LONDON — Mikel Arteta has hailed Arsenal‘s ability to hold off a second-half attack from Crystal Palace to give the perfect start to the Premier League season with a 2-0 victory at Selhurst Park on Friday.
On the ground where the Gunners lost 3-0 in April, leading to a season-ending collapse that cost them a Champions League place, Arteta’s men persevered after Gabriel Martinelli’s header gave them a deserved half-time lead.
An own goal from the late Marc Guehi then sealed the three points after Odsonne Edouard and Eberechi Eze missed big chances for Palace.
“Winning is the most important thing. Winning the first game builds confidence and momentum and then we can talk about the things we need to improve,” Arteta said.
“To win here you have to suffer. We did that and it’s part of the mentality we try to build.”
Arsenal were beaten 2-0 at Brentford on the opening night of last year’s campaign, kicking off their worst start to a league campaign in 67 years.
But they bolstered their superb pre-season form and rewarded their faith in Arteta with over £100m ($120m) to spend in the transfer market.
The arrival of Gabriel Jesus to fill the need for a centre-forward was Arsenal’s celebratory signing of the summer and the Brazilian almost made his debut in style after just four minutes.
Jesus weaved through the center of the Palace defense and when his initial attempt was blocked, Martinelli should have done better than push the rebound away from target.
The visitors were absolutely dominant in the first quarter, but it took a free kick to break through.
Another debutant, Oleksandr Zinchenko, nodded for a corner over the goal and Martinelli’s header had just enough power to hit Vicente Guaita.
Palace had endured a much more troubled pre-season with a number of key players left home from a tour of Australia due to their coronavirus vaccination status.
It took the Eagles half an hour to find their feet but they will be disappointed not to have picked up at least a point once they picked up the pace of the game.
‘Arsenal on nerves’
Arsenal were guilty of causing their own problems when they woke Palace fans from their slumber when Aaron Ramsdale’s clearance was broken and bounced off one of his own defenders, luckily for the England keeper.
Ramsdale made amends before the break with a fine save to prevent Edouard’s header equalizer before the French striker had another try which was deflected inches from the bar.
Palace locked in Arteta’s men in the second half but again failed to capitalize on their risk when they came off.
Eberechi Eze was the guiltiest as he obediently fired into Ramsdale’s body to beat Arsenal no.
“The difference between the two teams is that they score goals,” said Palace coach and former Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira.
“We created two very good chances to score and we didn’t take our chances.”
Arsenal had barely threatened to counterattack in the second half but were lucky to find some respite in the final five minutes.
Bukayo Saka’s cross caught England team-mate Guehi off guard when the Palace centre-back’s header flew into his own net.
- Editor/ AFP