Bukayo Saka scored two and assisted another as Arsenal eased past Crystal Palace 4-1 on Sunday to move eight points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.
The Gunners were eliminated from the Europa League by Sporting CP on Thursday, but they showed no sign of a hangover against managerless London rivals Palace.
Gabriel Martinelli’s 13th league goal of the season gave Arsenal the lead at Emirates Stadium and Saka, who set up that opener, added a second before half-time.
Granit Xhaka put the game out of the reach of Palace, who did pull one back through Jeffrey Schlupp, before Saka’s second made certain of a sixth league win in a row.
Arsenal survived an early scare when Schlupp played in Wilfried Zaha, who cut onto his right foot and fired a low shot that hit the post in a lively start from Palace.
Joe Whitworth denied Saka at the other end, but the young keeper could not get a hand to Martinelli’s impressive drilled shot across goal into the bottom-right corner.
Saka doubled Arsenal’s lead shortly before half-time when exchanging passes with Ben White and coolly curling the ball away from Whitworth.
Palace were further behind 10 minutes into the second half through Xhaka’s bundled finish after being played through by Leandro Trossard.
Schlupp’s strike from six yards after Arsenal failed to deal with a corner gave the visiting fans something to cheer, but Saka’s sharp first-time finish made certain of a routine win.
What does it mean? Gunners do the double to go further clear
With City not in league action this weekend, Arsenal took full advantage by opening up an eight-point gap heading into the international break, albeit having played a game more.
This was a deserved win and marks the first time Arsenal have completed a top-flight double over Palace since the 2017-18 season, having won 1-0 at Selhurst Park in August.
Palace, who sacked Arsenal great Patrick Vieira on Friday, have now gone 13 games without a win this calendar year and are well and truly involved in a relegation battle.
This was the fourth game in a row Arsenal have won while scoring three-or-more goals, which they last achieved back in September 2004.
Saka scored two and assisted another against Palace, making him the only player in the Premier League this season to reach double figures in both categories (12G, 10A)
Zaha was Palace’s liveliest player, as is so often the case, leading the way for shots (3), shots on target (2), touches in the opposition box (7) and dribbles (7).
For all the Ivory Coast international’s talent, though, he still lacks a cutting edge, with this the 10th league game in a row he has failed to either score or assist in.
Key Opta facts:
– Arsenal earned their 22nd Premier League win of the season, as many as they managed in the whole of last term, and the Gunners’ most ever wins in their first 28 matches of a league campaign.
– Palace remain one of only two sides yet to win a league match in England’s top four tiers in 2023 (P12 W0 D5 L7), along with League One’s Forest Green Rovers.
– Arsenal are the first side in English Football League history to win as many as nine London derbies in a single league season.
– Saka (12 goals, 10 assists) is the first Arsenal player to reach double figures for both goals and assists in a Premier League campaign since Alexis Sanchez in 2016-17 (24 goals, 10 assists).
– Trossard has assisted six goals in 10 Premier League games for Arsenal, at least twice as many as any other player in the competition since his club debut in January. It is also more assists than the Belgian provided in 50 Premier League appearances for Brighton since the start of last season (5).
Arsenal host Leeds United on their return to Premier League action on April 1, while Palace take on Leicester City at Selhurst Park the same day.
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