very fabric of our culture in England. However, the reason it matters is changing greatly. The cup now represents buying managers a time. Arsene Wenger saw fans keep patience with him after back-to-back F.A. Cup wins in 2014 and 2015. Van Gaal could now see his position safe should he guide Man United to cup glory – the same could be said of Alan Pardew and Quique Sanchez Flores who are also under huge pressure to keep their jobs.

 

The F.A. Cup in recent times has come under more scrutiny as the perception grows that the bigger teams in the Premier League do not treat it with the same respect as they once did with Premier League and Champions League honours top of their list of priorities. Now it can be seen as a life raft keeping managers afloat. Perhaps the prestige has taken a knock but the drama has certainly intensified, you only have to go back and look at a champagne soaked Arsene Wenger clenching his fists to see what victory in the F.A. Cup can mean.

Underrated XI

The Premier League season is nearly over and while talk ramps up of who will win it and who will be taking home Player of the Year honours come the end of the season lets not forget that many owe a lot to their teammates – unsung heroes or perhaps simply not getting the credit they deserve. An underrated XI for those who deserve a mention when the season comes to a close.

 

Goalkeeper: Adrian

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The Spanish shot stopper has been key to the success of West Ham United this season. Consistently developing into one of the Primer League’s best goalkeepers the 29-year-old has risen to the task when his goal has been peppered. The Premier League boasts the best collection of world class goalkeepers: David De Gea, Joe Hart, Thibaut Courtois and Petr Cech – although Adrian is not of that calibre he is in the tier below. Adrian has eight clean sheets this term – double that of Courtois and has been the hero for the Hammers on more than one occasion with a series of performances where he simply refused to be beaten. Confident in all aspects of goalkeeping from shot stopping to coming through crowds to gather crosses the former Real Betis man provides his back four a calming presence.

 

Left back: Aaron Cresswell

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Back to the well for more West Ham talent – this article could be completly comprised of West Ham, Leicester City and a smattering of Tottenham and Watford players but don’t worry – I’ve tried to be creative and get a wildcard or two. Back to the issue at hand – what is underrated about Cresswell is just how good he is. While other fullbacks take the plaudits: Danny Rose, Christian Fuchs and Hector Bellerin. Cresswell has been one of the best fullbacks in the division and continues to get better. With the energy to get up and down the pitch providing great width and pace for the new look West Ham Cresswell has thrived under Slaven Bilic. Equally adept at attacking and defending the 26-year-old Englishman is a rare fullback in that he provides balance. Often fullbacks can be exposed when it comes to defending and although Cresswell is not a superstar he’s steady enough. His ability to cross has seen him rack up three assists so far this campaign and although he has been overlooked for Roy Hodgson’s England squad if he continues to develop under Bilic he will surely be pushing the likes of Rose, Leighton Baines and Ryan Bertrand for a spot.

 

Centre back: Craig Cathcart

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during the Barclays Premier League match between Watford and Newcastle United at Vicarage Road on January 23, 2016 in Watford, England

Once of Manchester United’s academy Cathcart served his apprenticeship in the lower leagues before becoming the heartbeat of Watford’s back line. The Northern Irishman displays composure and a never-say-die attitude which has helped Quique Sanchez Flores’ side get to an F.A. Cup semi-final as well as almost securing their Premier League status for another season. Cathcart has made 18 blocks this season as well as winning 64% of his aerial duels – stats on par with John Terry as well as Laurent Koscielny. Showing the quality that Manchester United knew he possessed as a youngster the centre back has grown into a reliable contributor.

 

Centre back: Scott Dann

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during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace at The Hawthorns on February 27, 2016 in West Bromwich, England.

Although Crystal Palace are in free fall and now face a relegation battle Dann has been just as solid as Cathcart. A goal scoring defender Dann is a nightmare to deal with at set pieces and has an impressive return of five goals this season – he’s actually their second highest goal scorer this season just one behind Yohan Cabaye. The former Blackburn centre half is the leader of the Palace back line leading his team in blocks (37) and ranks second in clearances (157). Dann’s stock may have fallen as Crystal Palace have but not all their problems can be placed at his door. The centre back remains one of their better players.

 

Right back: Erik Pieters

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Although he is deployed at left back Pieters was a must in this team. His rugged style of play teamed with his energy has been a staple of what Stoke have done this season. Pieters has standout performances against Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea – breaking his nose in the victory over the London club. Pieters soldiered on and helped keep out Hazard and company and was a microcosm of what Stoke are – rugged and competitive with finesse sprinkled throughout. The Dutchman has more interceptions (85), successful tackles (85) and blocks (17) than Danny Rose, Hector Bellerin and Cesar Azpilicueta. The fact that he plays for The Potters may be the reason as to why he is not showered with more praise.

 

Holding midfielder: Mousa Dembele

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during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal at White Hart Lane on March 5, 2016 in London, England.

Dembele is the kind of player every title winning team needs. An unsung hero who can do a job wherever he is asked to do one. He is just as adept at defending as he is attacking and has the energy required to play Mauricio Pochettino’s style of football. While Eric Dier, Harry Kane and Dele Alli take a lot of the plaudits – rightly so – the Belgian has steadily contributed to Tottenham’s title charge with three goals in 24 appearances and provides excellent protection to the back four with his rock solid partnership with Dier.

 

Centre midfield: Willian

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xxxx during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on December 26, 2015 in London, England.

Although often deployed as a winger those spots are taken. However, Willian simply has to make this team – although Chelsea are now more stable than earlier on in the season it cannot be forgotten how often the big haired Brazilian dragged his side to points. His show stopping free kicks, energy and overall slick class has shown him to be Chelsea’s best player by a very long way this season. But in a side with Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, Willian’s contribution can often get lost – he provides excellent protection to his full-back with his willingness to track back as well as being an integral part of Chelsea’s attack. Willian is a rare breed of hard working and a class act on the ball – traits often used to describe Alexis Sanchez. The knock of Willian has always been his goal return but he has upped his goal production with ten goals in all competitions.

 

Centre midfield: Jonjo Shelvey

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 03: Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Newcastle United at Goodison Park on February 3, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Mark Leech Sports Photography/Getty Images)

His attitude may leave something to be desired but since his £12m move to Newcastle he has shown up. Nearly anything good Newcastle do on the pitch runs through the former Swansea midfielder. Shelvey has shown his passing range with some killer balls and outstanding assists and is not afraid to hit them from range when afforded the space. In Newcastle colours he may finally be the answer to the void left by Yohan Cabaye when he left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2014. Perhaps Shelvey gets an unfair deal because his attitude can let him down at times but when on the ball he displays enough to show that he has justified his six England caps. Since his arrival at St. James’ Park the Englishman has three assists and has created 15 chances – more than any of his teammates in the same time.

 

Left wing: Jermain Defoe

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Justified in his positioning as he has been deployed there – rightly or wrongly. Defoe seems consistently underrated but the fact is that he scores goals. The Sunderland forward is a danger when inside the opposition box and has 12 goals to his name this campaign. While he can blow hot and cold there is no doubt that he is still one of the best goal poachers in the Premier League even at the age of 33. Defoe’s goals may yet keep Sunderland up this season and if that is the case then his contributions cannot be underrated any longer.

 

Right wing: Yannick Bolasie

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during the Barclays Premier League match between Crystal Palace and West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park on April 18, 2015 in London, England.

Again, like Dann, perhaps Bolasie’s stock has fallen as Crystal Palace have plummeted down the table. However his contribution was highlighted when he was sidelined through injury. Bolasie possesses pace, power, trickery and can finish. Direct in his style of play and with Palace nearly always funnelling the ball his way it is obvious what he brings to Alan Pardew’s side. Bolasie may have hit his ceilling at Palace and may need a move to a bigger club to reach his true potential. With so many great attacking players in the Premier League some naturally get forgotten about and the Congolese winger is one of them. Palace’s slide coincided with Bolasie’s absence from the squad and their lack of cut and thrust in the wide areas was telling. He may be the key man to steer them to safety and perhaps F.A. Cup glory.

 

Centre forward: Troy Deeney

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during the Emirates FA Cup sixth round match between Arsenal and Watford at Emirates Stadium on March 13, 2016 in London, England.

This one was the easiest of the lot. What Deeney does for Watford is magnificent and he does not get the credit he deserve. He is Robin to Odion Ighalo’s Batman and the two have formed a deadly partnership up front. While Ighalo grabs the headlines for the goals he scores it is often his captain that is the provider. Deeney has six assists so far this season to go with his nine goals and has created 47 chances for his team – more than Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy and just as many as Romelu Lukaku. The Watford captain leads his team with a blend of intelligence and strong play – his movement off the ball causes defenders all sorts of problems. Deeney can drop deep, play with his back to goal or run in behind defenders. His ability to hold the ball up and bring others into play is superb and a trait that can go unnoticed – however if he ever stopped doing that the criticism would be “You’ve got to hold the ball up and get your midfielders into play.” If Deeney could add ten more goals to his game he would be spoken about in the same terms as Kane and perhaps even Vardy.

Pardew’s big gamble

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during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace at White Hart Lane on January 11, 2014 in London, England.

 

In a topsy-turvy season which can see a string of good results turn a team’s campaign on its head and vice versa, Crystal Palace find themselves marred in the middle of a six game winless streak firing blanks in five of those six games. January has come at the perfect time for the London club as they desperately need reinforcements up front and desperate times call for desperate measures and they have banked it all on one of the biggest wildcards in the Premier League.

 

As Alan Pardew attempts to halt the slide he has turned to one of the most controversial strikers in the Premier League in Emmanuel Adebayor. Signed on a free in January, Adebayor does have the pedigree to help Palace start to climb the table again however his unpredictable attitude makes it a huge gamble for Pardew and one that could blow up in his face should the big Togo forward go AWOL as he’s been known to do.

 

The former Arsenal man has scored 96 goals in 230 appearances – a strike rate of a goal every 2.3 games and will add much needed fire power to a Crystal Palace team in which the forwards have just six goals in a combined 47 appearances this term. Leaving midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Wilfred Zaha as their top goal scorers with five goals apiece.

 

It has often been taken into account that without Yannick Bolasie in the side adding more cut and thrust out wide that Pardew has struggled to get the attacking momentum going. However it seems the lack of a natural goal scorer is starting to catch up with the Eagles and has seen them plummet into the bottom half of the table.

 

Adebayor will certainly provide goals but there the reality is that their new striker is also an unpredictable, and expensive, powder keg. Adebayor’s services do not come cheap and if this gamble blows up in Pardew’s face it could be tricky too offload him as Tottenham found out. The rangy front man seems to respond to the type of man management style Pardew employs – as he displayed when under the management of Tim Sherwood where the former Aston Villa manager revitalised his career for a short time. He needs to be believed in and the occasional arm around him to make him feel loved. If Pardew can do that then Adebayor will repay him with goals.

 

Unfortunately the ex-Spurs striker is a tale of two extremes and he can go from the sublime to the ridiculous. Drama, stories of witchcraft being cast upon him and a string of controversial moments on the field ,including a bust up with then Arsenal team mate Nicklas Bendtner as well as his infamous celebration for Manchester City when scoring against Arsenal, could turn the usually well run club into a circus.

 

Although Adebayor is yet to play a single minute of first team football this campaign he has been keeping himself in shape and posting videos on social media to prove it. But there is never any substitute for match fitness and with the slump Palace are in they need their newest addition to hit the ground running and do not have the luxury of waiting for him to reach full fitness and match sharpness.

 

Now 31-years-old the hope will be that Togolese hitman has mellowed out and is ready to be a leader on and off the pitch. Palace’s forwards are yet to find the net from open play, Adebayor may not be as hard working as the rest of the unit and will have his diva moments but his record shows he knows where the goal is.