Four goals in the first 22 minutes inspired Arsenal to a rout of Crystal Palace, ensuring Alexis Sanchez’s absence was hardly a factor.
Arsenal shrugged off the impending departure of Alexis Sanchez by scoring four times in the first 22 minutes en route to a 4-1 hammering of Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Chile international appears set to make the switch to Premier League rivals Manchester United, who are reportedly ready to pay £35million plus Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the forward’s services.
For the second straight game, Arsene Wenger left Sanchez out of his matchday squad and the Frenchman seems poised for a pursuit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a replacement after Borussia Dortmund confirmed the Gunners had made a bid, thought to be in the region of €50m.
But whatever Arsenal’s comings and goings before the end of the January window, they were certainly not short of firepower at Emirates Stadium as a sorry Palace were swept aside in a devastating opening.
Nacho Monreal capitalised on shambolic defending to score the first and then tee up the next two for Alex Iwobi and Laurent Koscielny before the returning Mesut Ozil, back after missing three games with a knee injury, played a key role in Alexandre Lacazette’s marvellous fourth.
Luka Milivojevic’s consolation came far too late to cause any Arsenal nerves and victory sees Wenger’s men bring their five-match winless streak – since a 3-2 success at Palace in which Sanchez scored twice – to a resounding end and move within two points of fifth-placed Tottenham, who visit Southampton on Sunday.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Arsenal: Cech 7 – Bellerin 7, Mustafi 6, Koscielny 7, Monreal 9 (Maitland-Niles 35 5) – Xhaka 5, Wilshere 8, Elneny 5 – Ozil 9 (Nelson 72 6), Lacazette 6, Iwobi 7 (Kolasinac 83 6)
Goals: Monreal 6, Iwobi 10, Koscielny 13, Lacazette 22
Subs not used: Ospina, Chambers, Mertesacker, Nketiah
Crystal Palace: Hennessey 5 – Fosu-Mensah 4, Kelly 5, Tomkins 5, Van Aanholt 5 – McArthur 3, Milivojevic 6, Cabaye 4 (Riedewald 89 6) – Sako 7, Benteke 4, Zaha 4
Subs not used: Speroni, Ward, Townsend, Lee, Souare, Kaikai.
There was, comparatively, a lull in the action until nearly an hour of the game had passed. Arsenal might have had a fifth when Iwobi outpaced Tomkins with embarrassing ease but Hennessey spread himself well to block his shot. Then Palace finally created a chance of their own.
It came from a quite magnificent ball from Sako, who curled his pass around Mustafi and into the path of Benteke, who was left with Cech to beat. Cech rushed out to meet him, Benteke took a touch to steady himself and then lashed his shot straight at the goalkeeper. It cannoned off his elbow and away to safety.
Palace did salvage a little pride in the closing stages when their captain, Milivojevic, took the ball on his chest in the box at a corner and volleyed a neat finish beyond Cech.