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Festive season EPL football update

Arsenal defeat Crystal Palace in South London Derby

Crystal Palace 2 – 3 Arsenal
Crystal Palace goals: Andros Townsend 49, James Tomkins 89 Arsenal goals: Shkodran Mustafi 25, Alexis Sanchez 62, Alexis Sanchez 66

The Gunners racked up their 120th London derby victory, which is more than any other side in Premier League history. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side defeated Crystal Palace with 1 goal from Shkodran Mustafi, 2 goals from Alexis Sanchez and a great performance from Jack Wilshere in a narrow victory away at Selhurst Park. The exciting clash was veteran Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s 810th Premier League match. Frenchman Wenger now holds the record for games managed jointly with retired Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Gunner’s superstar striker Alexis Sanchez scored twice as Arsenal defeated Crystal Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park. Two rapid Sanchez goals were key to Arsenal earning a 3-2 victory against Crystal Palace. The Gunners took the lead on 25 minutes when Shkodran Mustafi sent the ball into the back post. Crystal Palace replied just after the break with a goal from Andros Townsend. Arsenal came back with two goals from Sanchez to win the game. The first goal came as the Chilean smashed the ball just inside the near post at 62 minutes. The second goal was scored by Sanchez 4 minutes later after he latched on to Jack Wilshere's superb pass over the top. Palace attempted to set up a grandstand laterally and James Tomkins headed in Townsend's corner with a minute to go. However, Arsenal hung on to claim their 2nd win in 3 league matches.Arsenal remains in 6th place on the Premier League table, level on points with 5th-placed Tottenham, while Palace are in 16th after their first defeat in 9 matches.

Arsenal lost as they were battered and bruised by a chastening defeat at this South London venue last April. England midfielder Jack Wilshire was key to the Gunners’ brilliant performance – “spiky in the tackle and mature with his positioning” as he created Arsenal’s decisive 3rd goal with a carefully lofted pass over Palace’s back-line for Sánchez to shoot into the corner on the run. The teammates seemed to be negotiating their upcoming contracts. The Chilean’s form is flickering back into life with the transfer window so close and his contract ticking down. Wilshere’s contract expires in the summer but midfielder Wilshire’s post-match interview assured that he was sure a new contract “will get done”. “Jack is coming back in competitive shape and gives something to the team at the moment,” said Wenger. “People who don’t have long contracts are questioned, always. But as long as you are somewhere, you give your best. The best way to show they are committed is to give that kind of performance. I felt Sánchez was very good from the first minute. This kind of Sánchez is a great football player, as we know. That’s the kind of performance we want from him.”

Sanchez seemed bemused when only a handful of team-mates joined him to celebrate Arsenal’s second goal. Sánchez had ripped his shot through James Tomkins’ legs and inside Julián Speroni’s near post, but plenty of his colleagues preferred to celebrate together nearer the halfway line. Fans will continue to question the body language until Sánchez’s time at the club is either extended or ends. The thought of losing a player of his caliber feels all the more troubling in the aftermath of a performance this brilliant. Palace seemed nervous as runners infiltrated their lines. Arsenal could have scored more goals and won the contest by the interval. Arsenal’s superiority was obvious throughout the clash but Crystal Palace were tough and dangerous throughout. Wilfried Zaha was booked for dissent as the teams departed for the interval. Andros Townsend side-footed the hosts level and they might have led had Chambers not blocked Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s attempt. Arsenal’s goals did not knock the stuffing from the home side’s approach and Tomkins nodded home as full time approached. Wenger’s side maintained their composure to the end. After the match Gunners’ boss, Arsene Wenger was asked if his men were less than supportive of Sanchez since the striker has made it known he wants to move to another club when his current contract expires. Wenger denied he is in charge of a divided team after some Arsenal players appeared to snub an elated Alexis Sanchez wanting to celebrate during their win over Crystal Palace. The Chilean forward scored Arsenal’s second and third goals of the night as the Gunners won 3-2 at Selhurst Park. After his first goal, he headed off to celebrate and called for his team-mates to join him. However, not many of them took up the invitation, leading to questions if there are divisions in the Arsenal dressing room. However, Wenger denied there are any such issues on his side when asked about the incident after the match.

“No, not at all. I didn’t see that,” said Wenger. ‘First of all nobody knows what will happen really ‘It’s difficult to speculate. At the moment we are focused on short-term, that means the next game against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday with the players committed and ready to fight. It’s not a guarantee of how long you stay somewhere. As long as you are somewhere, you give your best. I felt he was very good tonight from the first minute on, focused on the game. This kind of Sanchez is a great football player, as we know.” Arsenal teammate Hector Bellerin hit back at suggestions that Chile international Alexis Sanchez and Laurent Koscielny have fallen out. Sanchez scored twice on Thursday night to keep Arsenal within touching distance of the Premier League’s top four. Sanchez is out of contract this summer and appears intent on leaving the Gunners, whether it be in the January transfer or at the end of the season next summer, with arch-rivals top of the table Man City a likely destination. The 29-year-old’s attitude has been called into question in recent weeks following a number of subdued performances but he was in brilliant form against Palace with a brilliant brace at Selhurst Park. Despite his match-winning goals, Arsene Wenger was forced to address accusations that Sanchez had fallen out with his teammates, some of whom opted not to join in the celebrations after the former Barcelona forward had put his side 2-1 ahead, with Laurent Koscielny remaining alone in his own half of the pitch. Bellerin joined in with Sanchez’s celebrations and brushed off rumors of a lack of support by retweeting a picture of Koscileny congratulating Sanchez, taken by Arsenal’s official photographer following Sanchez’s second goal.

“You’re not here for Alexis Sanchez, you’re here for Arsenal. Arsenal scored. Go and celebrate. Whoever does it, we don’t care about that, go and celebrate with your team-mate,” said Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. “With the first goal, maybe we’re trying to read too much into it. I noticed it because Alexis Sanchez made me notice it, he turned and was like “Hang on a minute I’m alone here!’ It was kind of weird.” This loss ended Crystal Palace’s eight-match unbeaten run and left them only a point above the relegation zone. Top of the table Manchester City are their next opponents at Selhurst Park on Sunday. Roy Hodgson’s side will have a tough time of it. Arsenal are buoyed up going into Sunday’s trip to the Hawthorns, where they lost last season.

Squads

Crystal Palace
Speroni, Kelly, Tomkins, Dann, Schlupp, Townsend, Cabaye, Milivojevic, Loftus-Cheek, Zaha, Benteke.
Subs: Van Aanholt, Hennessey, McArthur, Fosu-Mensah, Sako, Puncheon, Riedewald.

Arsenal
Cech, Chambers, Koscielny, Mustafi, Bellerin, Xhaka, Wilshere, Kolasinac, Ozil, Sanchez, Lacazette.
Subs: Ospina, Walcott, Holding, Iwobi, Welbeck, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin.

Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)

Meanwhile, the Gunner’s are preparing a new offer for long-term Arsenal transfer target Riyad Mahrez. The Leicester City winger has been sought by Wenger in the past and was reported to have been contacted by Arsenal’s former chief transfer negotiator Dick Law. Arsenal were again linked with a move for Mahrez back in June with Wenger saying he was considering bidding for the 26-year-old. Instead, Wenger decided to keep Alexis Sanchez. Mahrez had handed in a transfer request bit remained at Leicester City having only attracted an official bid from Roma. ‘I don’t know what happened,’ Mahrez told the press earlier this month when asked why Arsenal or Barca, who were also strongly credited with an interest in him, failed to make official bids during the closed season. ‘It’s football. You never know what will happen.’

Reportedly Arsenal are again considering making a bid for Mahrez, whose form is much improved since Claude Puel replaced Craig Shakespeare as Leicester manager. Mahrez has scored 4 goals in his last 8 games and could be a replacement for Sanchez if the Gunners approve his departure when the window reopens.

Next fixtures
Crystal Palace: 31 Dec v Man City (H)
Arsenal: 31 Dec v West Brom (A)

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