Another season has arrived for Arsenal Football Club. On Friday night, the Gunners got their campaign off to a fine start with a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park. A header from Gabriel Martinelli and a Bukayo Saka-induced Marc Guehi own goal sealed the three points for Arsenal. However, the proceedings were not straightforward. After an electric opening twenty minutes for Mikel Arteta’s men, Palace increased their influence on the match and made things nervy. But Arsenal prevailed, and now look toward a home clash against Leicester next weekend. Below are three Hits and three Misses from a successful first fixture.
The Brazilian wasted no time opening his account for the season, nodding in Arsenal’s first from point-blank range twenty minutes in after a well-rehearsed corner kick made its way to him. Martinelli was consistently dangerous, popping up earlier on in the match with a great opportunity to make it 1-0. He missed in rather frustrating fashion, but his combinations with Gabriel Jesus are highly encouraging. Off the ball, he was energetic and really helped make Arsenal’s press difficult to live with.
White arguably had the toughest assignment of the night: keeping Wilfried Zaha quiet. But he managed it admirably, keeping the Ivorian winger from impacting the scoreline. The Englishman finished the match with eight tackles, the most by an Arsenal player in a single Premier League away game since the 2016-17 season. Aside from a few clumsy moments and a yellow card, White had a terrific game at right-back. More performances like this one will help dispel the myth that he is not an adept defender.
Welcome to The Arsenal, Wilo. Saliba looks more and more special with every match he plays for the club, and his first competitive outing was no different. The 21-year-old was dominant in his Premier League debut, making excellent interventions in tricky situations and remaining a calm presence in the back line even as Palace threatened. The Frenchman finished with 100% of his aerial duels won, 94% pass accuracy, no player having dribbled past him, and no fouls committed. For his troubles, he was awarded the Man of the Match award. It’s still early days, but Saliba might be a game changer for Arsenal.
In his first competitive match as captain, Odegaard was somewhat disappointing. The Norwegian seemed a bit off the pace, and his decision-making was found wanting in key moments. In particular was his chance in front of goal, created by Jesus seemingly from nothing. The Brazilian teed up Odegaard inside the penalty box, but the midfielder refrained from shooting first-time with his right foot. Instead, he opted to pass toward Martinelli, but lost possession. Off the ball he was decent, but Odegaard’s performance with the ball needs to be improved upon.
Against Palace, the biggest Gabriel looked uncharacteristically shaky. He was definitely less secure at the back than Saliba was, and appeared particularly susceptible to Palace’s long balls. However, he made some decent clearances and helped keep the clean sheet. But Gabriel was also clearly the least adept player on the ball in Arsenal’s starting back line, which may cause problems in the future.
Granit Xhaka’s yellow card
Was it a dive? Yes. But the yellow card referee Anthony Taylor gave Xhaka for his intentional fall outside the box reeked of a reputation call, especially given what other players got up to throughout the match. Jordan Ayew was once again allowed to foul incessantly without being cautioned. Eberechi Eze attempted a simulation of his own inside Arsenal’s penalty area but only was told to get up. Nothing appears to have changed for Xhaka; officials still treat him unfairly because of his perceived self-destructiveness. Once again, Arsenal will need to find a way to cope with that.
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