Arsenal drew with struggling Crystal Palace and although it was disappointing in a number of ways, it was exactly the type of game they would have lost last season.
It would be easy to say that the gunners should have won this game, having been in such fine form of late but Palace are a team that needs the points for an entirely different reason and they were never going to just roll over quietly.
Arsenal had been on a winning streak of 11 games and scoring rather freely. Whereas Palace couldn’t buy a goal and looked about as lethal as a partially baked baguette.
Zaha and Townsend were expected to be the main obstacles and the former was irritatingly energised.
Flying down the flank with his brand of teasing, testing and probing forays.
It was Palace who looked the more threatening and more likely to score, with Arsenal caught flat footed and on the back foot.
Nothing was working apart from the partnership of Guendouzi and Torreira which provided a heel snapping collaboration of stealth, ambition and aggression.
This young Frenchman has a wonderful future ahead of him and brings fiery French passion by the truck load.
Whilst Torreira, brings the bite to repel attacks and establishes a pass into the opposite direction. He’s is the defensive shield that has been missing for so long and spends a game propelling his team forward by fire fighting danger and mopping up errors.
The gunners just couldn’t get a grip in this encounter and even though they had plenty of possession they simply didn’t know what to do with it because the service from the flanks was at best patchy or had completely dried up.
Then around the 45 minute mark, Mustafi upended Kouyate from behind. The German continues to baffle and has a knack of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as on the pitch at the kick off.
Milivojevic made sure that the Eagles headed in at halftime with a deserved lead and Arsenal would have to live up to their reputation of being a second half side.
That penalty ended the Palace fans 6 hours and 57 minute wait for a goal and was reward for the times when they went close but never got the luck they deserved.
On to the second half then and Bellerin, who’s service has been so vital down the right in recent games was withdrawn through injury, replaced by Stephan Lichtsteiner. The veteran Swiss makes a public appearance as often as Prince Phillip these days and he was struggling to find his feet on occasion.
In the 52nd, Torreira drew a foul by Milivojevic and Xhaka scored an absolute scorcher that bruised the air and singed the framework of the goal.
Minutes later, Xhaka was at it again, this time popping in a free kick which was helped on to Aubameyang from the hand of Lacazette.
The Congolese striker has a gift of appearing like a predatory phantom in the box and simply jabbed it in the net.
In the 64th minute Wilfred Zaha went deep into princess mode to complain about the attentions of Lichtsteiner. Zaha is becoming a bit of a girls blouse about the slightest knock or bump he receives at the hands of the opposition, which is as annoying as it is unnecessary.
Later he complained about Torreira’s tackle, a man that comes up to his shin. The palace man needs counselling if this behaviour continues or a big, wet sloppy kiss and a cuddle.
Then with less than 10 minutes to play, Zaha drew a tackle from Xhaka and sold the ref an innocent expression.
He seemed to hang in the air, waiting for a leg or foot to connect with some part of his anatomy and Xhaka, who is the most unlikely left back of all time, dutifully obliged.
Zaha looked for the penalty, choreographed the movement and got it. Xhaka refreshingly has no complaints and thought it was the right decision. He was probably alone in that opinion.
The rain had been coming down for some time and added to the misery of it all.
An afternoon when Arsenal seemed bereft of left footed players that were capable of passing to the left side and this deficit, saw Aubameyang frustrated and surplus for large parts of the game.
It was also a day when Mesut Ozil endured another ordinary performance, unable to repeat his recent heroics against Leicester and a day where Arsenal defenders gifted Palace their goals. The Arsenal Captain was clearly upset with either the substitution or his own contribution and viciously threw his woollen gloves on to the pitch. Quite what the gloves had done to provoke such rage is unclear, unless they were a gift from the German football federation.
If Zaha secures a BAFTA or OSCAR nomination for his role as the hard done by striker who can elicit a penalty, it will be no surprise. I understand that his side need points but it makes him less special as a player and taints his undeniable talent.
Yet Arsenal didn’t do enough to get anymore than a point from this game and now face a testing series of matches which include Liverpool, Spurs and old foes Manchester United.
As for Palace, they were still unable to score without the aid of a penalties, although this result may have jump started their season.
Zaha may need to be made aware that referees will have taken note of his well timed acrobatics in the box and he may not get the next decision to go in his favour.