Arsenal thrash Crystal Palace to ease back to winning ways

Crystal Palace’s French striker #14 Jean-Philippe Mateta (C) fights for the ball with Arsenal’s French defender #02 William Saliba (R) and Arsenal’s English midfielder #41 Declan Rice (L) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 20, 2024. AFP

Arsenal breathed new life into their Premier League title challenge as a 5-0 win over Crystal Palace got the Gunners back to winning ways.

Centre-back Gabriel did most of the damage before half-time as he headed in the opener then forced Palace goalkeeper Dean Henderson into an own goal.

Leandro Trossard made it 3-0 on the hour mark before substitute Gabriel Martinelli struck twice in stoppage time.

Victory moves Mikel Arteta’s men level with Manchester City and Aston Villa, two points behind leaders Liverpool.

“We wanted to start the second part of the season with a great performance, with a great result, and build that positivity and momentum again,” said Arteta. “I think the boys did a good job today.”

Arsenal had won just once in seven games prior to a two-week winter break.

However, a warm weather training camp in Dubai looked to have refreshed last season’s runners-up, even if they did have very obliging visitors in struggling Palace.

The Eagles have won just once in 12 games to leave them still perilously poised above the relegation zone and pile the pressure on 76-year-old boss Roy Hodgson.

Arsenal’s lack of a natural goalscorer up front has been scrutinised during their downturn in form and the fact it was one of his defenders that ended a barren run in front of goal will remain a concern for Arteta.

No side has scored more goals from set pieces in the Premier League this season than Arsenal and it was two corners that undid Palace before half-time.

“Credit to all the coaches, to (set-piece coach) Nico (Jover) for the amount of time and belief we put in,” added Arteta.

“It’s got a huge impact – we’ve seen that as well in recent games that we’ve lost when we’ve conceded set-pieces. The outcome is very different when you don’t concede and score.”

Gabriel outmuscled Chris Richards to rise highest to meet Declan Rice’s delivery with a downward header to settle the home side’s nerves just 11 minutes in.

Palace did not learn their lesson as Gabriel again got ahead of Richards to meet Bukayo Saka’s corner eight minutes before half-time and the ball rebounded in off the unfortunate Henderson.

Palace fans protest 

Hodgson was booed by his own fans after substituting Eberechi Eze during Wednesday’s 1-0 FA Cup defeat at Everton to keep the England international fresh for the trip to the Emirates.

The closest Eze came to making an impact was another long-range effort that Raya was forced to turn behind.

But to compound Palace’s set-piece shambles, they then conceded from one of their own.

Raya collected a cross into the box and quickly set Gabriel Jesus galloping free on the counter-attack.

The Brazilian crossed for Trossard, who kept his cool to cut inside Nathanial Clyne and smash home his seventh goal of the season.

Defeat leaves Palace still five points above the relegation zone.

And a banner unfurled in the away end in the closing stages will do little to help Hodgson’s case to remain until the end of the season.

“Wasted potential on and off the pitch, weak decisions taking us backwards,” was the message from the Palace fans aimed at co-owner and chairman Steve Parish.

“We can make our excuses, which we’ve been doing because certain things have worked against us during this period of time,” said Hodgson.

“But the bottom line is that if we’re going to go forward and do well, we need the fans with us.”

Martinelli rubbed salt in the wounds by coming off the bench to score twice in stoppage time.

The Brazilian had been dropped after scoring just two goals in the Premier League all season.

But he doubled that tally in a matter of seconds as he twice coolly slotted past Henderson into the far corner.

Toney inspires Brentford to victory on return from betting ban

Ivan Toney scored on his return from an eight-month ban as Brentford snapped a seven-game winless run to beat Nottingham Forest 3-2 on Saturday.

Toney was suspended for 232 breaches of betting rules in May, but showed little sign of rust as he took just 19 minutes to make his mark with a clever free-kick and played the full game.

However, it was Neal Maupay who scored the winner with a brilliant touch and volley 22 minutes from time that eased the Bees’ fears of being dragged into the relegation battle.

Victory lifts Brentford above Forest into 14th, six points clear of the drop zone.

Defeat compounded a difficult week for Forest after they admitted to breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR) last season.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men are now looking nervously over their shoulder as they sit just four points above the relegation zone and could be hit with a points deduction.

Everton have already been hit by a 10-point sanction this season for breaching PSR at the end of the 2021/22 season.

Back-to-back Premier League wins over Newcastle and Manchester United had boosted Forest’s survival hopes.

But they were without six players who are at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), while key man Morgan Gibbs-White also missed out through injury.

The visitors still got off to a perfect start when Danilo’s stunning strike from outside the box found the bottom corner after only three minutes.

Toney’s absence has been felt even more keenly in recent weeks by Brentford with Bryan Mbuemo sidelined by injury and Yoane Wissa away with DR Congo at Afcon. 

The 27-year-old, who has been linked with a move to Arsenal or Chelsea, showed what his side have been missing all season when his free-kick curled around the Forest wall to find the bottom corner.

Keane Lewis-Potter failed to show the same composure as the young Brentford winger missed a host of chances either side of half-time to put his side in front.

Thomas Frank’s men did finally get in front when Ben Mee powered in Mathias Jensen’s corner.

The lead lasted only seven minutes as Chris Wood headed in from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross.

Orel Mangala was then inches away from giving Forest the lead against the run of play.

Seconds later, Brentford were back in front when Maupay did brilliantly to control Mads Roerslav’s cross before spinning and firing low into the corner for his third goal in as many games.

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