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Premier League - Burnley vs Manchester United

Soccer Football - Premier League - Burnley vs Manchester United - Turf Moor, Burnley, Britain - January 20, 2018 Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho REUTERS/Phil Noble

FA Cup Third Round - Manchester City vs Burnley

FILE PHOTO - Soccer Football - FA Cup Third Round - Manchester City vs Burnley - Etihad Stadium, Manchester, Britain - January 6, 2018 Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne on the substitutes bench Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Premier League team of the weekend - by Jason Burt

Matchday 24 brought with it plenty of goals, and plenty of top quality ones, too. Arsenal showed there is life after Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea suggested there is no need for a target man. Here's our team of the week: Asmir Begovic It is fair to say that Begovic has, overall, been a disappointment since his big money move to Bournemouth from being back-up at Chelsea but he impressed in the draw away to West Ham United with a series of good saves, denying Marko Arnautovic in particular. Victor Moses   It was an all-action performance from Chelsea away to Brighton and Moses played his part, crossing for Eden Hazard’s opening goal and rounding off the scoring with a fine finish. Moses was back on the scoresheet for Chelsea Credit: Reuters Phil Jones The former Blackburn Rovers defender was given a warm reception from the Burnley fans at Turf Moor but his resilience summed up a vital away win for Manchester United. Nacho Monreal The Spaniard lasted just 34 minutes in his comeback from injury for Arsenal but made an incredible contribution in his team’s blistering start against Crystal Palace with a goal and two assists. Monreal scored Arsenal's first goal Credit: Action Images Ryan Bertrand Captaining Southampton Bertrand led his team’s threat against Tottenham Hotspur in an intriguing battle against Serge Aurier. Set up Southampton’s goal with a powerful run and cross. Xherdan Shaqiri The Swiss international was picked out by new Stoke City manager Paul Lambert as the key player if they are to avoid relegation. He showed that with some wonderful attacking play – including a delightful back-heel to set up a goal – in the win over Huddersfield Town. Fernandinho Fresh from signing a new contract extension with Manchester City the Brazilian again showed his worth by winning the ball back time and again in the win over Newcastle United. Fernandinho battles with Christian Atsu Credit: AFP Mesut Ozil With Alexis Sanchez on his way, Arsenal needed Ozil to step up and he did just that against Crystal Palace. He has been playing well for some time, in fact, and showed it with some sumptuous flicks and passes. Eden Hazard  Hazard has been – by his own brilliant standards – not at his best of late but he was simply world-class in the win over Brighton. He scared his opponents, scoring twice. Hazard was on fire for Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Sergio Aguero A perfect hat-trick – header, right-foot and left-foot – was the perfect riposte for Aguero and Manchester City with the disappointment over Alexis Sanchez deciding not to join them and Gabriel Jesus still not fit. Jamie Vardy  Once again Vardy – and Riyad Mahrez – made the difference for Leicester City in their win over Watford. Both scored with Vardy scoring his 11th of the season from the penalty spot and creating problems with his pace. Jason Burts Premier League team of the weekend Manager - Paul Lambert  The best way for any new manager to win round the doubters is to start with a victory and Stoke City’s Paul Lambert did just that. It also helped his cause that he had identified Xherdan Shaqiri as Stoke’s key player and the Swiss international responded with an excellent performance as he helped lift his team out of the bottom three. Huddersfield Town were the ideal opponents and Stoke took full advantage. Stiffer tests lie ahead but they are up and running under Lambert

Premier League team of the weekend - by Jason Burt

Matchday 24 brought with it plenty of goals, and plenty of top quality ones, too. Arsenal showed there is life after Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea suggested there is no need for a target man. Here's our team of the week: Asmir Begovic It is fair to say that Begovic has, overall, been a disappointment since his big money move to Bournemouth from being back-up at Chelsea but he impressed in the draw away to West Ham United with a series of good saves, denying Marko Arnautovic in particular. Victor Moses   It was an all-action performance from Chelsea away to Brighton and Moses played his part, crossing for Eden Hazard’s opening goal and rounding off the scoring with a fine finish. Moses was back on the scoresheet for Chelsea Credit: Reuters Phil Jones The former Blackburn Rovers defender was given a warm reception from the Burnley fans at Turf Moor but his resilience summed up a vital away win for Manchester United. Nacho Monreal The Spaniard lasted just 34 minutes in his comeback from injury for Arsenal but made an incredible contribution in his team’s blistering start against Crystal Palace with a goal and two assists. Monreal scored Arsenal's first goal Credit: Action Images Ryan Bertrand Captaining Southampton Bertrand led his team’s threat against Tottenham Hotspur in an intriguing battle against Serge Aurier. Set up Southampton’s goal with a powerful run and cross. Xherdan Shaqiri The Swiss international was picked out by new Stoke City manager Paul Lambert as the key player if they are to avoid relegation. He showed that with some wonderful attacking play – including a delightful back-heel to set up a goal – in the win over Huddersfield Town. Fernandinho Fresh from signing a new contract extension with Manchester City the Brazilian again showed his worth by winning the ball back time and again in the win over Newcastle United. Fernandinho battles with Christian Atsu Credit: AFP Mesut Ozil With Alexis Sanchez on his way, Arsenal needed Ozil to step up and he did just that against Crystal Palace. He has been playing well for some time, in fact, and showed it with some sumptuous flicks and passes. Eden Hazard  Hazard has been – by his own brilliant standards – not at his best of late but he was simply world-class in the win over Brighton. He scared his opponents, scoring twice. Hazard was on fire for Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Sergio Aguero A perfect hat-trick – header, right-foot and left-foot – was the perfect riposte for Aguero and Manchester City with the disappointment over Alexis Sanchez deciding not to join them and Gabriel Jesus still not fit. Jamie Vardy  Once again Vardy – and Riyad Mahrez – made the difference for Leicester City in their win over Watford. Both scored with Vardy scoring his 11th of the season from the penalty spot and creating problems with his pace. Jason Burts Premier League team of the weekend Manager - Paul Lambert  The best way for any new manager to win round the doubters is to start with a victory and Stoke City’s Paul Lambert did just that. It also helped his cause that he had identified Xherdan Shaqiri as Stoke’s key player and the Swiss international responded with an excellent performance as he helped lift his team out of the bottom three. Huddersfield Town were the ideal opponents and Stoke took full advantage. Stiffer tests lie ahead but they are up and running under Lambert

Premier League team of the weekend - by Jason Burt

Matchday 24 brought with it plenty of goals, and plenty of top quality ones, too. Arsenal showed there is life after Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea suggested there is no need for a target man. Here's our team of the week: Asmir Begovic It is fair to say that Begovic has, overall, been a disappointment since his big money move to Bournemouth from being back-up at Chelsea but he impressed in the draw away to West Ham United with a series of good saves, denying Marko Arnautovic in particular. Victor Moses   It was an all-action performance from Chelsea away to Brighton and Moses played his part, crossing for Eden Hazard’s opening goal and rounding off the scoring with a fine finish. Moses was back on the scoresheet for Chelsea Credit: Reuters Phil Jones The former Blackburn Rovers defender was given a warm reception from the Burnley fans at Turf Moor but his resilience summed up a vital away win for Manchester United. Nacho Monreal The Spaniard lasted just 34 minutes in his comeback from injury for Arsenal but made an incredible contribution in his team’s blistering start against Crystal Palace with a goal and two assists. Monreal scored Arsenal's first goal Credit: Action Images Ryan Bertrand Captaining Southampton Bertrand led his team’s threat against Tottenham Hotspur in an intriguing battle against Serge Aurier. Set up Southampton’s goal with a powerful run and cross. Xherdan Shaqiri The Swiss international was picked out by new Stoke City manager Paul Lambert as the key player if they are to avoid relegation. He showed that with some wonderful attacking play – including a delightful back-heel to set up a goal – in the win over Huddersfield Town. Fernandinho Fresh from signing a new contract extension with Manchester City the Brazilian again showed his worth by winning the ball back time and again in the win over Newcastle United. Fernandinho battles with Christian Atsu Credit: AFP Mesut Ozil With Alexis Sanchez on his way, Arsenal needed Ozil to step up and he did just that against Crystal Palace. He has been playing well for some time, in fact, and showed it with some sumptuous flicks and passes. Eden Hazard  Hazard has been – by his own brilliant standards – not at his best of late but he was simply world-class in the win over Brighton. He scared his opponents, scoring twice. Hazard was on fire for Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Sergio Aguero A perfect hat-trick – header, right-foot and left-foot – was the perfect riposte for Aguero and Manchester City with the disappointment over Alexis Sanchez deciding not to join them and Gabriel Jesus still not fit. Jamie Vardy  Once again Vardy – and Riyad Mahrez – made the difference for Leicester City in their win over Watford. Both scored with Vardy scoring his 11th of the season from the penalty spot and creating problems with his pace. Jason Burts Premier League team of the weekend Manager - Paul Lambert  The best way for any new manager to win round the doubters is to start with a victory and Stoke City’s Paul Lambert did just that. It also helped his cause that he had identified Xherdan Shaqiri as Stoke’s key player and the Swiss international responded with an excellent performance as he helped lift his team out of the bottom three. Huddersfield Town were the ideal opponents and Stoke took full advantage. Stiffer tests lie ahead but they are up and running under Lambert

Premier League team of the weekend - by Jason Burt

Matchday 24 brought with it plenty of goals, and plenty of top quality ones, too. Arsenal showed there is life after Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea suggested there is no need for a target man. Here's our team of the week: Asmir Begovic It is fair to say that Begovic has, overall, been a disappointment since his big money move to Bournemouth from being back-up at Chelsea but he impressed in the draw away to West Ham United with a series of good saves, denying Marko Arnautovic in particular. Victor Moses   It was an all-action performance from Chelsea away to Brighton and Moses played his part, crossing for Eden Hazard’s opening goal and rounding off the scoring with a fine finish. Moses was back on the scoresheet for Chelsea Credit: Reuters Phil Jones The former Blackburn Rovers defender was given a warm reception from the Burnley fans at Turf Moor but his resilience summed up a vital away win for Manchester United. Nacho Monreal The Spaniard lasted just 34 minutes in his comeback from injury for Arsenal but made an incredible contribution in his team’s blistering start against Crystal Palace with a goal and two assists. Monreal scored Arsenal's first goal Credit: Action Images Ryan Bertrand Captaining Southampton Bertrand led his team’s threat against Tottenham Hotspur in an intriguing battle against Serge Aurier. Set up Southampton’s goal with a powerful run and cross. Xherdan Shaqiri The Swiss international was picked out by new Stoke City manager Paul Lambert as the key player if they are to avoid relegation. He showed that with some wonderful attacking play – including a delightful back-heel to set up a goal – in the win over Huddersfield Town. Fernandinho Fresh from signing a new contract extension with Manchester City the Brazilian again showed his worth by winning the ball back time and again in the win over Newcastle United. Fernandinho battles with Christian Atsu Credit: AFP Mesut Ozil With Alexis Sanchez on his way, Arsenal needed Ozil to step up and he did just that against Crystal Palace. He has been playing well for some time, in fact, and showed it with some sumptuous flicks and passes. Eden Hazard  Hazard has been – by his own brilliant standards – not at his best of late but he was simply world-class in the win over Brighton. He scared his opponents, scoring twice. Hazard was on fire for Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Sergio Aguero A perfect hat-trick – header, right-foot and left-foot – was the perfect riposte for Aguero and Manchester City with the disappointment over Alexis Sanchez deciding not to join them and Gabriel Jesus still not fit. Jamie Vardy  Once again Vardy – and Riyad Mahrez – made the difference for Leicester City in their win over Watford. Both scored with Vardy scoring his 11th of the season from the penalty spot and creating problems with his pace. Jason Burts Premier League team of the weekend Manager - Paul Lambert  The best way for any new manager to win round the doubters is to start with a victory and Stoke City’s Paul Lambert did just that. It also helped his cause that he had identified Xherdan Shaqiri as Stoke’s key player and the Swiss international responded with an excellent performance as he helped lift his team out of the bottom three. Huddersfield Town were the ideal opponents and Stoke took full advantage. Stiffer tests lie ahead but they are up and running under Lambert

Premier League team of the weekend - by Jason Burt

Matchday 24 brought with it plenty of goals, and plenty of top quality ones, too. Arsenal showed there is life after Alexis Sanchez and Chelsea suggested there is no need for a target man. Here's our team of the week: Asmir Begovic It is fair to say that Begovic has, overall, been a disappointment since his big money move to Bournemouth from being back-up at Chelsea but he impressed in the draw away to West Ham United with a series of good saves, denying Marko Arnautovic in particular. Victor Moses   It was an all-action performance from Chelsea away to Brighton and Moses played his part, crossing for Eden Hazard’s opening goal and rounding off the scoring with a fine finish. Moses was back on the scoresheet for Chelsea Credit: Reuters Phil Jones The former Blackburn Rovers defender was given a warm reception from the Burnley fans at Turf Moor but his resilience summed up a vital away win for Manchester United. Nacho Monreal The Spaniard lasted just 34 minutes in his comeback from injury for Arsenal but made an incredible contribution in his team’s blistering start against Crystal Palace with a goal and two assists. Monreal scored Arsenal's first goal Credit: Action Images Ryan Bertrand Captaining Southampton Bertrand led his team’s threat against Tottenham Hotspur in an intriguing battle against Serge Aurier. Set up Southampton’s goal with a powerful run and cross. Xherdan Shaqiri The Swiss international was picked out by new Stoke City manager Paul Lambert as the key player if they are to avoid relegation. He showed that with some wonderful attacking play – including a delightful back-heel to set up a goal – in the win over Huddersfield Town. Fernandinho Fresh from signing a new contract extension with Manchester City the Brazilian again showed his worth by winning the ball back time and again in the win over Newcastle United. Fernandinho battles with Christian Atsu Credit: AFP Mesut Ozil With Alexis Sanchez on his way, Arsenal needed Ozil to step up and he did just that against Crystal Palace. He has been playing well for some time, in fact, and showed it with some sumptuous flicks and passes. Eden Hazard  Hazard has been – by his own brilliant standards – not at his best of late but he was simply world-class in the win over Brighton. He scared his opponents, scoring twice. Hazard was on fire for Chelsea Credit: Getty Images Sergio Aguero A perfect hat-trick – header, right-foot and left-foot – was the perfect riposte for Aguero and Manchester City with the disappointment over Alexis Sanchez deciding not to join them and Gabriel Jesus still not fit. Jamie Vardy  Once again Vardy – and Riyad Mahrez – made the difference for Leicester City in their win over Watford. Both scored with Vardy scoring his 11th of the season from the penalty spot and creating problems with his pace. Jason Burts Premier League team of the weekend Manager - Paul Lambert  The best way for any new manager to win round the doubters is to start with a victory and Stoke City’s Paul Lambert did just that. It also helped his cause that he had identified Xherdan Shaqiri as Stoke’s key player and the Swiss international responded with an excellent performance as he helped lift his team out of the bottom three. Huddersfield Town were the ideal opponents and Stoke took full advantage. Stiffer tests lie ahead but they are up and running under Lambert

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Monday Morning Football: A definitive analysis of the Premier League weekend

Last weekend’s defeat to Liverpool was no trigger for a Manchester City meltdown, then. On they march, casting Newcastle United aside with ease courtesy of a Sergio Aguero hat-trick. Still, there remains a sense that a certain aura of invincibility was sucked away on that Anfield night, and both Manchester United and Chelsea might just be capable of forming a challenge on the evidence of impressive victories this weekend. Elsewhere, in the second mini-league among the so-called ‘Big Six’, Arsenal began life without Alexis Sanchez by thrashing Crystal Palace, and a stuttering Tottenham Hotspur were held by Southampton. It was a good weekend for slick passing moves and team goals, while it was a particularly bad weekend for a certain Marco Silva. How Watford must wish they had taken the cash and let him leave when Everton came calling last year. All of this, and so much more, in your weekly round-up of the best of the Premier League action... Whose stock is rising?  Phil Jones It is tempting, at times, to wonder whether there exists a parallel universe in which Phil Jones had a different face. A world where there were no memes, no blown-up images of his latest mangled expression. How would Jones be perceived? Would it be different? It is a thought that is in a similar vein to what should be known as the ‘Law of Allardici’: the belief, held primarily by Big Sam Allardyce, that he would be more highly regarded as a manager if he had a more continental surname. Jones impressed at Turf Moor Credit: Reuters If Phil Jones was not called Phil Jones, and did not look like Phil Jones, would we hold him in greater esteem? Such questions are too big to be answered here, but it is a conundrum worth considering in the wake of another commanding performance in Manchester United’s 1-0 victory over Burnley. For a player as plagued by injury as Jones, a return of 22 appearances at this point of the season is encouraging. The same can be said for Manchester United’s defensive record, of which Jones himself deserves ever-increasing amounts of credit. United have conceded just 16 goals all season, the joint-lowest in the league along with Chelsea. Alexandre Lacazette Considering events off the field at Arsenal, this was as ideal a time as any for Lacazette to end his goalscoring drought. Firstly, the departure of Alexis Sanchez has heaped yet more pressure on shoulders that have not always looked the most sturdy this season. Secondly, the potential arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund will only prompt questions about Lacazette’s role and position in the team. Will he play out wide? Will Aubameyang? Or will Arsene Wenger change the shape? And does this mean Wenger already lost faith in his £50m centre forward? Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min) These are questions that will still need answering, but at least Lacazette can fight his corner without the burden of this goalless run hanging around his neck. His goal, Arsenal’s fourth, was his first since December 2. “It had started to play on his mind and was very heavy,” said Wenger. “So that’s a relief for him.” Lacazette is an interesting character, and it can be easy to forget that he is very much a home-boy who had never left Lyon before the move to the mad world of Premier League football and, especially, the relentless nature of the Arsenal circus. Willian Remember the early weeks of the season, when Willian was fast becoming the least popular player with the Chelsea fans? It feels like a long time ago now, for Willian has not so much found some form as he has been reborn as one of the Premier League’s most devastating attacking players. The Brazilian has been directly involved in eight goals in his last five Premier League starts for Chelsea, with three goals and five assists. His goal against Brighton was one of the finest we have seen this season, and the way he dovetailed with Eden Hazard was frightening. Willian scores for Chelsea Credit: Reuters There is clear chemistry between the two attackers, both on and off the pitch. It manifested itself with countless flicks and one-twos at the Amex, and then afterwards when Hazard “interviewed” Willian on Chelsea TV. It certainly seems that they believe they should be playing together, even if manager Antonio Conte (who has at times preferred to omit Willian by playing a 3-5-2 formation) might not always agree. Here’s a brief transcript of their discussion: Hazard: “It’s easy to play, you know…” Willian: “...when we play together.” Hazard: “I want to say the same, you know.” Willian: “Yeah, when we play together it’s easy.” Hazard: “It’s easy to play together… but Antonio… OK, you know…” Hazard and Willian joked in a post-match interview today about how easy is to play together and Eden coughed "but.. Antonio you know" ������ pic.twitter.com/YEwDGSrYfc— Dumitrel Miron (@mynameisdumi) January 20, 2018 Joe Allen A warm welcome back to the Premier League for Paul Lambert. The new Stoke manager recorded his first victory as a top-flight manager since 2014 and, more importantly, oversaw a performance which ended with his new side claiming their first clean sheet in the league since October. Sorting out Stoke’s defensive troubles will be Lambert’s priority, so this was an encouraging start despite the meek opposition provided by Huddersfield. Stoke will always be able to create chances if Xherdan Shaqiri is fit, so Lambert will need to forge some defensive stability and midfield control to keep things tight at the other end. Allen celebrates his goal Credit: Reuters That is where Joe Allen comes in. Surely Allen is Stoke’s most important player now, for the balance of the team and, as we have seen recently, the goal threat he provides from midfield. Allen has two goals and two assists in his last five Premier League games, which is as many as he managed in his previous 43 games combined. Salomon Rondon A gut-wrenching weekend for Rondon, who was so visibly affected by the horrific leg break suffered by Everton’s James McCarthy. The West Brom striker did, however, come away with plenty of credit (and support from the Everton crowd) for his heartfelt reaction and subsequent backing for McCarthy on social media. Unfortunately, the injury was the major event of an otherwise poor match. But Rondon also impressed in open play, providing a much-needed reference point for West Brom’s attacks and nearly scoring a spectacular late winner. Rondon is comforted by Pardew Credit: Getty Images Alan Pardew’s impact at West Brom has been somewhat less immediate than hoped, with his side still toiling in front of goal. They are currently 19th and are largely lacking in attacking inspiration. So it was a sign of genuine encouragement that Rondon looked somewhere close to his best at Goodison Park. He will be needed in the coming months. Not just for his goals, but also for the platform he provides for attacking players such as Jay Rodriguez, who scored a well-taken goal to give West Brom the lead. Whose stock is falling? Moussa Sissoko It is not so much what Sissoko does or does not do when he plays for Tottenham. It is more that his sheer presence in the team generally means that one of Son Heung-min, Dele Alli or Christan Eriksen is not playing. The scale of this problem was made particularly clear against Southampton, when Mauricio Pochettino turned to Sissoko in the absence of Eriksen. Cue a performance lacking all the subtlety and guile that Eriksen, with his deft touches and intelligent positioning, regularly brings to the side. Sissoko struggled against Southampton Credit: PA The £30m fee paid for Sissoko remains staggering, even in today’s inflated market, while a return of two goals in 32 appearances (many, admittedly, from the bench) is hardly encouraging. That said, he did not score once at all last season. Tottenham seemed to improve once Erik Lamela was introduced in an attacking midfield position, and it would seem unlikely that Sissoko will remain Eriken’s first-choice deputy for much longer. Adrian Joe Hart is far too much of a team player (and, indeed, a PROPER FOOTBALLING BLOKE) to have ever wished a mistake on one of his team-mates, but there must have been at least a tiny part of him that was pleased to see Adrian’s error against Bournemouth at the London Stadium. How could there not have been? Hart is waiting and watching right now, desperately hoping to be given another chance in the league as we tick ever closer to the World Cup. Clean sheets in both FA Cup games against lowly Shrewsbury would have helped, but Adrian remains David Moyes’s preferred goalkeeper, as he has been ever since Hart was ineligible to play against Manchester City in early December. West Ham 0 - 1 Bournemouth (Ryan Fraser, 71 min) There was a welcome glimmer of hope for Hart this weekend, then. With Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser streaking towards goal, Adrian came out, changed his mind and found himself in what will forever be known as the goalkeeper’s “no-man’s land”. He was duly beaten at the near post. Time for a change? Chris Hughton The plan, on paper, made sense. Match up formations with Chelsea and turn this into a scrap. Other teams have had joy against Conte’s side with a similar approach, notably Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal last season. For Brighton, though, this could not have gone worse. Within six minutes of starting the game in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, Brighton were two goals down thanks to the brilliance of Hazard and Willian. Not one defender in the Brighton back three seemed sure of whether to drop off or push up against Chelsea’s scheming attackers. As a result, Hazard had the freedom to do whatever he liked as he inspired the visitors to a 4-0 victory. Average touch positions (0 min) It is perhaps unfair to criticise Hughton for trying something a little different, and Brighton had good moments at the Amex where Chelsea were under genuine pressure, but this was a plan that was quickly exposed as folly. Brighton are just one point above the relegation zone now, and have a crucial run of fixtures in the Premier League. Next up are Southampton, West Ham, Stoke and Swansea. Things are getting very serious down on the south coast. Molla Wague Clumsy, off the pace and ruthlessly exposed by a striker who relishes the prospect of scampering directly at struggling defenders. This was not a good afternoon’s work by Wague, who was swiftly taught the same punishing lesson that Jamie Vardy has dished out to plenty of other centre-backs in recent seasons. Wague, who has enjoyed a run in the side as Watford have continued to search fruitlessly for any sort of consistency, was removed with an injury after an hour at the King Power Stadium but had long since been shattered by Vardy. Wague is beaten by Vardy Credit: Reuters He gave away the penalty from which Vardy gave Leicester the lead and was beaten by the England striker on plenty of other occasions. Now Marco Silva has gone, it would be no surprise to see a upturn in form at Watford, who clearly boast a talented squad. If there is to be an improvement, though, it needs to start from the back. James McArthur There can few more undignifying failures in football than a failure to mark 5ft 8in Nacho Monreal at a corner. To let him go once is bad. To let him go twice, as McArthur managed twice in less than 10 minutes at the Emirates, is unforgivable. No wonder his reaction to Monreal’s sixth-minute opener was to throw his hands to his head. He looked for all the world as if he could not even contemplate what he had done. Monreal did not even have to jump to head the corner home. Monreal scores for Arsenal Credit: Getty Unfortunately for Palace, it set the tone for a disastrous 22 minutes in which Arsenal scored four times. The last of those goals, finished by Lacazette but inspired by Mesut Ozil, was so slick that no blame can be attached to Roy Hodgson’s defenders. It was a very different story for the other three, and McArthur was the guilty man on two occasions. Stats of the weekend 1 - Sergio Aguero’s perfect hat-trick against Newcastle was the Premier League’s first perfect hat-trick since October 2015, which was scored by Aguero... against Newcastle. 14 - David de Gea has kept 14 clean sheets this season, more than any other goalkeeper in Europe’s big five leagues. 102 - Eden Hazard has now scored or assisted 102 Premier League goals for Chelsea (65 goals, 37 assists), one more than Gianfranco Zola managed for the club. 251 - Jonjoe Kenny’s 38th-minute shot against West Brom was Everton’s first effort on target in 251 minutes of Premier League football. 500 - Alexandre Lacazette’s goal against Crystal Palace was the 500th scored by a Frenchman for Arsenal in the Premier League. Goal of the weekend In a season of impressive team goals (most of them scored by Manchester City), Willian’s effort against Brighton was surely the best of the lot. Hazard and Michy Batshuayi played their part with two consecutive backheeled flicks, and Willian’s finish was stunning. Brighton 0 - 2 Chelsea (Willian, 6 min) Jason Burt's team of the weekend Jason Burt's Premier League team of the weekend Key question of the week Do Chelsea really need a target man? Peter Crouch, Andy Carroll, Christian Benteke and even Ashley Barnes. So bizarre are the names that have been linked with Chelsea that it’s tempting to wonder whether Michael Emenalo took the club’s entire recruitment strategy with him when he left in November. Someone, somewhere at Chelsea has decided that a burly striker is required. It may be Antonio Conte, but the short-term thinking of this approach, and his repeated insistence that the club does the transfer business rather than him, suggests not. In many ways, this is irrelevant. What is clear is that Chelsea want back-up for Alvaro Morata (Michy Batshuayi has clearly been deemed substandard) and they want someone who can, as Conte describes it, provide a “reference” point to his attack. Batshuayi has failed to impress Credit: Reuters The thinking, no doubt, is that it will help get the best out of Hazard, Willian and Pedro. Yet watching Hazard and Willian sparkle on the south coast against Brighton this weekend, it was hard to avoid the feeling that they were much better off with the more fluid approach of Batshuayi alongside them than a Carroll-type figure. Hazard certainly thought so, saying afterwards that the “little guys” were key to the team performing well and adding quite clearly that he did not think Chelsea needed another striker. Perhaps the club will take heed of their star player, and this weekend’s terrific performance, and row back on one of the most unusual transfer window maneuverings we have seen. Who's showing the most cards? How is the table looking? Off the Ball, by Dan Zeqiri What has gone into Sam Allardyce's 1,000 games as a manager?  38% - Sweat  12% - Gravy  24% - Prozone analysis  8% - Bitterness 18% - Set-piece work Taking it too far  The QPR fan who allegedly urinated in the Middlesbrough goalkeeper's water bottle before throwing it back was arrested and charged by police with throwing an item on the pitch. Some people just cannot hold their shandy. Literally, in this case. Reduced to clear There was no Black Friday-style stampede for the Alexis Sanchez t-shirts on sale outside the Emirates on Saturday. Perhaps the vendor could market them as impromptu dartboards? Hell hath no fury like an Arsenal fan scorned.    Get it while it's hot Credit: Reuters Race for the Golden Boot  What's coming up next? What's on TV this week? Monday:Swansea City v Liverpool, Premier League, 8pm, Sky Sports Tuesday: Bristol City v Manchester City, League Cup, 7.45pm, Sky Sports Wednesday: Arsenal v Chelsea, League Cup, 8pm, Sky Sports Friday: Yeovil Town v Manchester United, FA Cup, 7.55pm, BBC Saturday: Peterborough United v Leicester City, FA Cup, 12.30pm, BT Sport; Newport County v Tottenham Hotspur, FA Cup, 5.30pm, BT Sport; Liverpool v West Brom, FA Cup, 7.45pm, BT Sport Sunday: Chelsea v Newcastle United, FA Cup, 1.30pm, BT Sport; Cardiff City v Manchester City, FA Cup, 4pm, BBC

Liverpool's Sadio Mane rediscovers his touch after pep talk with Jurgen Klopp over derby mishap

Sadio Mane’s first year at Liverpool was ended by a knee injury in the Merseyside derby. This season he has just recovered from the mental wound suffered in the same fixture. Jurgen Klopp has revealed how affected Mane was by an error in the 1-1 draw with Everton in December. With Liverpool one up before half-time, Mane elected to shoot when team mates waited for a tap-in. That, Klopp believes, led to a dip in form. A managerial pep talk was needed to restore the African’s confidence. “After the Everton game when he didn’t pass the ball, everybody made a big criticism of him,” said Klopp. “I didn’t mention it to be honest. I didn’t mention it at half-time, I didn’t mention it after the game, it was not mentioned in any meeting because I saw in Sadio’s eyes that if he could turn the clock backwards he would do it.  “At that moment he was convinced he would score, he was a striker and a striker has to make a decision. I want him to make these decisions, but sometimes you have to accept that these decisions are wrong.  “I accept it, you have to accept it as well. So as long as you don’t do the same in the next 20 similar situations so that people start thinking, ‘what’s that about?’ that is no problem. You cannot play football without mistakes. He didn’t want to do it.  Now he is completely different again." It is a timely return to form for Mane after the sale of Philippe Coutinho Credit: Reuters Klopp hopes Mane's struggles are over. Last week’s display against Manchester City was his best for months.  “Of course we had talks,” said Klopp. “I like to be honest and I don’t want to say Sadio was brilliant when he wasn’t. Everyone could see that he struggled a bit. It didn’t look like it was too easy for him.  “How can I say to you what I told the player in a one-to-one meeting? It is not possible, but it was about what he did so far. Good, good, good, good, good; one or two things not that good, but the rest good.   “So lets build on that and ignore the rest. You cannot think all the time about your mistakes because that makes no sense. You cannot forget all the good things. “At Burnley he scored a fantastic goal but it was not a world class game of Sadio, Since then he is now really back, he works hard, he protects the ball, no risky dribbling and he is a world class player. The two goals he scored (against Burnley and Manchester City) – I don’t know a lot of players who could have scored these.” With Coutinho gone, it is a timely return to form. “It had nothing to do with Phil, but Sadio is one of the players who, for sure, can fill this gap if you want,” said Klopp. Liverpooltravelled to Swansea on Sunday ahead of Monday’s fixture, but despite his return to training Daniel Sturridge was not part of the squad. Sturridge’s Anfield career is drawing to an end, Inter Milan and Sevilla trying to secure a loan agreement. Inter have been in the more advanced discussions with the Liverpool hierarchy – their terms more favourable – but Sturridge has expressed a preference to move to La Liga. Liverpool will not let the striker leave unless the financial package is favourable – they will not subsidise Sturridge’s wages while he is loan. They would also prefer an agreement that leads to a permanent transfer. Klopp, meanwhile, continues to take a pragmatic view on the future of Emre Can who remains a focal point of his line-up despite his refusal to pledge his long-term future to the club. Klopp hopes such situations do not become frequent, but says it is difficult to prevent. “We have to make it as difficult, let me say it like this, for (players) to want to leave, but it still can, and probably will, happen,” he said.   “There are other places with football clubs as well. We cannot ignore that. In this age group maybe not all of them are one team players, or one club players.”                

Liverpool's Sadio Mane rediscovers his touch after pep talk with Jurgen Klopp over derby mishap

Sadio Mane’s first year at Liverpool was ended by a knee injury in the Merseyside derby. This season he has just recovered from the mental wound suffered in the same fixture. Jurgen Klopp has revealed how affected Mane was by an error in the 1-1 draw with Everton in December. With Liverpool one up before half-time, Mane elected to shoot when team mates waited for a tap-in. That, Klopp believes, led to a dip in form. A managerial pep talk was needed to restore the African’s confidence. “After the Everton game when he didn’t pass the ball, everybody made a big criticism of him,” said Klopp. “I didn’t mention it to be honest. I didn’t mention it at half-time, I didn’t mention it after the game, it was not mentioned in any meeting because I saw in Sadio’s eyes that if he could turn the clock backwards he would do it.  “At that moment he was convinced he would score, he was a striker and a striker has to make a decision. I want him to make these decisions, but sometimes you have to accept that these decisions are wrong.  “I accept it, you have to accept it as well. So as long as you don’t do the same in the next 20 similar situations so that people start thinking, ‘what’s that about?’ that is no problem. You cannot play football without mistakes. He didn’t want to do it.  Now he is completely different again." It is a timely return to form for Mane after the sale of Philippe Coutinho Credit: Reuters Klopp hopes Mane's struggles are over. Last week’s display against Manchester City was his best for months.  “Of course we had talks,” said Klopp. “I like to be honest and I don’t want to say Sadio was brilliant when he wasn’t. Everyone could see that he struggled a bit. It didn’t look like it was too easy for him.  “How can I say to you what I told the player in a one-to-one meeting? It is not possible, but it was about what he did so far. Good, good, good, good, good; one or two things not that good, but the rest good.   “So lets build on that and ignore the rest. You cannot think all the time about your mistakes because that makes no sense. You cannot forget all the good things. “At Burnley he scored a fantastic goal but it was not a world class game of Sadio, Since then he is now really back, he works hard, he protects the ball, no risky dribbling and he is a world class player. The two goals he scored (against Burnley and Manchester City) – I don’t know a lot of players who could have scored these.” With Coutinho gone, it is a timely return to form. “It had nothing to do with Phil, but Sadio is one of the players who, for sure, can fill this gap if you want,” said Klopp. Liverpooltravelled to Swansea on Sunday ahead of Monday’s fixture, but despite his return to training Daniel Sturridge was not part of the squad. Sturridge’s Anfield career is drawing to an end, Inter Milan and Sevilla trying to secure a loan agreement. Inter have been in the more advanced discussions with the Liverpool hierarchy – their terms more favourable – but Sturridge has expressed a preference to move to La Liga. Liverpool will not let the striker leave unless the financial package is favourable – they will not subsidise Sturridge’s wages while he is loan. They would also prefer an agreement that leads to a permanent transfer. Klopp, meanwhile, continues to take a pragmatic view on the future of Emre Can who remains a focal point of his line-up despite his refusal to pledge his long-term future to the club. Klopp hopes such situations do not become frequent, but says it is difficult to prevent. “We have to make it as difficult, let me say it like this, for (players) to want to leave, but it still can, and probably will, happen,” he said.   “There are other places with football clubs as well. We cannot ignore that. In this age group maybe not all of them are one team players, or one club players.”                

Alexis Sanchez's imminent Man Utd arrival fires up Anthony Martial and Romlu Lukaku

As Jose Mourinho sat in the press conference room at Turf Moor, satisfied by Manchester United’s seventh away victory in the Premier League this season, he insisted the imminent arrival of Alexis Sanchez was governed solely by a need to provide some competition among his forwards. He had plenty of defensive and midfield options. But up front, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic once more indisposed, he has only three players to choose from. ‘‘We need that extra internal competition,” he said. Whether those were the precise words used in the lengthy negotiations with the Chilean – ‘‘to be honest Alexis, we only want you to keep Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford on their toes” – appears unlikely. And £400,000 a week seems a sizeable return for someone whose principal purpose is to make others better. But there was a sense in this bruising victory that both Martial and Lukaku are already benefiting from feeling the potential new arrival’s breath on their collar. They conjured up a superb goal here to win the match. Lukaku, widely criticised as having have a poor touch for a big man, created it with a lovely pass after battling his way through the Burnley backline. But it was the clinical aplomb of  Martial’s finish that stood out, as he deceived Nick Pope in goal before shooting with real conviction. ‘‘We know when we put him in the one-v-one situation with a full back it’s difficult for the full back because he has so many attributes,” said Mourinho of the Frenchman. ‘‘He can go inside, can go outside, he can shoot to the far post, he can shoot to the near post like he did today and he has lots of attributes. So it is one more reason to be happy with Romelu because he knew if we put Anthony in a one-on-one situation he is difficult.” Sean  Martial scored the only goal of the game Credit: PA Dyche, the Burnley manager, was no less admiring of the strike. ‘‘It’s a fantastic finish,” he said. ‘‘Sometimes you have to hold your hands up. I have seen it back and he looks for the gap and finds the gap in the top corner, and I think there is often a reason why those footballers move to Man United for 30 million quid.” Martial’s contribution, however, was a rare moment of quality in a game more attritional than aesthetic. Showing little evidence of a lack of confidence brought on by a poor run, Burnley were tough opponents: organised, spirited, determined. Based around Steven Defour and Jack Cork they have a midfield of pace and intelligence. How would Alexis Sanchez fit in at Manchester United? Indeed, what the match demonstrated was that whatever weaknesses in his squad Mourinho is hoping to address with the addition of Sanchez, they do not lie in his defence. This was the fourth clean sheet his team have delivered since the New Year. And this against a Burnley team who chucked everything at them, including the kitchen sink in the shape of Pope trundling forward for a couple of injury-time set pieces, in the desperate scramble for an equaliser. ‘‘That was the defining image,” said Mourinho of the goalkeeper’s intervention. And the smile he wore as he said it suggested that, unlike many of his peers, he is a manager who still prefers a battle to an exhibition. At the heart of United’s resistance was Phil Jones, who, under Mourinho’s stewardship, is finally looking like the centre back he has long threatened to be. His every touch booed by the home fans for his Blackburn past, Jones was magnificent. With his speed, strength and timing he provided a smothering blanket, ensuring for all Burnley’s drive, David De Gea was only infrequently pressed into service. ‘‘The character and determination we showed, the willingness to fight and close down was terrific,” Jones said. ‘‘And when you come to a place like this, that is what you have to do. I’m pleased for the lads.” Watching from afar Sanchez must have been pleased too. If and when he finally arrives in Manchester, he will find it something of a new experience playing in a team that gains as much pleasure from stopping the opposition as from scoring themselves.

Alexis Sanchez's imminent Man Utd arrival fires up Anthony Martial and Romlu Lukaku

As Jose Mourinho sat in the press conference room at Turf Moor, satisfied by Manchester United’s seventh away victory in the Premier League this season, he insisted the imminent arrival of Alexis Sanchez was governed solely by a need to provide some competition among his forwards. He had plenty of defensive and midfield options. But up front, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic once more indisposed, he has only three players to choose from. ‘‘We need that extra internal competition,” he said. Whether those were the precise words used in the lengthy negotiations with the Chilean – ‘‘to be honest Alexis, we only want you to keep Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford on their toes” – appears unlikely. And £400,000 a week seems a sizeable return for someone whose principal purpose is to make others better. But there was a sense in this bruising victory that both Martial and Lukaku are already benefiting from feeling the potential new arrival’s breath on their collar. They conjured up a superb goal here to win the match. Lukaku, widely criticised as having have a poor touch for a big man, created it with a lovely pass after battling his way through the Burnley backline. But it was the clinical aplomb of  Martial’s finish that stood out, as he deceived Nick Pope in goal before shooting with real conviction. ‘‘We know when we put him in the one-v-one situation with a full back it’s difficult for the full back because he has so many attributes,” said Mourinho of the Frenchman. ‘‘He can go inside, can go outside, he can shoot to the far post, he can shoot to the near post like he did today and he has lots of attributes. So it is one more reason to be happy with Romelu because he knew if we put Anthony in a one-on-one situation he is difficult.” Sean  Martial scored the only goal of the game Credit: PA Dyche, the Burnley manager, was no less admiring of the strike. ‘‘It’s a fantastic finish,” he said. ‘‘Sometimes you have to hold your hands up. I have seen it back and he looks for the gap and finds the gap in the top corner, and I think there is often a reason why those footballers move to Man United for 30 million quid.” Martial’s contribution, however, was a rare moment of quality in a game more attritional than aesthetic. Showing little evidence of a lack of confidence brought on by a poor run, Burnley were tough opponents: organised, spirited, determined. Based around Steven Defour and Jack Cork they have a midfield of pace and intelligence. How would Alexis Sanchez fit in at Manchester United? Indeed, what the match demonstrated was that whatever weaknesses in his squad Mourinho is hoping to address with the addition of Sanchez, they do not lie in his defence. This was the fourth clean sheet his team have delivered since the New Year. And this against a Burnley team who chucked everything at them, including the kitchen sink in the shape of Pope trundling forward for a couple of injury-time set pieces, in the desperate scramble for an equaliser. ‘‘That was the defining image,” said Mourinho of the goalkeeper’s intervention. And the smile he wore as he said it suggested that, unlike many of his peers, he is a manager who still prefers a battle to an exhibition. At the heart of United’s resistance was Phil Jones, who, under Mourinho’s stewardship, is finally looking like the centre back he has long threatened to be. His every touch booed by the home fans for his Blackburn past, Jones was magnificent. With his speed, strength and timing he provided a smothering blanket, ensuring for all Burnley’s drive, David De Gea was only infrequently pressed into service. ‘‘The character and determination we showed, the willingness to fight and close down was terrific,” Jones said. ‘‘And when you come to a place like this, that is what you have to do. I’m pleased for the lads.” Watching from afar Sanchez must have been pleased too. If and when he finally arrives in Manchester, he will find it something of a new experience playing in a team that gains as much pleasure from stopping the opposition as from scoring themselves.

FD: Mourinho wants competition in United's attack

Following Manchester United's narrow 1-0 win at Burnley on Saturday (20th January), manager Jose Mourinho admitted he wanted more competition among his attacking players, with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez imminent.

FD: Mourinho wants competition in United's attack

Following Manchester United's narrow 1-0 win at Burnley on Saturday (20th January), manager Jose Mourinho admitted he wanted more competition among his attacking players, with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez imminent.

FD: Mourinho wants competition in United's attack

Following Manchester United's narrow 1-0 win at Burnley on Saturday (20th January), manager Jose Mourinho admitted he wanted more competition among his attacking players, with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez imminent.

FD: Mourinho wants competition in United's attack

Following Manchester United's narrow 1-0 win at Burnley on Saturday (20th January), manager Jose Mourinho admitted he wanted more competition among his attacking players, with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez imminent.

Chelsea interested in Burnley striker Barnes

The Blues are looking at a range of options for a back-up striker in the January transfer window, with Peter Crouch also under consideration

Burnley Fan View: Three talking points from Man Utd loss

Chelsea interested in Burnley striker Barnes

The Blues are looking at a range of options for a back-up striker in the January transfer window, with Peter Crouch also under consideration

Man United adapted well to beat 'brave' Burnley - Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United adapted their performance well to clinch a tight 1-0 win against a 'brave' Burnley side.

Man United adapted well to beat 'brave' Burnley - Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United adapted their performance well to clinch a tight 1-0 win against a 'brave' Burnley side.

Man United adapted well to beat 'brave' Burnley - Mourinho

Jose Mourinho believes Manchester United adapted their performance well to clinch a tight 1-0 win against a 'brave' Burnley side.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

Arsenal 4 Crystal Palace 1: Early blitz provides hope for life after Alexis Sanchez

A day out for the flat-track bullies or glimpses of an exciting new beginning without Alexis Sanchez? Fans of Arsenal have seen enough false dawns to instinctively suspect the former but, even allowing for Crystal Palace’s very obvious limitations, there was still enough here to suggest that life after Sanchez might actually be an improvement on the past year. Arsenal really should have begun this process with Sanchez’s sale last summer and, after having a £45 million bid rejected on Saturday, are also now preparing to return with a second bid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. With Henrikh Mkhitaryan also due imminently to arrive from Manchester United and Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere all influential here in a match that was effectively over at 4-0 after just 22 minutes, Arsenal’s main problem has never really related to their offensive options. It is the defensive shape of the team and, in switching to a third different system of the season, manager Arsene Wenger might finally have found the optimum balance. The addition of Mohamed Elneny just behind two more liberated central midfielders in Jack Wilshere and Granit Xhaka meant a return to four at the back and provided the platform for an immediate dominance of possession. Laurent Koscielny scored before he was taken off as a precaution Credit: reuters Whereas Xhaka, Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey are all midfielders who like to break forward in attack, Elneny did an extremely effective and disciplined job just simply parked in front of the defence. Crystal Palace, who are close to the signings themselves of both Jaroslaw Jach and Erdal Rakip, must have intended to exploit all the simmering tension that is hovering just now around The Emirates but were undone by a defensive horror-show duly that gifted Arsenal three goals in only 13 minutes. Arsenal were certainly passing the ball slickly but did not actually have to produce much in the final third to establish this unassailable advantage, with left-back Nacho Monreal scoring the first and then even providing two assists in what was his first match for a month. Iwobi’s shot had initially been tipped over by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and, from Xhaka’s corner, Monreal simply lost James McArthur and headed Arsenal into the lead. Monreal then sprinted onto Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s miscued clearance and crossed for Iwobi to finish past Hennessey. From another Xhaka corner, Monreal was again completely unmarked to hook the ball back along the six-yard box for another returning defender, Laurent Koscielny, to finish. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal Few managers are ever more aggrieved to concede from set-pieces than Roy Hodgson and his Crystal Palace players can expected plenty of time devoted to ironing out these players over this next week. “It is hard to take when it is from corners,” said Hodgson. Having emerged as the unlikely answer to any creative concerns without Sanchez, Monreal then signalled that he was feeling pain in his hamstring and was quickly taken offer ahead of the League Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea on Wednesday. Arsenal’s goals might have been uncharacteristically scrappy but a wonderful blur of passing then did follow between Ozil and Wilshere that culminated with the German playmaker delightfully backheeling for Lacazette to end his nine-game scoring drought. Hodgson had been talking about the “sadistic pleasure of management” in interviews before this game but, with 70 minutes still remaining, even he was already fearing just how many Arsenal might ultimately score. “Arsenal showed their full range of their passing skills and I thought we were staring down the barrel of a gun against a team of their quality,” he later said. “Had we not martialled ourselves and showed the character, desire, work-rate and energy we did in the second half it would have been an avalanche.” Wenger admitted after the game that Sanchez had travelled up to Manchester to complete his move Credit: Reuters Indeed, Palace did then consolidate defensively and actually also began to pose an attacking threat. After some typically nimble dribbling, Wilfried Zaha forced a first save of Petr Cech and the Arsenal goalkeeper was then required to make an even better block to deny Christian Benteke. Cech had been aiming for a record 200th Premier League clean sheet but Luka Milivojevic’s volley ensured that landmark must wait and at least provided Palace with a late consolation. “We reduced the deficit to minus three rather than the seven or eight it could have been at one stage,” said Hodgson. Arsenal were denied a penalty when Lacazette was upended by James Tomkins but the match also ended badly for Palace when Yohan Cabaye was stretchered off. Cabaye left The Emirates on crutches and Hodgson fears ankle ligament damage amid a worsening list of injuries. “The two goalkeepers and 16 outfield players in the squad are all we have available,” he said. Arsenal have considerably more options even without Sanchez and, in highlighting just how disruptive these past weeks have been, Wenger sounded almost relieved to report that his star striker had been travelling up to Manchester during the game. “It is the first time in January that we have lost one of our big players,” said Wenger. “It is a bit more destabilising than usual. It is not only to lose a world class player: this uncertainty creates a strange feeling in the dressing-room and is why the transfer period is difficult during the season. Once clear, the team focus on the job. We played how we know we can play when everybody is focussed and in good shape. It was a convincing win.”  4:52PM FULL TIME Palace undone by 20something minutes of madness after kick-off. Arsenal's post-Sanchez world doesn't look too bad after all. 4:51PM 90 mins +2 Lacazette goes down in the area after the team tries to walk the ball into the area. It looks like a clear penalty at first look... and the replay makes me think the same thing. The game's done anyway, it doesn't really matter at this stage. 4:48PM 90 mins Bad news for Palace fans. Cabaye has been stretchered off. Riedewald replaces him. 4:46PM 88 mins Palace are now in control of the ball but can't thread anything in behind the Arsenal defence. Cabaye goes down injured as Arsenal attack, the referee doesn't stop anything, players want the game stopped to allow him treatment. To the disappointment of the crowd, Bellerin eventually does put the ball out for a throw.  4:43PM 85 mins Palace want to make substitutions but Arsenal haven't given up the ball for about five minutes. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:40PM 83 mins Palace have committed a few more players forward in attacks, sensing a small chance to maybe test Arsenal but Van Aanholt moves inside the pitch, loses the ball and Arsenal counter quickly. They have a four on two chance but the ball is played ahead of Nelson and cut out, with Wilshere desperate for the pass out on the left. Iwobi is replaced by Kolasinac. 4:38PM 80 mins Wilshere finds Lacazette with a brilliant through ball but the striker runs out of ideas and tries a couple of fairly useless shots at the near post.  4:37PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLL! The comeback is on! Palace win a corner thanks to Zaha, Benteke heads it on and Milovejic has scored an absolute belter, controlling off the chest and executing a superb volley into the far corner while surrounded.  Arsenal 4 - 1 Crystal Palace (Luka Milivojevic, 78 min)   4:36PM 78 mins Zaha is enjoying his role as WWE style villain here today. The crowd are booing him, he's getting involved in little battles all over the pitch and he's reacting in a suitably theatrical way. It's great. Credit: GETTY IMAGES   4:34PM 76 mins Arsenal have slowed to walking pace, Palace don't seem to mind. Lacazette nearly tees up Bellerin for a wonder goal but his volley at near post hits Van Aanholt. That would have taken the net off! Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Héctor Bellerín, 75 min)   4:31PM 74 mins Elneny overlaps on the right as Lacazette is deemed to have won the ball fairly on the edge of ARsenal's penalty area... but Elneny's shot at the near post is saved. Milivojevic has a clumsy kick at Wilshere and gives away a free-kick. Nelson comes on for Ozil. Credit: REUTERS  Xhaka goes down off the ball and stays there, play continues. 4:29PM 71 mins I've been really impressed with Elneny today. He's provided the defensive cover that Xhaka and Wilshere need - this formation suits Arsenal's style of play so much better than the 3-4-3. He's always just in front of the back two, drops deep to start passing moves and snaps at attackers when they get near the area.  4:25PM 68 mins Wilshere goes down holding his face after a clash with McArthur on the edge of the area, Palace go forward until play is stopped. He seems to have taken a wee knock to the back of his head but is fine to continue. 4:23PM 65 mins And on replay, it looks very much like Zaha was genuinely tripped and should have won a penalty! I was wrong, Wilf. I was wrong!   4:22PM 63 mins Arsenal are playing some really nice football, keeping possession under pressure and moving it up the pitch quickly. They then run into trouble near the Palace box, and now that there's an actual defence to work, slow down in the final third. The fans starting to get a little impatient. 4:19PM 60 mins Zaha is such a good player but jeez louise he goes down in the box a lot. He tries to go past Elneny with some quick feet, leans so he's just off balance and then goes down as Elneny bumps into him while the two collide. He's furious about not being given a penalty but he must know. He must know. Palace win a corner with another quick attack. If anyone is going to score the next goal, it's Palace at the moment. 4:15PM 57 mins And Iwobi nearly scores from the attack! He has a player in miles of space over on the edge of the box but decides to shoot at the near post, hitting the goalkeeper in the chest. Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 56 min)   4:14PM 55 mins Palace look much tighter in defence now, are holding their defensive line better and don't look like falling apart. Arsenal have taken their foot off the gas as you'd expect... and Mustafi has almost scored an own goal, heading back to Cech but putting the ball over his head. Luckily it ends up wide of goal. Palace work the ball into the area from the corner, Arsenal try and counter but can't... and then do. 4:10PM 52 mins Palace have switched to something like a 4-5-1 with Sako wide left and Zaha wide right. Sako takes too long on the ball when there was a chance to shoot, electing to keep the ball instead of a hopeful punt... and he's crowded out. This is a much better start to the half. Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace   4:09PM 50 mins No corners for Arsenal yet which is good news for the Crystal Palace net.  4:05PM 48 mins Credit: OFFSIDE That was Fosu-Mensah's facial review of his team's first half. Palace have started this half much better, managing to find teammates with passes and attacking the area. 4:04PM KICK-OFF 2 We're back! How will Palace get on here? 4:01PM Roy Hodgson's team talk [Aggressive] Show me something else in the second half. 3:48PM HALF TIME Great performance from Arsenal but Palace didn't even turn up for this one. Poor defending, shocking reaction to going behind and Roy Hodgson will probably send his team out in the second half to ensure the scoreline doesn't get any more embarrassing. Arsenal vs Crystal Palace shots on goal   3:46PM 45 mins +1 Xhaka is very upset about a challenge by Tomkins on him and squares up to the defender near the Palace box. The referee is standing next to them as they go at it and Tomkins shoves Xhaka away.  Xhaka shoots but is high and wide. 3:45PM 45 mins ZAHA! Saved by Cech. A loose pass from Maitland-Niles gives Zaha a chance to shoot as he lollipops his way to a yard of space in front of Elneny and shoots low to the corner.  Cech catches superbly from the resulting corner and calms things down after. 3:42PM 42 mins Elneny has been excellent so far. As you can see from this weighted positions graphic, the game has basically flowed through him in the centre of the park. Arsenal playing a 2-3-2-3 for most of the match. Average touch positions (40 min)   3:40PM 39 mins Wilshere and Ozil push the skill buttons on the edge of the box, pinging those quick passes together which dazzle defenders and then Wilshere scoops the ball on the move into Ozil's path. Arsenal playing with a real swagger here, except Lacazette who is still trying to be a little too delicate in the box. 3:38PM 37 mins Zaha is starting to get more of the ball and is keeping Bellerin busy. Cech has been told to get the ball moving forward quickly, usually aiming for Iwobi or Ozil high up the pitch. It's putting Arsenal on the front foot straight away. 3:35PM 35 mins Monreal is coming off here to be replaced by Maitland-Niles. He must have picked up a little injury there and since the game is already done, it makes sense to get him off and treated straight away. Monreal disappears down the tunnel. 3:33PM 32 mins Bellerin stretches the defence but can't spot an opportunity to get the ball into the area. Palace just boot the thing clear when get it. 3:31PM 30 mins A counter-attack! Palace survive a set-piece and a ball oer the top puts Sako away! He tries to turn Elneny inside out, Elneny goes down in pain while turning sharply and Sako's shot is saved low by Cech.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Bakary Sako, 28 min) That injury has given Hodgson a chance to talk to/shout at his players. Elneny seems to be OK to continue. 3:28PM 27 mins 3 - Arsenal's three goals in the first 13 minutes is the fastest a side has gone 3-0 up in the PL since the Gunners themselves at Newcastle in Feb 2011 - Newcastle coming from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 in that game. Nerves.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018 Arsenal are firing short, quick passes around the final third and it's pulling Palace apart. It's so hard to stop them on this form.  3:25PM 24 mins Credit: GETTY IMAGES Imagine being a Crystal Palace here now. You know you're absolutely done but also realise there are 70 minutes of this left. Iwobi is able to stroll through the middle of midfield and almost sets up another goal.  Attempt Saved: Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 24 min)   3:24PM GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL! Uh oh. What a goal this is by Arsenal, who look more determined here today than they have done over the entire season. Wilshere finds Ozil with a clever pass but Ozil's backheel flick, rolling the ball back to Lacazette, is absolutely superb.  Arsenal 4 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alexandre Lacazette, 22 min)   3:22PM 21 mins Fosu-Mensah takes a long diagonal pass down with his first touch as he finds space behind Monreal but his attempted cross, or shot, or whatever it is, isn't very good.   3:20PM 20 mins Possession: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Palace finally have a chance to counter-attack with Zaha down the left but Koscielny reads him and slides into take the ball off him easily.  3:19PM 19 mins Zaha and McArthur have swapped wings now. That won't make an awful lot of difference but watching Monreal's forward runs is probably the reason. 3:17PM 16 mins And straight away it looks like Arsenal are going to score a fourth! Xhaka is one of a number of players on an overload but his shot is blocked on the edge of the area. Roy Hodgson must be going mental on the touchline. Credit: REUTERS   3:15PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL! What on earth have Palace been doing in training this week? Absolutely hopeless. This could be a proper smashing. Arsenal aren't doing anything special other than committing to winning headers and attacking quickly to catch a sleepy Palace defence out. Arsenal 3 - 0 Crystal Palace (Laurent Koscielny, 13 min)   3:14PM 13 mins Cech has to slap a high corner away but is able to gather the ball easily from the second ball into the area, then sends Iwobi away with a quick forward pass. Bellerin dummies his way past two defenders and slides a pass into Lacazette... who is closed down and wins a corner. Arsenal are attacking quickly here, catching Palace off guard. 3:12PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! The defending here is awful. Iwobi tires a hopeful pass, it's not cleared, Monreal gets to the six yard box and pulls the ball back - again the interception is missed - and it's a tap in for Iwobi. Arsenal 2 - 0 Crystal Palace (Alex Iwobi, 10 min)   3:11PM 10 mins Ozil tries to cut the ball back to set up Lacazette for a goal scoring chance but a defender is able to get a toe on it and Fosu-Mensah slides in to deny another. But Arsenal are all over them here! There's space in the box! 3:09PM 8 mins Palace get forward and win a corner but there's a push in the area and Arsenal win the ball back.  3:08PM GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL! It's Monreal! Palace defend man-to-man in the area and Monreal has space to attack at the back post, burying his header past the goalkeeper. Arsenal 1 - 0 Crystal Palace (Nacho Monreal, 6 min)   3:07PM 5 mins Elneny is sitting deepest in the midfield three, Ozil is wide left in the forward three. Ozil links play on the left and Iwobi has a shot... which is tipped over the bar for a corner. 3:05PM 3 mins Palace aren't sitting back trying to contain and have already sent numbers forward to try and press the Arsenal backline.  The visitors also get the first dangerous attack of the day! Van Aanholt overlaps on the left to attack the space and sends a cross into the area that Mustafi does really well to head behind. Xhaka heads it away at the near post, Arsenal try to break but are slowed down and have to go back. 3:01PM KICK-OFF And they're off! 2:56PM  Here come the players It is raining a lot in the Emirates but the players are out on the pitch and ready to get going. 2:45PM Roy Hodgson pre-match Roy Hodgson's pre-match comments. It’s always a tough test when you play teams like Arsenal away from home but I thought we played quite well against them recently in a game that was relatively even and I am hoping my players give a similar type of performance today. #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/q15sKoo3QE— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   2:36PM Arsenal could do with updating their club shop window display Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM The important people behind the scenes Credit: GETTY IMAGES   2:28PM An interesting internet spot Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went and played 5-a-side in Dortmund tonight with his mates...while his team-mates were playing away at Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Hmm. With an Ousmane Dembélé shirt on. Hmm. [��BILD] pic.twitter.com/s8U12iAIHd— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) January 19, 2018   2:12PM The missing man Where does Henrikh Mkhitaryan fit into Arsenal's grand plans? He's not an Arsenal player yet but Mkhitaryan isn't on teamsheet at Man Utd vs Burnley either... 2:05PM Starting lineups Arsenal are a 4-3-3. Wenger going back to his roots. Arsenal Here's how we line up for #AFCvCPFCpic.twitter.com/SAu8L8cXgr— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 20, 2018 Crystal Palace Here's the #CPFC �� side to take on @Arsenal! #ARSCRYpic.twitter.com/CncMfrVfzy— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 20, 2018   1:33PM Good afternoon Hello everyone! It's Saturday, it's nearly 3pm - it's football time. The big talking points for today's game don't really focus on the sport on the pitch though - the soap opera drama off it is where you'll find the buzz. I'm talking about Alexis Sanchez of course. Will he? Won't he? Won't somebody think of the children?! We can probably agree that it's a certainty Sanchez will actually leave and he won't be on the teamsheet today, no chance to wave goodbye to the home fans. That is unless he's feeling very brave and fancies coming onto the pitch to a chorus of booing from them... and that's not happening. As for the actual soccerball, Crystal Palace are on something of a hot streak of form at the moment, with Roy Hodgson having overseen a reversal in fortunes for the south London side. You can read more about how he's actually done that by reading this thing I wrote earlier in the week: How Roy Hodgson fixed Crystal Palace Back to today. Arsenal will most likely be a 3-4-3 with Jack Wilshere in midfield and Alex Iwobi one of the number 10s, Alexandre Lacazette will be substituted in the 70th minute and Palace will give them a real challenge. As to who might win? Normally you'd assume Arsenal would eventually break down a stubborn defence but Palace have grown in confidence and might really fancy their chances today. Regardless, it should be entertaining and you can follow all the action right here in this liveblog.

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