01222018

Wenger ‘not fearful’ of losing Sanchez after forward’s double at Palace

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Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal: Arsene Wenger praises Alexis Sanchez after double

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says he is not worried about losing Alexis Sanchez in January despite the forward scoring twice as the Gunners won at Crystal Palace.

After Andros Townsend cancelled out Shkodran Mustafi’s first-half opener, Sanchez struck twice in four minutes.

The Chile forward squeezed a clinical strike in at the near post to make it 2-1 before bringing Jack Wilshere’s superb ball from his own half under control and flicking into the net.

James Tomkins headed in late on but Sanchez’s double was enough to secure a win that keeps sixth-placed Arsenal level on points with Tottenham, who are fifth, and one point behind fourth-placed Liverpool.

Sanchez’s contract expires at the end of the season and the 29-year-old has been linked with a move to league leaders Manchester City, who failed in their bid to sign him in the summer.

“I am not fearful but that will be a subject that arises because of his contractual situation,” said Wenger, who equalled Sir Alex Ferguson’s record of 810 games managed in the Premier League.

“I can only repeat what I said until now.”

The best and worst of Arsenal on show

After three draws and just one win from their four previous Premier League outings, this was arguably an important game for the Gunners in their bid to remain in the hunt for a top-four finish, especially after wins for rivals Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea in midweek.

They started the day with six points fewer than they had at the same stage last season – and Wenger’s side ultimately finished outside the Champions League places – so a positive result and performance was needed to help ease any Arsenal fans’ concerns their campaign was in danger of fizzling out.

For large periods, the performance was certainly there. The visitors often produced some of their best attacking play of the season, particularly in the first half when Palace could not cope with short, intricate passing that time and again opened up the defence.

But their inability to finish off the many opportunities they created meant their opponents always had a chance to get back into the game. That proved the case early in the second half when Zaha’s cross caught Arsenal’s defence asleep and Townsend struck.

Arsenal's heatmap for the first half of Thursday's game shows just how much they dominated, yet they only managed a single goal before the break<!–

Arsenal’s heatmap for the first half of Thursday’s game shows just how much they dominated, yet they only managed a single goal before the break

A five-minute spell of Arsenal disarray followed and the Gunners could easily have found themselves falling behind, but Sanchez – so often Arsenal’s saviour – settled the nerves with two moments of quality.

But even with a two-goal cushion Arsenal were never at ease, and Wenger’s concern about his side’s defensive frailties was highlighted by his decision to replace striker Lacazette with Francis Coquelin late on. That was still not enough to prevent Palace from reducing the deficit to one, setting up a tense finale.

“It was an excellent game, end to end, but you just cannot be convinced by Arsenal,” former Gunners and Crystal Palace defender Matt Upson, commentating on the game for BBC Radio 5 live, said.

“At times, some of their passing and movement was mesmerising, just brilliant – but at the other end you see their vulnerabilities and frailties and why they are sitting sixth in the league.”

Zaha shines again for resurgent Palace

It has been a strange old season for Crystal Palace.

They set an English football record by losing their first seven league games of the season without scoring a goal, but went into the Arsenal fixture unbeaten in eight matches – their longest such run in the top flight since 1990 and one which had moved them out of the relegation zone and into 16th.

The appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager has played a key role in that turnaround, but so too have the performances of Zaha.

The Ivory Coast forward has been in exceptional form since returning from injury in October and it was his trickery and intuition that allowed Palace to get back on level terms, jinking his way past Calum Chambers before crossing low behind a static defence for Townsend to slam home.

Only Jason Puncheon (32) and Chris Armstrong (31) have been involved in more Premier League goals for the Eagles than Zaha (30), underlining his importance to the team.

The ex-Manchester United player’s form has seen him linked with a move away in January and his departure would undoubtedly be a blow for Palace.

However, they showed in this game – and in recent displays – that they have enough quality elsewhere in their squad to be able continue their progress away from danger.

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Crystal Palace 2-3 Arsenal: We gave it our best shot – Roy Hodgson

“At 1-1 I thought we were playing well and we were on the front foot, but the second goal was so difficult – to go down 2-1 was a difficult task,” Hodgson said.

“You have to give the players credit. At 3-1 a lot of teams would have capitulated, but we certainly didn’t do that.

“Our second goal was scant reward for the chances we had in the second half – but we were beaten by the better team on the day.”

Man of the match – Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere<!–

Provided arguably the moment of the match with a sublime assist for Sanchez’s second – hitting an inch-perfect ball over the top from his own half to his team-mate on the edge of the Crystal Palace area. The midfielder, who said after the game that he is “sure” a new Arsenal deal will be done, looked back to his best.

Gunners rule in London – the stats

  • Arsenal have won more Premier League London derbies (120) than any other side.
  • Roy Hodgson has won just one of his past 12 Premier League matches against the Gunners (D3 L8).
  • Sanchez has had a hand in 13 goals in his past 15 Premier League London derbies (10 goals, three assists).
  • Wilshere has now started four consecutive league games for Arsenal for the first time since March 2014.
  • Crystal Palace have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 10 league home games – their longest such run since May 2015 (15).
  • Zaha has provided three assists in his past two Premier League games against Arsenal.
  • Townsend both scored and assisted in a league game for just the third time – and for the first since April 2016 for Newcastle against Swansea.

What’s next?

It is another tough assignment for Palace as they host Premier League leaders Manchester City on Sunday (12:00 GMT kick-off). Arsenal, meanwhile, end 2017 with a trip to West Brom, also on Sunday (16:30).

Live Text

Match ends, Crystal Palace 2, Arsenal 3.

Second Half ends, Crystal Palace 2, Arsenal 3.

Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Shkodran Mustafi.

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by James Tomkins (Crystal Palace).

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Goal! Crystal Palace 2, Arsenal 3. James Tomkins (Crystal Palace) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Andros Townsend with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Laurent Koscielny.

Attempt blocked. Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jeffrey Schlupp.

Substitution, Arsenal. Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaces Granit Xhaka.

Attempt missed. Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Luka Milivojevic.

Foul by Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal).

Bakary Sako (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Attempt missed. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) with an attempt from very close range misses to the right. Assisted by Bakary Sako with a cross.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) because of an injury.

Attempt saved. Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Shkodran Mustafi.

Substitution, Crystal Palace. Timothy Fosu-Mensah replaces Martin Kelly.

Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Calum Chambers.

Attempt blocked. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from a difficult angle on the left is blocked. Assisted by Luka Milivojevic.

Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by James Tomkins (Crystal Palace).

Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace).

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by James Tomkins.

Substitution, Arsenal. Francis Coquelin replaces Alexandre Lacazette.

Substitution, Crystal Palace. Bakary Sako replaces Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Attempt missed. Mesut Özil (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Sead Kolasinac.

Goal! Crystal Palace 1, Arsenal 3. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Jack Wilshere with a through ball.

Attempt blocked. Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Goal! Crystal Palace 1, Arsenal 2. Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) right footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Alexandre Lacazette following a corner.

Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Scott Dann.

Offside, Arsenal. Granit Xhaka tries a through ball, but Mesut Özil is caught offside.

Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace).

Offside, Crystal Palace. Martin Kelly tries a through ball, but Andros Townsend is caught offside.

Mesut Özil (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Luka Milivojevic (Crystal Palace).

Foul by Jack Wilshere (Arsenal).

James McArthur (Crystal Palace) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

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