VAR is still causing controversy, but it is time we get on board

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during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Iran and Spain at Kazan Arena on June 20, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Saeid Ezatolahi wheeled away in delight. He would soon be joined by his teammates on the pitch and those still wearing bibs who’d occupied the dugout. The Rostov midfielder thought he had just dragged Iran level against Spain, taking them one step closer to the last-16, in their Group B clash.

 

Ezatolahi offered a prayer and kissed the turf. But his moment was to turn sour. Referee Andres Cunha placed his hand in the air, then his finger to his ear, listening intently. Spanish players surrounded the Uruguayan official claiming for a handball – claiming for anything to spare their blushes.

 

Two minutes passed, which must have felt like an age to those in white, eventually the ref waved the goal off as Ezatolahi had drifted half a yard offside after the ball had taken a flick off an Iranian head before he met it to beat David De Gea.

 

Spain retained their slender advantage and the landscape of the group was changed in the 2010 World Champion’s favour, whereas moments earlier it had shifted to one were Fernando Hierro’s side would have needed to get something from Morocco in their last group game – no gimme after their valiant showing against Portugal earlier in the day.

 

The Video Assistant Referee is yet to appease many watching the World Cup, but there is evidence that the highly controversial technology is working. Antoine Griezmann created a small part of history against Australia when he scored the first goal after a VAR decision. The Atletico forward was challenged by Josh Risdon. Fittingly, it was Cunha who also officiated that match. He allowed play to go on for a short while before receiving word that the challenge of the long time Barcelona target needed to be reviewed. A penalty was given. Girezmann dispatched it comfortably.

 

Of course, VAR is still open to ones interpretation of “clear and obvious”, Phil Neville and Jermaine Jenas railed against the technology on the BBC after the Group C clash – insisting the officials had still come to the wrong conclusion.

 

“I Don’t like VAR, I haven’t don’t from day one.” Said England Women manager Neville. “It has to be clear and obvious. We have three different opinions in the studio so it’s not clear.”

 

Former England international Jenas added: “That is one that shouldn’t even be sent for review. The referee made his decision by not giving the penalty. It was not a clear and obvious mistake. That’s where VAR can come off on the wrong side of things.”

 

Indeed, Jenas and Neville are correct, the judgement is still made by humans – prone to error even after looking at an incident more than once and at several angles. The system is not definitive like goal-line technology. It’s still subjective, still leaving the door ajar for people to interpret it however they like.

 

But it has received praise from a manager at the tournament, a manger whose side were on the wrong end of a VAR decision. South Korea played Sweden in their opening Group F contest.

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Viktor Claesson went down under a challenge from Kim Min-woo. Referee Joel Aguilar initially allowed play to run, with South Korea on a promising counter attack, after being consulted by those in the VAR booth the Salvadoran official pointed to the spot and Andreas Granqvist converted the penalty.

 

Afterwards, South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong said: “We could say it was regrettable, but he was tackled between his legs. We do agree that it was a good call.” Tae-yong’s dignified response should be appreciated when it would have been easier to jump on the bandwagon and insist that VAR has no place in football.

 

The resistance VAR has been met with is of no surprise. Football was equally as reticent to fully embrace goal-line technology when the original ideas were pitched: would it slow the game down? Would it take away from that moment of spontaneity from the goal scoring team? Regardless of the questions, one overarching question remained: Do we want the decision to be correct? Ultimately, the answer is “yes”.

 

Is VAR perfect? Absolutely not. But is it improving and will it improve in the future? Undoubtedly. Marcus Rashford said as much after England’s 2-1 triumph over Tunisia in which Harry Kane was subject to some rough treatment in the penalty area. The Tottenham striker received little sympathy from the officials and no action was taken against the Tunisians grappling with the England captain.

 

“There are certainly some decisions where they have to at least check to see if it is a penalty or not.” Said the Manchester United forward,

 

“It does need improving and I think it will improve over time. The idea of bringing VAR into the game is spot on but there is something to improve on.”

 

Rashford remains openminded about the system, as should we all. Football detests patience with a passion, in a microwave existence football has forgotten the delights of slow cooking their innovations.

 

Like managers, players and executives, the VAR system needs time to succeed.

 

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Morocco vs Portugal match report

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Cristiano Ronaldo added yet another record to his ever-growing collection and Morocco became the first team officially eliminated from the 2018 World Cup as they lost 1-0 to Portugal in Moscow.

Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game with a clinical diving header with just four minutes on the clock. The Real Madrid forward scored his 85th international goal, making him Europe’s all-time top international goal scorer overtaking another Madrid great, Ferenc Puskas, who scored 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Puskas’ record had stood for 62 years before the 33-year-old took his goal tally for the tournament to four as the former Manchester United winger looks to add the World Cup, as well as the competition’s Golden Boot, to his extensive trophy cabinet.

Outside of the goal the current European Champions offered very little in attacking endeavour, that was left to their African opposition. After being spellbinding in the 3-3 draw against Spain in their group opener, they were much more lethargic against a feisty side. Hakim Ziyech and Nordin Amrabat were at the heart of the Moroccan’s creativity.

The latter will be haunting Raphael Guerreiro’s dreams for days to come after the Portugal left-back was turned inside out on his flank by the Watford winger. Morocco played with intent, unfazed by the European Champions.

The African outfit were much the better team in the first half and have every right to feel aggrieved that their final group match will be contested with little more than pride on the line.

Newly signed Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio was forced into action several times, including a contender for save of the tournament when he clawed away a Younes Belhanda header in the second half.

Ronaldo cut an isolated figure up front. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was starved of service, waving his arms in frustration at the lack of creativity behind him. It needn’t matter in the end as Morocco spurned the chances they created, captain Mehdi Benatia wasted two, identical, glorious chances when a loose ball fell to him eight yards out, but he could only trash the efforts high over Patricio’s crossbar.

The Atlas Lions never ran out of hope or effort but eventually ran out of ideas. Their players dejected on the Luzhniki Stadium turf. The absence of a true centre forward ultimately costing them. Perhaps they are the most unfortunate team in Russia after losing in heartbreaking fashion to Iran, Aziz Bouhaddouz putting through his own net in the fifth minute of injury time.

Portugal all but confirmed their place in the round of 16, but the Jekyll and Hyde nature of it will be a cause of concern for Fernando Santos. No matter the nature of the performance the Team of the Five will not care if they are a team of one and Cristiano Ronaldo has to drag them to add the World Cup to their European Championship triumph.

Uruguay vs Egypt match report

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‘Slow burner’ would be the diplomatic way to describe the ninety minutes of arduous work, huffing and puffing before Uruguay’s quality eventually showed in the closing moments as they beat Egypt 1-0 in Group A of the 2018 World Cup.

Truth be told, the South Americans never found their rhythm, leaving it to Jose Maria Gimenez to save their blushes. He rose high to meet a Carlos Sanchez free-kick in the 89th minute, kickstarting their campaign.

The moments of quality where fleeting, the best coming in the dying embers of the game when Edinson Cavani twice threatened the break the Egyptian hearts – first with a wicked volley from the edge of penalty area which required a marvellous save from Mohamed El-Shenawy, and shortly after with a powerful free-kick from similar range which rattled the post.

Moments after it would be heartbreak for the North African outfit when Gimenez finally broke down their resistance.

Mohamed Salah was deemed fit, but only fit enough for the bench – that did not stop the Egyptian supporters going wild whenever his face adorned the big screen.

While the current Liverpool goal machine sat on the bench, the former one toiled on the pitch. Luis Suarez looked out of sorts in, missing a golden opportunity from two yards out, his first touch eluding him, and his often-relentless energy found wanting.

La Celeste were slow and predictable for most of the first half, if they are to live up to the tag of ‘dark horses’ for the tournament they will have to elevate their performance for when they take on Saudi Arabia in Rostov next Wednesday, that should not be difficult given the Saudi’s performance against the host nation on Thursday.

Captain Diego Godin represented the 14th ranked nation’s best attacking threat for much of the game with his lung-bursting runs from defence into midfield. Frustration etched on his face as his country laboured.

Suarez’s day went from bad to worse, he spurned multiple chances and even engaged in his trademark playacting in the final seconds. El-Shenawy twice denied the Barcelona forward, first with a smart save immediately after half-time, and later when the Al Ahly goalkeeper smothered a fifty-fifty ball when the Uruguay all-time top goal scorer had taken one touch too many.

The Central Stadium was far from its maximum capacity with large sections of the venue sporting nothing but empty orange seats. However with the average price of the a ticket being 24,966 Russian Rubles (£300), over half of the average Russian monthly salary, you could hardly blame any locals for failing to turn out en masse. Still, the core of Egypt fans which had turned out created a hostile atmosphere, the chants turned to uncontrollable screeches whenever their hero, Salah, was on screen.

The African side had their moments, too, moments that made one wonder if the outcome would have been different if the Premier League golden boot winner was on the field. Mohamed Elneny shot over while Trezeguet was a constant thorn in the Uruguayan side but could not produce the final ball to genuine bother.

For now, only the win matters. But Oscar Tabarez will want to address the sluggish 80 minutes and get his side coming out of the gate quicker if they are to progress deep into the tournament.

Russia vs Saudi Arabia match report

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Robbie Williams sang the classic ‘Let Me Entertain You’. Perhaps for neutrals they feared this may be the only entertainment they got as the two lowest ranked sides in the tournament went head-to-head in the opening game.

Russia will have left their fans happy if not entertained as they soundly beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. With the victory the host nation ensured that they would not be the first hosts to be beaten in their opening game of a World Cup.

For as solid as Stanislav Cherchesov’s side was, the Saudis were equally as poor – even Russian President Vladimir Putin looked almost apologetic as he joked with the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and FIFA president, Gianni Infantino.

Russia played some eye-catching football throughout the match, but their opening goal came through the way of a simple cross and simple header. Yuri Gazinsky rose highest to meet an inswinging Aleksandr Golovin cross and power Sbornaya in front and score his first international goal.

The World Cup is the largest shop window in football and Golovin will have thrust himself right into the spotlight with two assists and a curling free kick to round off proceedings with the last kick of the game.

The 22-year-old’s second assists was for Villarreal forward Denis Cheryshev, who had replaced Alan Dzagoev after the Euro 2010 joint top scorer collapsed in a heap holding his hamstring.

The former Real Madrid forward produced a magnificent piece of skill, clipping the ball over two oncoming sliding Saudi defenders before rifling the ball into the roof of the net and register his first goal for his country.

Artyom Dzyuba sealed the game for the 2018 World Cup hosts with a clever header on the 70-minute mark before Cheresyv struck again with a brilliant goal. He ran on to a Roman Zobnin knock down and advanced into the penalty area before unleashing a brilliant shot with the outside of his left boot. An early contender for Goal of the Tournament – even if the tournament is still only one game old.

Golovin completed his Man of the Match performance in the third minute of added time when he left Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Maiouf floundering trying to reach his bending free kick from 22-yards out.

Juan Antonio Pizzi, who oversaw Chile’s failed World Cup qualifying campaign, could only watch on in frustration, flicking back his long mane of hair in anguish. He must now hope his lowly side rebound in Rostov next Wednesday when they face Uruguay.

Manchester United v Chelsea: match report

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Jose Mourinho produced a tactical masterclass. His side were smarter, sharper and more ruthless than their opponents in every department and showed fans and critics alike what he can do when the big matches roll round. The game in question here, though, was Chelsea’s 3-1 destruction of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United almost 12 years ago. On that day Mourinho enhanced his reputation further as Chelsea marched towards a record-breaking triumph in the Premier League.

 

12 years is a lifetime in football and this time, Mourinho seems like he is rebuilding his once unquestionable reputation. The Portuguese managed his best Man United game yet as he got the better of rival Antonio Conte in a feisty encounter. Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera got the goals in what turned out to be a convincing 2-0 victory at Old Trafford and perhaps gives new life to their top four ambitions as well as the title race.

 

The Special One sprung surprises on Easter Sunday choosing to leave star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the bench and lining up in a 4-2-2 set-up with Rashford and Jese Lingard up front. Ander Herrera was tasked with marrying himself to Eden Hazard – flashbacks of the F.A. Cup tie where the Spaniard was given his marching orders after a late challenge on the Belgian may have had Man United fans worried. Not so this time as the tenacious midfielder stuck to his task diligently and frustrated the Chelsea talisman in an all-action man of the match performance.

 

Mourinho’s men flew out of the traps at Old Trafford with the pace and understanding between Rashford and Lingard causing problems for the Chelsea back three. The game was not even ten minutes old when Herrera stole possession – questionably as big shouts for handball appeared to be justified – before sliding an excellent ball in behind for Rashford to chance and calmly finish. A goal move unable to materialise, perhaps, if Ibrahimovic was spearheading the attack.

 

Diego Costa, often the subject of many subplots throughout Mourinho’s time at Chelsea, yet has seemed more measured under Conte, showed his unsavoury side yet again. The brutish Spanish striker found himself embroiled in battles with United’s defensive duo Marcus Rojo and Eric Bailly. His frustrations earned him a yellow card after a late challenge on Pogba.

 

Chelsea looked unusually unfocused, drawn into Manchester United’s clever mind games and acts of street-smarts. The focus was so much lacking that Gary Cahill was more attentive in hauling Lingard up from the ground during the build up to Herrera doubling United’s advantage.

 

It took Chelsea 45 minutes to muster their first effort on goal albeit a frustrated lash from Costa.

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Whatever Conte’s half time message was to his flat Chelsea side at the forefront of it must have been not to concede another goal early in the second half. However, some three minutes into the second period they found themselves further behind. Chelsea failed to clear their lines once more and Ashley Young, who was given the captain’s armband for the occasion, drove into the Chelsea penalty area before another failed clearance fell to Herrera. The Spaniard, the beneficiary of two slices of good fortune after his alleged handball in the first half for his assist for Rashford’s goal, arrowed his shot through a crowd of players which ricocheted off player’s in blue shirts on its way past Asmir Begovic in the Chelsea goal.

 

Before the hour mark Conte attempted to turn the tide in this giant game of chess. Cesc Fabregas came on to offer much needed creativity in place of Victor Moses, asked to operate out of the other full-back position after a pre-game injury to Marcos Alonso.

 

Mourinho countered with a tactical change of his own, sacrificing pace for control, as he brought on Michael Carrick for Lingard. The switch left Rashford isolated but that did not stop the young England centre forward from hustling and bustling his was up front and making life uncomfortable for the Chelsea defenders.

 

N’golo Kante failed to get his usual grip in midfield, partly due to the excellence of Mauroane Fellaini and Herrera in midfield scurrying around refusing to give the Chelsea key players a moments rest. Matteo Darmian found himself handcuffed to Pedro on the other side of the field refusing to let the former Barcelona wide man find space to operate in.

 

Mourinho’s side could have filled their boots in truth, Rashford smashed an effort into the side netting and Young spurned two excellent chances from the edge of the area to inflict more misery onto Conte’s men. England manager Gareth Southgate was in the stands and will have been impressed with what he saw from the Manchester United English trio – especially in a new tactical set-up.

 

Rashford was brought off with just two minutes of time remaining to a standing ovation and allowed Ibrahimovic to get on in a cameo appearance.

 

Conte pleaded with his side to push forward in the closing stages but by that point United had become water tight, refusing to give an inch.

 

The final whistle brought with it a rapturous ovation, it was perhaps the most complete United performance since the days of Ferguson, and certainly the best day so far in Mourinho’s time as Man United manager. The former Chelsea boss could not have asked for much more in a week where his side have a vital away goal in the Europa League quarter-final against Anderlecht capped off by a monumental league victory over what many believe to be the champions elect. Mourinho was at his meticulous best – substituting captain Young fully knowing it would take the winger-turned-full-back more time to exit the field due to him passing on the armband.

 

United fans chanted Mourinho’s name in unison clearly buoyed the masterful display. The same fans which were often sickened by Mourinho bringing his Chelsea teams to Old Trafford and furthering his reputation as The Special One now get to experience perhaps what is come down long road ahead.

Five potential replacements for Mesut Ozil

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Mesut Ozil’s future at Arsenal is just as unclear as fellow teammate Alexis Sanchez and manager Arsene Wenger. The German playmaker has been linked with moves to Turkey as well as a return to his homeland and even Manchester United have reportedly expressed and interest, which would bring with it a reunion with former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho.

 

Should Ozil leave Arsenal in the summer here are five potential replacements for the classy creator:

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5.

Mario Gotze

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Cost: £30m – £40m

Currently out injured with a metabolism problem, the scorer of the goal which crowned Germany world champions has many hallmarks of Ozil. Gotze is classy with a deft touch and the ability to spot passes which slice open opposition defences. Another hallmark he shares with his fellow German is his consistency – or lack of as it may be. Gotze failed to impress during his spell at Bayern Munich which lead to a reunion with Dortmund.

 

However, the German would offer almost a like for like replacement for Ozil. With the 24-year-old also keen to play in the Premier League he may well be wooed by Arsenal should they express and interest in the playmaker.

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4.

Ivan Rakitic

Club: Barcelona

Cost: £35m – £50m

The Croatian wizard made Barcelona tick in his early days at the Catalan giants but has since been wildly inconsistent and has fallen out of favour with Barca boss Luis Enrique. Rakitic offered a replacement for long-time metronome Xavi in the heart of the Barcelona midfield along with Andreas Iniesta. That alone speaks to how highly the former Sevilla man is rated.

 

Rakitic has been deployed in a deeper role in Spain but could easily push up the field and influence attacking play more. Arsenal is a club with many similarities to the Spanish powerhouses in terms of their style of play which would suit the Croat perfectly. His elusiveness in between the lines and vision often leaves defenders scrambling and attacking players licking their chops at the service he provides.

 

Rakitic may prove costly but with his pedigree at the top level he would almost certainly be worth the large outlay and with Arsenal making noises that they are ready to throw the kitchen sink at the Premier League next season they may be able to tempt the Barcelona midfielder to London.

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3.

Bernardo Silva

Club: Monaco

Cost: £55m – £75m

This guy is going to cost an awful lot. Silva is being courted by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and a bidding war could soon ensue.

 

With Leonardo Jardim’s side in vogue with young, exciting players strutting their stuff in both domestic and continental competition, Silva is just one of a handful of sort after players.

 

A classic number ten Silva has been highly praised by former Portugal great Deco, who believes the former Benfica product can be one of the world’s best. With the ability carve open a defence with his combination of exception dribbling and passing the young superstar is a difference maker for his current employers. If Manchester United, Real Madrid and other have their way he will soon be a difference maker for them, too.

 

The 22-year-old Portuguese playmaker has scored six goals to date as well as contributing seven assists this campaign as Monaco continue their charge towards the title.

 

Perhaps a wildcard for Arsenal with them no longer mentioned in the bracket of elite clubs when talking about Europe’s brightest youngsters going elsewhere. However, if they are willing to bid an extraordinary amount and pay the youngster extraordinary wages then they may just get their man.

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2.

Riyad Mahrez

Club: Leicester City

Cost: £35m – £48m

The Algerian made noises at the end of last season that he wanted to make the step up from The Foxes. However, then manager Claudio Ranieri convinced the playmaker to stay at least one more season to spur Leicester on their maiden Champions League campaign.

 

While the English champions have surprised many with their run to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite club competition, their form in the league has been dismal – costing Ranieri his job. Mahrez has often looked disinterested during Leicester’s faltering title defence which could be cause for concern for any club interested in the Algerian’s services. However, much like Ozil, his ability should see perspective buyers overlook some of his inconsistencies.

 

At the start of the season Arsenal expressed an interest in the Algerian playmaker, as well as Barcelona, and it seemed to have turned his head. Should Mahrez leave the champions this summer he could well be a replacement for Ozil.

 

Mahrez is already acclimatised to the Premier League way of playing, technically gifted and with an eye for goal – as displayed during Leicester’s title run he may offer a slight upgrade over Ozil, who is often criticised for his lack of goals for Arsenal.

 

The 26-year-old has certainly see his stock drop from where it was this time last year. Leicester may not be able to command the same fee for the playmaker as they perhaps could have 12 months ago but would still get a handsome amount for their star player. Arsenal would probably be willing to pay the £45m it would take to acquire the Algerian.

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1.

Isco

Club: Real Madrid

Cost: £25m – £35m

 

The Real Madrid misfit looks set to leave the Spanish capital this summer with a number of potential suitors trailing the former Malaga midfielder. Falling behind Toni Kroos and Luka Modric in the pecking order for manager Zinadine Zidane the frustrated Isco is desperate for first team action.

 

Arsenal would offer the diminutive Spaniard a chance to start games with a void left by Ozil as well as experience the Premier League and – perhaps – be part of a rebuilding process at The Emirates should Arsene Wenger leave the Gunners in the summer, or even if he stays.

 

Isco was heavily linked to Manchester City in 2013 before being tempted to Madrid. Clearly the Spanish international is open to plying his trade in England.

 

Isco may have his inconsistencies but that could be put down to him not getting a run of games in the Madrid team. What is clear, is that when he is on his game he beautifully links defence to attack and can open pick the killer pass which results in a goal.

 

His style of play is very comparable of fellow Spaniard David Silva. If he could replicate anywhere near the standards Silva has set in England then he shall be very well received indeed by Arsenal fans.

 

Weight of pass in the modern game is often overlooked but Isco has the class and technique to perfectly pick out runners without them having the break stride before firing into the back of the net.

 

The price tag may start to rise with rumours circulating that even Barcelona are looking to prize Isco away from their bitter rivals. Arsenal are certainly in the mix, however. A tug-of-war for the 24-year-old’s signature is a likely outcome – in the past Arsenal have often fallen away when the bidding wars start. They did manage to outmuscle Liverpool for the signature of Alexis Sanchez however, so perhaps the Arsenal hierarchy are no longer afraid to go toe-to-toe with other clubs to get their man.

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.