Winning ugly at Crystal Palace shows Arsenal’s boys grew into men

Palace v Arsenal Thoughts by Dan Smith

The one good thing about disappointment is it can hurt so much it stays with you.

It lives in your consciousness, a constant reminder that you must never let it happen again.

Arsenal players have had all summer to summarize how they missed out on the top 4.

At their core they know there were too many fixtures where they were mentally weak, on occasions guilty of not showing up for the fight, victims of complacency.

If you’re not going to buy experience, you need to develop leaders from within.

The youngest squad in the division will be better now they are a year older.

Saka, Smith Rowe, Martinelli, etc don’t need a Xhaka warning them about the dangers of not showing up with the right attitude.

They lived it.

Forest, Newcastle, Spurs, Man City, Brentford, Palace, Brighton at home …. forget the results, the performances were consequences of a weak mindset.

In other words, there was zero excuse to be caught cold on Friday night.

That’s where the Gunners are at.

Can they in crucial moments of games and the campaign have the game management to get over the line?

That’s what made Friday’s win as impressive as if we had won 4-0.

The manner of the victory was one that we wouldn’t have not managed even two years ago.

Grinding out 3 points, playing ugly, wasn’t in our DNA.

While in not enough matches, there were examples where we were learning how to win ugly. At Villa Park and Molineux there was an acceptance to try and protect a 1-0 score line, tolerance to roll up their sleeves and fight and scrap. Very un-Arsenal like.

At Selhurst Park in the first half, in many ways it was one of our most complete performances under Arteta.

His vision is coming true. Not only was our quality on the ball world class, off the ball we did what was only possible after months of detailed training where every last detail is obsessively focused on. If you want to know why our manager demands every player to follow his values, it was for nights like this, where every individual was desperate to win back possession the second it was lost.

Where our boss could get critiqued is that once we were ahead, he showed too much caution. Whether it’s not having the energy or the Spaniard being conservative, there’s a few times where he will sit back on an advantage which encourages the opposition. One of those occasions was when the Eagles were at the Emirates.

We dominated the first half that evening then allowed Vieira’s men to dictate the tempo and grow in belief, to the point they were outplaying us.

That didn’t quite happen on the opening day but when it was clear the 2nd half was more even, Arsenal were prepared to dig deep, throw bodies in the way and battle.

Palace play in a manner where your concentration has to be 100 percent. Their attackers are direct, who run at the defence, inviting a trip, trying to win fouls. One mistake could lead to a penalty, yet we stayed focused.

Again, Arsenal don’t win this game a couple of years ago.

I point out when Arsenal are mentally weak, it’s only right when I point out when we show heart, courage and resolve. A night where boys grew into men…

Dan Smith

Tags Crystal Palace v Arsenal


  1. Good to see Dan becoming a believer in the new Arsenal. A very entertaining game indeed, both managers set up their teams for a victory. Feels good to see two of our midfield maestros now firmly in their managerial seats. And as Dan says, the boys grew into men, agree only after Mikel booted out the useless men creating distractions on and off the pitch. Still Torrera, Pepe need to move. The disastrous Sven signings coupled with the remnants of the earlier regime were holding our lads back. One game done and dusted, 37 more to go. Good luck to Mikel and the lads

    1. Hey I always said its up to the team
      They play like that , the likes of me can’t be neagtive can they

    2. We won games like this last season, let’s not get carried away. this game was not that different from the last encounter with Palace, exept for the good firts 20 minutes and that we had Saliba and Zilichenco and not Tavares and Cedric. We still can not dominate this kind of games and can’t create chances. Our midfield is still a huge problem and without fixing it we are in for another though season of boring football, maybe with a better defence.

  2. What is important at this point is for them to remain focus and maintain the tempo. If they can win matches ugly and that guarantees their winning epl, am ok.

  3. Agree with the article ,a game of 2 halves ,I feel we could have paid the price against a better team but the first half we looked a much better team than last season with the movement off the ball .
    Saliba looked quality and really shored up the back line ,Xhaka looked comfortable in front of him and had a solid game but we still look light in the middle ,I know it keeps coming up but the lack of pace is alittle worry when we come up against better teams .
    Overall a great start and cannot ask for anymore let’s up when the pressure ramps up we can handle it this time around .

  4. Plenty of heart Dan but one clear and big problem. Xhaka will let us down, The most stupid, booking, dive, and puts us at risk in the whole game. Get our new midfielder or Xhaka will cost us. He is STUPID and DANGEROUS….he WILL cost us games.

    1. If anything happens to Partey we are in trouble. We should get Tielemans without fecking around. If we don’t we are scoring an own goal….for the season. Wake up Edu!!!!

      1. At the moment Sean, if anything happens to Partey, we are in trouble but im of the opinion, that Jesus, Saliba, Ramsdale and Gabrielle fall into a similar category.

    2. The arsenal players are still learning to be men. The win against Crystal Palace will instil more believe and confidence into them. Don’t forget polobefore this match, pundits constantly criticise arsenal for being weak. I hope you saw fight last night?

    3. How true and how depressingly true. Why, oh why, do we keep XHAKA !?



  5. Fair summary Dan 👍
    Watching The documentary I’m not sure Arteta is defensively
    Minded but disciplined tactically which is a good.

    I think the players as a collective land a punch, and stand back to see what happens instead of going for the kill. I think that will change in the next few games……

  6. Arteta got interviewed by SkySports/ Neville/ Carragher after the match and mentioned that Ramsdale won Arsenal the game. I agree with him, because it could’ve easily gone the other way if Ramsdale didn’t make two crucial blocks

    Selhurst Park is generally a very tough place for any EPL team to visit, so I applaud our players’ efforts. But a big team would’ve likely capitalize on Ramsdale’s/ Magalhaes’ errors and our attackers’ inabilities to bury the clear-cut chances

    It’s going to be long season, since most EPL teams have improved their squads. However, I believe we have a decent chance to finish fourth, because of our dynamic inverted fullback tactics and our players’ technical abilities

    1. Stop with already GAI.
      U hav been repeating this since yesterday. Ramsdale is our player and he is doing his job as part of arsenal defence. thats why we paid 30m for his services and let Leno go.

      We could have score more too but that’s game. We work hard that’s why we won d game. EOD

      1. Really don’t see what point your trying to make GAI?

        Ramsdale made the saves and we won the game what more do you want?

  7. I personally feel the lads will play better when faced with a team that plays expansive football.
    Palace away is always difficult for any epl team.
    Onwards and upwards it is!
    Big ups to Ben White. Did quite a job on zaha

    1. I think you are spot on, I said yesterday this is probably the “hardest Physical” game we could have. Palace are no mugs and can be effective against all the big teams at home this season.

    2. I agree,there aren’t many teams which are going to be in your face/constantly pressing us as much as Palace.our midfielders will have more time on the ball(ie MØ) ,so I’m not too worried when it comes to creating chances against other teams.

  8. Arsenal have won games like these last season.
    They have shown patches of grit last season(away @ hull city 1-0 down with 80mins of game played & still winning, away @ westham, away @ villa) and the season before (winning city, Liverpool Chelsea, spuds)

    So am not surprised at all.

    On this platform last season,I read different articles talking about how arsenal was now able to win ugly.

    How ever we lacked consistency in games like Newcastle where we came up shot which kind of erased the previous games arsenal won ugly.

    So I am not surprised by arsenal winning ugly or winning with share grits (Arteta has been implanting this in arsenal’s DNA; if you have payed close attention you would have noticed).
    What personally I want to see this season is consistency.

    I have no doubt Arsenal could win ugly

    1. Great points. We won 22 games last season more than 3rd place Chelsea. it’s just our poor games need to be less poor🤔

    2. Avi, you are so correct.
      That was the one thing that frustrated me so much – consistency consistency consistency!!!

      That’s why city and pool are miles ahead of the rest.

      Look at chelsea and spuds, they also lacked that vital necessity to be successful…. but I am really positive that, with the excellent summer signings, Mikel will get that sorted this season… Time will tell.

  9. I feel like we say every year that arsenal have learned to win ugly – we did it loads last year. I think this was a tougher test than most previous examples, but I don’t feel like we had enough control at certain times, which might have been costly on another occasion. The defence looked really good for the most part (especially saliba of course), I thought the issue again was in midfield. When Palace started to really press, we often struggled to keep the ball for any period of time – this happened a lot last season and is the area we really need to improve now.

    Anyway, no real complaints – I thought Palace looked a good team, and we deservedly beat them.

    1. You’re right about our midfield, Davi. This was and has been an issue for a long time. As soon as the opponents press us we fail to retain the ball and find ourselves under pressure. We still have the problem and I’m sure Xhaka is part of that. We will need to fix that problem ASAP if we are to fight for top four!

      1. I’d have to watch it again, but i think Palace hounded after partey to force mistakes, and I don’t think odegaard was great for ball retention at certain points during the game (so it wasn’t just xhaka imo). Not sure – happy to be corrected on those points

  10. I thought we were decent but did have to rely on Ramsdale a couple of times, with better shooting from Palace we could have been in big trouble.

    Our away form was poor last season. It’s a young side and controlling games in front of a tough crowd takes experience . We are definitely on that learning curve, it was an encouraging result but still needs improvement.

  11. Great way to start the season showing determination to secure the 3points.
    I see this team getting over this mental block of holding back especially when taking the lead.
    Gradually they will get to that consistent level of not dropping off throughout the entire 90mins.

  12. My take on the match was we were decent for 30 minutes and then Palace took over. It was a great 3 points but a failure to control the game from that point was a worry. There was fight and spirit but the shape and fluidity was lacking. Early days and that can improve. Saliba was everything the others were not and that was commanding and controlled. I like the fact he just gets on with his job and is very consistent in his ability. We need Tierney at left back and Tomiasu at right back, i even think Cedric would have been better than White. I thought Odergaard was ineffective and Xhaka was just well Xhaka. Cant beat 3 points though.

      1. I have said many times with his passing speed and defensive abilities he would be ideal…
        Tomi Saliba Gabriel Tierney
        White Partey
        Saks Jesus Martinelli

        Also happy if Zinchenko competes as DM

        1. Yes, we could try him in midfield, Arteta hasn’t seen fit to so far but i just dont see the player we payed all that money for. Yet!!!!!

          1. To be fair reggie I thought Ben played well against Zaha. I don’t like Zaha much reminds me of Sterling absolute cry babies if they don’t get things there way. But I thought Ben handled him well

            1. Ben White was caught out of position a few times. At one point he even tried to make Zinchenko redundant. Average player at best!

              1. I don’t think he’s average he’s better than holding and Cedric and I’d rather he played before any of those two

  13. 15 mins of 1st half and 30 mins from start of 2nd half, CP where aggressive, positive and hunting arsenal.

    So if we break it down, we won the first 30mins and last 10-15mins with both technical brilliant and then resilience.

    We need to bring that 1st 30mins into both halves. If we have 60 mins of consistent flow of our gameplay we can manage out 30mins of attack against us.

    Still alot of work to do. We were better defensively but we also stopped as an outlet in attack and got deeper and deeper. Similar to moments from last year. Difference now being we are looking a better defensive unit but our forward line need to offer more.

    I feel this is where MO, BS and GM need to not drift out of the game. This is where I feel we need cover for game management.

    Maybe Vieira will play out wide in these instances because his close ball control will bring us out from defending….

    But overall, considering 1st game, the result there last year, we did what we needed and we move on…

    Confidence will be growing steadily

  14. Just to point out, from both sides of the ball:

    1. Arteta said post-match that there were a number of problems to work on. It’s the first game, so that’s not surprising.

    2. There may be more players incoming. And…

    3. We’ve not seen Vieira yet. They didn’t spend £34m on him for no reason.

    4. I wonder if the Tielemans deal will happen after the next game against Leicester.

    From the Palace viewpoint:

    1. We probably played them at the right time (last season we had the poopsite, playing Newcastle at the end when they were good). They had a tough pre-season with their squad playing in two parts of the world because they didn’t meet entry requirements in the countries they toured.

    2. They had injuries to 3 important players.

  15. OT:, Leicester have just turned down a 70M bid for Fofana,surely in Saliba we have a 100M player in our hands??

    1. Saliba was the better of the two when they played together, by quite a distance. Has Fofanna really progressed that much playing in the Premier league?

      1. From what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t say he(Fofana) has improved that much.fees are becoming Cucurella really worth 55M??and he’ll probably play backup to Chidwell.

  16. Strongly agree with the writer on just about everything.

    Doesn’t matter where Palace finishes last season this was a proper test all things considered..

    Xhaka will always be Xhaka, its interesting to note the writer made mention of Xhaka didn’t had to reminds the team of staying focus, seems there is an acknowledgment of his importance in live time playing on the pitch maybe unconsciously by the writer.

    All in all it was a proper away game that had everything to build our momentum for the grueling season ahead

  17. I’m glad we won but it wasn’t a polished performance. You could see the obvious difference between the preseason games whereby we looked in control and accomplished and this game where we really had to put the effort in to get the win.

    Palace done their normal thing of trying to stifle us by making the game scrappy and hoping we would capitulate, whereby they would clean up once we were bereft of ideas and fight. But thankfully, that didn’t happen!

    However, we did on too many occasions during the game look very disjointed and cumbersome as though we were about ready to start making the elementary mistakes that we’ve been accustomed too on occasions such as this. Like the panicked passing and not being able to clear the ball around our own box resulting in a costly free kick, penalty or a simple giveaway goal.

    Jesus definitely changed the dynamic in terms of our fighting spirit as he seemed to not mind getting embroiled in the physical side whilst simultaneously having composure. Something which is bred into Pep’s players where they are all comfortable under stressful situations. It allowed other players around him to have a moment of composure before making their next move.

    I think as a team, we’re still betwixt and between wanting and knowing when to play florid and rapier like football and, knowing when and how to navigate our way through games using sheer ugly brute force and guile. I wasn’t totally convinced that we weren’t going to crack under Palace’s pressure. Losing fifty-fifty (even 60/40) challenges, being bullied, making silly mis-timed, misguided passes.

    I did see elements of ( I can’t say old Arsenal as we were still vulnerable up until the tail end of last season) the Arsenal could quite easily throw a game away when it was there to be won…….or worse case, drawn.

    But, last night we held our nerve, put up a fight and didn’t le Ayew and his palace pals bully us. We didn’t succumb to the normal flourish of onfield keystone cop moments and become the architects of our own downfall. Again, wasn’t a polished performance but got us the result and one we might have to get used to seeing if we want excel and gain a high rise in the premiership table come the end of season.

    1. It wasn’t polished and for the first game it doesn’t matter but i diid see some of the “old” Arsenal but again with it being the first game, we can forgive that.

  18. It was a good battling performance from Arsenal. We also had some good luck at certain points in the game,
    It would have been better if we could have controlled the game better. This is where some of our limitations in midfield and full back were an issue.
    The FB weaknesses allowed a relatively simplistic approach of launching balls into the wide areas. This one of the reasons Anderson seemed so good at certain points in the game.
    As for the article, our issues in recent seasons have been related to quality, attitude and squad depth. These have led to inconsistent performances. It is far too reductive to suggest that the poorer results were all down to a lack of mentality.

  19. I cannot clain DAN has as yet had that DAMUSCAN conversion that he needs, in order to shed his “Dismal Dan” tag, but he seems to have at least started out on that eventual journey. Good to see, Dan.


    1. Yeah quite obvious Jon …when the team play well I will say well done
      When they have one of their worst periods in Prem history I will be negative
      Like you were when Mr Wenger finsihed 4th lol

      1. The OBVIOUS difference with Wengers whole last decade being, that in that decade, we were consistently regressing, whereas under MA, we stated at a far lower starting point than Wenger inherited AND YET WE ARE CLEARLY PROGRESSING.

        You never admit how low we were when Wenger left,Dan, AND WHAT A DEMOTIVATED AND COASTING SQUAD WE HAD WHEN HE LEFT, THE OPPOSITE TO NOW.

        Odd how THAT is NEVER mentioned by you DAN!

        1. Arteta inherited a squad who finished 5th , he regressed to our worst finsish in 25 years and then progressed to 5th lol

  20. It was a good game but we got tired too early,

    Ødegaard was supposed to be the link from midfield to attack, he didn’t do a good job, hence why the attack got tired quickly, as they had to cover so much space,

    Ødegaard is too slow and too left footed, I really hope Vieira is an improvement,

    We also need another CM who can play as CDM.
    I see Tielemans as a xhaka/Ødegaard replacement not Partey.

  21. That is a great way to start the season!

    Been banging the drum on Saliba for a very long time. The guy has got IT!

    Started strong, Martinelli somehow missed one on a platter, but made up for it.
    Pressing was excellent and Palace stuggled to do anything past the halfway line, until the last 10 minutes of the 1st half.

    It was back and forth for the start of the second half with AFC edging it a bit.

    However, from minute 60-85, what the hell??

    Palace should have score 2 goals, but Ramsdale made solid saves and our backline snuffed out the rest of the chances.

    Tactically, Arteta did not make an adjustment to change the momentum that Palace had been building.

    The team kept it together enough to get it over the line.

    I know we did not have Tomi and Tierney to start, and it showed when Viera told Palace to attack over the top and having their wingers attack White and Zinchencko, both those two had a rough time of it during that time, as AFC really struggled to grab the game by the scruff and end it earlier.

    Very satisfied to get 3 points, keep a clean sheet and +2 on goal difference. Concerned with our midfiled after that showing, but Palace have been playing well against us at home for a while.

    Feel we need another mid for Xhaka, a backup for Partey, maybe Viera can slot in somewhere, but a true backup is required for Partey would be tremendous transfer window.

    Going to be a good weekend!

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