Olivier Giroud began 2017 with a bona fide goal-of-the-year candidate, helping Arsenal see off Crystal Palace 2-0 to go third in the Premier League.
Giroud lit up the 200th game at Emirates Stadium, opening the scoring with a scorpion kick that echoed Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s effort for Manchester United against Sunderland – though the Frenchman’s ability to stay onside surely trumps the Armenian’s effort.
Spectacular in isolation, the goal also helped Giroud continue on a redemptive run of form that has seen him score in his past two games – his only league starts of the campaign.
As ridiculous as Giroud’s effort was, Arsenal’s second goal through Alex Iwobi could also be branded as such – though at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Arsene Wenger’s side have responded to defeats at Everton and Manchester City with successive victories to nil and they head a tightly packed clutch of clubs trailing second-placed Liverpool in the race to cling onto Chelsea’s coattails.
Palace, meanwhile, remain two points above the drop zone in 17th and Sam Allardyce may fancy a dip into the January sales if he is to steer the Eagles away from danger, as he did with Sunderland last term.
Allardyce remains winless against Wenger as a manager at the Emirates after Sunday’s result, with Arsenal suitably dominant from the off, and though Giroud somehow missed the ball completely from Nacho Monreal’s early cut-back, he opened the scoring in utterly stupendous fashion.
A vintage Arsenal breakaway put Alexis Sanchez into a crossing position on the left, with Giroud wondrously flicking his left boot behind him under the attention of two Palace defenders to guide the ball past Wayne Hennessey and in off the crossbar.
The hosts seem to suffer something of a comedown after the exhilaration of Giroud’s goal, Mohamed Elneny and Sanchez off-target from long range as dominance of possession was not turned into penetration.
Hennessey was tested with the last action of the first half, denying Sanchez with his legs after Martin Kelly and Scott Dann had failed to clear their lines.
More slapstick defending helped Arsenal go two up.
Christian Benteke headed wide as the second half began in tense manner for the hosts, but they deservedly extended their lead when a cross was spooned into the air and Iwobi’s nodded effort was enough as James Tomkins’ flick left Joel Ward only able to send his own header onto the cross bar and over the line.
Palace suddenly forced Petr Cech into a burst of activity, the veteran standing firm to deny Benteke, Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend.
The fightback was swiftly quelled, however, and Arsenal cruised to their 130th Emirates win to restore confidence in a title tilt that can maintain momentum at Bournemouth on Tuesday.
Key Opta Stats:
– Olivier Giroud has scored eight goals in his last six starts for Arsenal in all competitions.
– Sam Allardyce has never won away at Arsenal as a manager in all competitions, drawing four and losing 12 of his 16 visits there.
– Since joining the club, Alexis Sanchez has had a hand in 88 goals for Arsenal in all competitions (56 goals, 32 assists) – 26 more than any other Gunner.
– The Gunners have kept consecutive Premier League clean sheets at home for the first time this season, last doing so in their last three games of 2015-16.
– Crystal Palace have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last 20 Premier League away games, since a 0-0 draw at Bournemouth in December 2015.
– Allardyce has failed to win either of his first two Premier League games in charge of a club for the first time in his career.
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