A wonder goal from Olivier Giroud, and a well placed header from Alex Iwobi helped Arsenal reclaim third place with a comfortable 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at the Emirates.
The Gunners dominated the match pretty much from start to finish and will be happy with the three points and the clean sheet, but will probably feel they should have scored a few more goals against a side that was definitely there for the taking.
There were three changes to the Arsenal team that beat West Bromwich Albion on Monday with Mesut Ozil, Kieran Gibbs and Francis Coquelin making way for Lucas Perez, Nacho Monreal and Mohamed Elneny. While Ozil missed out through illness, Gibbs was nursing a knee injury. Coquelin meanwhile was rotated out of the squad during a busy phase as Manager Arsene Wenger attempted to keep his players fresh.
Arsenal should have taken the lead in the early exchanges with Olivier Giroud making a mess of his feet to miss an absolute sitter, after Nacho Monreal had rolled a perfect pass through the six yard box that was just asking to be tapped home.
The Frenchman was to make up for his miss in spectacular fashion as Arsenal scored a memorable goal on the counter attack. Lucas Perez, playing down the right flank, worked back splendidly to cut out a pass and lay the ball back in the direction of Hector Bellerin, who quickly found Olivier Giroud, still in the Arsenal half.
The 30 year old striker laid the ball back to Alex Iwobi, who released Alexis Sanchez down the left flank. For once the Chilean’s cross was far from perfect well behind Giroud, but the Frenchman produced a perfect scorpion kick to deflect the ball into the back of the net off the crossbar.
Arsenal continued to dominate the first half and were guilty of spurning chances as the Gunners missed the chance to put the game to bed. Mohamed Elneny went close with a strike from distance, while Alexis Sanchez had a late effort brilliantly saved by Wayne Hennessey, but surely should have given the Welshman no chance.
Arsenal were almost punished for their profligacy early in the second half as Christian Benteke pushed a header from Andros Townsend’s cross narrowly wide, when he probably too should have scored.
Arsenal continued to miss opportunities to put the game to bed with Lucas seeing a shot deflect wide and Alexis and Iwobi fail to put the loose ball away from the resulting corner.
The second goal did eventually come for Arsenal, and it was a soft one for Palace to concede. A Nacho Monreal cross from the left was deflected high into the air by Scott Dann, and Iwobi showed tremendous poise to calmly place a header over the Palace keeper and past two defenders on the goal-line to make it 2-0 for Arsenal.
Palace had a brief spell of pressure when they threatened Arsenal, but Petr Cech was up to the challenge, keeping a second straight clean sheet after going 8 games without one as the Gunners claimed three crucial to keep pace with Chelsea and Liverpool ahead of them, and to move back in front of Tottenham and Manchester City.
Up next for Arsenal is a trip over to south coast to take on an in-form Bournemouth side that are playing some pretty football. That game will take place on Wednesday, the 4th of January.
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Monreal, Koscielny, Gabriel, Xhaka, Elneny (Coquelin 72′), Iwobi (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77′), Perez (Ramsey 72′), Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Mustafi, Coquelin, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rene-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Kelly, Dann, Tomkins, Ward, Flamini, Puncheon, Townsend (Chung-yong 71′), Cabaye (Mutch 65′), Zaha, Benteke (Campbell 77′)
Subs: Speroni, Campbell, Lee Chung-yong, Fryers, Mutch, Sako, Husin
Final Score: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace (Giroud 17′, Iwobi 56′)