Matteo Guendouzi

10-man Arsenal held at Crystal Palace

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10-man Arsenal had to settle on for a point at Crystal Palace on Saturday as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put them in front but was sent off via VAR as Jordan Ayew‘s second half effort grabbed a 1-1 draw for the hosts at Selhurst Park.

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Aubameyang’s opener capped off a dominant first half from Mikel Arteta‘s Gunners but Palace improved after the break as Roy Hodgson‘s side battled hard and Ayew’s equalizer was deserved.

With the point Palace remain one point and one place ahead of Arsenal in ninth in the Premier League table.


3 things we learned

1. Arteta has front four purring: Pepe, Lacazette, Aubameyang and Ozil were on the same wavelength throughout as three of the four combined to set up Arsenal’s opening goal. From clever flicks to runs which were found by one another, Arteta seems to have found a way to get Arsenal’s top four attacking talents in the team at the same time. Even if their recent defensive improvement doesn’t last, if their front four continue to shine they will pick up plenty of points.

2. Zaha non-existent: Ainsley Maitland-Niles did a job on Zaha as the Palace winger decided to keep passing backwards instead of taking on the Arsenal defense. Maitland-Niles didn’t dive in and matched Zaha yard for yard out wide as he passed a big test in his development as a right back. Zaha, who is being linked heavily with a move to Chelsea this month, looked like his mind was elsewhere on Saturday.

3. VAR gets sending off correct, swings game in Palace’s favor: Aubameyang caught Max Meyer with a nasty tackle above his ankle and Arsenal’s captain was initially booked but VAR was used to upgrade the punishment to a red card. As the incident was shown on the big screen at Selhurst Park after the decision had been confirmed, the boos and winces from the crowd said it all. Aubameyang caught him high and the reason given for issuing a red card was the “intensity and point of contact” of the challenge. Aubameyang, Arsenal’s top goalscorer, will now be out for three games unless the Gunners appeal successfully. Had they not had Aubameyang sent off, Arsenal would probably have found a way to win this game but instead they grabbed a gritty point away from home.

Man of the Match: Either of Arsenal full backs, Maitland-Niles or Kolasinac, deserved this but I’m going with Maitland-Niles. He’s not a natural right back but he kept Palace’s most dangerous, and coveted, player quiet with Zaha hardly having a kick all game long. Superb individual defending.


Arsenal put Palace under pressure from the first whistle and that paid off.

Aubameyang finished after a flowing 18-pass move to give the Gunners the lead inside the first 15 minutes as Arteta celebrated on the sidelines.

The Gunners continued to impress in the first half as Pepe, Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang stretched Palace’s defense with their movement and clever interplay. David Luiz was also a key figure in their dominance as his distribution out of the back consistently set up attacks.

Cheikhou Kouyate had a shot straight at Bernd Leno which the Arsenal goalkeeper collected at the second attempt as Palace finally got a foothold in the game.

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At half time Matteo Guendouzi replaced Lucas Torreira in Arsenal’s midfield and in the second half Palace wrestled back some control on the game.

Ayew made the most of their pressure as his shot deflected off Luiz after hesitant defending, and set up a thrilling last 30 minutes.

Pepe’s brilliant corner was flicked just over by Luiz as Arsenal pushed hard for an equalizer late on.

Arsenal were reduced to 10 men for the final 20 minutes as VAR intervened and upgraded Aubameyang’s initial yellow card to a red as the Arsenal skipper caught Max Meyer high above his ankle.

Sokratis somehow cleared off the line as Palace threw everything at the 10 men of Arsenal late on, but the Gunners almost nicked all three points as Pepe’s shot was superbly tipped onto the post by Vicente Guaita then Palace’s goalkeeper bravely saved Lacazette’s follow up.

Chelsea stun Arsenal with late comeback

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Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as the Blues fought back from an early deficit and scored twice late on to seal a dramatic victory against their London rivals.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put Arsenal ahead early on but the Gunners couldn’t build on that goal as Frank Lampard changed Chelsea’s formation and subbed on Jorginho after 30 minutes. That worked a treat as Jorginho equalized and then Tammy Abraham popped up with the winner late on.

With their first comeback victory of the season Chelsea remain in fourth place on 35 points, while Arsenal stay in 12th on 24 points after suffering their fourth home defeat in a row, which is the first time that has happened since 1959.


3 things we learned

1. Lampard’s brave switch pays off: Lampard knew the 3-4-3 wasn’t working and he was brave enough to admit it. He hooked off Emerson and brought on Jorginho with only 30 minutes gone and Chelsea wrestled back control of the game. Lampard may not persist with 3-4-3 for much longer unless he can buy a quality left wing-back in January. This was a big call from the young manager and it swung the game in Chelsea’s favor.

2. Arsenal fade badly after strong start: The Gunners were dominant early on and should have been at least 2-0 up, but they couldn’t build on it. Mikel Arteta was unlucky with injuries as Chambers was forced off in the first half and Mustafi came on and struggled. Arsenal’s players were applauded off for their effort but that will be of little solace as their hopes of a top four finish look all but over after Bernd Leno‘s mistake and Mustafi’s poor positioning cost them dear.

3. Jorginho has huge, controversial impact: He came on in the first half and helped the Blues wrestle back control of the game but he could have been sent off in the second half. Jorginho picked up a yellow for a foul on Lacazette and should have had another. He then won a free kick cleverly and from that Leno’s mistake allowed him to equalize. Given the form of Kovacic and Kante, Jorginho has been the odd man out after a fine start to the season. Chelsea need the Italian midfielder back pulling the strings.

Man of the Match: N’Golo Kante – Helped Chelsea wrestle back control of the game and, as always, was everywhere. The Blues surged back and won the midfield battle and Kante had to be at his best to drive them on.


Arsenal came flying out of the traps and got their reward as they took the lead within the first 15 minutes.

A corner from the left was flicked on by Calum Chambers and Aubameyang reacted first to send home a diving header and make it 1-0.

It was all Arsenal early on as Ainsley Maitland-Niles played in Reiss Nelson who crossed into the box and Aubameyang set up Alexandre Lacazette but he couldn’t control the ball as N’Golo Kante arrived to clear.

Chambers was forced off with a knee injury as Skhodran Mustafi replaced him, as Chelsea improved the longer the first half went on and Lampard made an early tactical change as they switched from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 with Emerson hooked off as Jorginho replaced him.

Matteo Guendouzi then appeared to pull Tammy Abraham down in the box but nothing was given and VAR wasn’t used to check the incident. Arsenal had a half chance just before the break but Aubameyang fired it into the side-netting as the Gunners were in control against their London rivals.

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Kante had a low shot which flew wide at the start of the second half as Chelsea took the game to Arsenal in the second half.

A lengthy delay ensued after Antonio Rudiger and Mustafi clashed heads in the penalty box and the final stage of the games saw the Blues pin the Gunners back in pursuit of an equalizer.

David Luiz then blocked superbly as Abraham closed in on goal as Arsenal struggled to get out of their own half.

Abraham then sent a header straight at Bernd Leno as Chelsea wasted a good chance to equalize. Substitute Joe Willock then fired just wide as a glorious chance for Arsenal to wrap up the win came and went.

Chelsea then launched an incredible comeback as a free kick was missed by Leno and Jorginho tapped home to make it 1-1, and moments later it was 2-1 to the Blues.

Willian raced clear on the break and fed Abraham who turned and finished through Leno’s legs to make it 2-1 to the Blues as the away fans and Lampard went wild.

Lucas Torreira volleyed wide late on as Arsenal had a half chance to equalize but Chelsea held on to secure a big away win.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Chelsea

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Arsenal host Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a massive London derby as both teams continue to scrap for a top four finish.

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This will be Mikel Arteta’s first home game in charge of the Gunners and comes after his first game as Arsenal’s new head coach was a draw at Bournemouth on Boxing Day.

Chelssa suffered a disappointing home defeat to Southampton last time out and Frank Lampard’s side have lost five of their last seven as they are hanging on to their spot in the top four by a thread.

In team news Arsenal bring Calum Chambers and Matteo Guendouzi to the lineup, while Chelsea are without the injured Christian Pulisic so Lampard again starts with a 3-4-3 formation as Mason Mount returns to the starting lineup.


LINEUPS

What do Arsenal need to fix first?

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LONDON — Arsenal have won one of their last 12 games in all competitions and are in freefall.

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Interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg hasn’t been told if he will be in charge until the end of the season, while there is no indiciation that a new manager will arrive anytime soon.

It is a colossal mess, as the Gunners are as close to the Premier League relegation zone as they are the top four. With so much going wrong on and off the pitch, where on earth do they start to fix things?

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Here are five things they need to focus on first, and although many will say the ownership needs to change, we all know that isn’t going to happen.


STICK WITH FREDDIE OR HIRE A NEW GUY

This is the biggest thing to sort out first. What direction are the club going in? Should the players prepare for a new manager in the next week or so? Or will they at least have the comfort of knowing Ljungberg will be in charge until the end of the season? Either way, it needs sorting. Now. Arsenal are still, somehow, in the top four hunt and are just seven points back. But they are also just seven points from the drop zone.

“As I’ve said to the club, for me it is a great, great honor to do this. Of course, Per [Mertesacker] is the academy manager and he’s doing two jobs in one go and I said I think it needs to be cleared up, to make a decision so everybody knows,” Ljungberg said. “That is something I’ve said but it is totally up to the club. I am very honored and I’m trying to do things as good as I can. I think it would be good to make a decision, regardless of what it is.”

Ljungberg is spot on. One way or another Arsenal’s players, staff and fans need some direction, at least in the short term. The easy option will be to give Ljungberg and his assistant coach Per Mertesacker the job until the end of the season then evaluate who is available. Sorting out who the manager will be until May could well settle things down, and Arsenal badly need that to happen. The way the fans were just disappointed rather than angry against Man City, plus left their seats at half time and just stuck around to watch City rather than their own team was a damning indictment as to how bad things have become. The ownership have a lot to answer for and making a firm and swift decision on the managerial situation will help everything else move forward.


FOCUS ON MIDFIELD SHAPE

Matteo Guendouzi was totally overrun in central midfield on Sunday and Arsenal’s decision to play a 4-2-3-1 didn’t work out. Lucas Torreira had a torrid outing and the duo who promised so much last season seem totally out of their depth this campaign. Finding a midfield shape which works and sticking with it is the way to go as Arsenal need more numbers in the middle, either with a 4-1-4-1 formation or a 3-5-2. There isn’t enough protection for their error-strewn defense and pragmatism should now be the focus if they’re going to get back on track and secure wins way at Everton and Bournemouth to put themselves back in the top four battle. With Chelsea and Man United the next two up after that, Arsenal can still salvage their season if they bring more structure to their entire team, and especially their midfield.


3-5-2 FORMATION

This will give them extra defensive solidity and their defenders who are actually fit will get extra cover. It has to happen. Going forward it will also allow Aubameyang and Lacazette to play together centrally, while Ozil could float about in the hole ahead of two more defensive minded central midfielders. With injuries to full backs, there could be issues out wide but Saka and Maitland-Niles (the only two fit options at full back) would be better suited to being allowed to push forward. 3-5-2 should be the switch.


GO FOR EXPERIENCE OVER YOUTH

At times like this it is time for experience to come into the team. Ljungberg pointed to Arsenal’s fans being proud of the young players on the pitch at the end of the game as five players 20 years old or younger (including three teenagers) were on show. Arsenal have to get their most experienced players on the pitch to grind out results. David Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette need to come in and the Gunners simply have to get as many players on the pitch who have handled this kind of situation before. The younger players are talented but they need to be eased into the team. This pressurized situation is far from ideal for them to make progress and it could damage them for the future. It is time for Arsenal’s more experienced players to stand tall, but first of all they need to be put on the pitch.


FINDING A ROLE FOR OZIL

He divides opinion but if Ljungberg wants Arsenal to be a fluid, attacking team, then Ozil needs to play a central role going forward. Ozil has started every PL game since Ljungberg arrived and that shows the faith the Swede has in him. Playing Ozil in the hole will be key and encouraging him to drop deeper and try to set the tempo for their attack is what needs to happen. Ozil was frustrated to be brought off against Man City, and rightly so. He didn’t feature that much going forward and Arsenal just couldn’t keep hold of the ball. Against teams like Everton and Bournemouth coming up, he has the quality to unlock opposition defenses. He should be given the chance to dig Arsenal out of this horrible situation.

Joao Felix tops Jadon Sancho for Golden Boy award

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Atletico Madrid youngster Joao Felix has won the 2019 Golden Boy award as the best player in Europe under 21 years old.

The award, given out by Italian publication Tuttosport, saw Felix edge Borussia Dortmund attacker Jadon Sancho and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz among its top three vote-getters.

Felix scored 18 goals for Benfica last season while assisting 10 more, before a massive $138 million move to Atletico Madrid. The Portuguese international has not burst off the page at his new club just yet, with just two goals and an assist through 10 league games while struggling with an ankle injury.

“I am very proud,” said Felix. “It is the second time that a player from Atletico Madrid has won this award and I am happy.”

Sancho finished second in the voting after a 2019 calendar year that saw him score 12 goals and assist 19 more for Borussia Dortmund. The England international started this season strong, scoring three goals and assisting five more in the first five league goals of the campaign, elevating Dortmund to an early title challenge. Since, however, they have fallen off the table, currently sitting sixth with a five-point gap off the top.

Phil Foden and Mason Mount were among the 20-man list of nominees that also included Matteo Guendouzi and Moise Kean. Last year’s award was won by defender Matthijs de Ligt, while Kylian Mbappe took home the honors in 2017.