So, it’s six points from six for Arsenal after a second successive win at the start of the new Premier League season.
Mikel Arteta’s side have not yet hit top gear, but they are still one of just three sides to have maximum points after their opening two fixtures following last night’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.
It wasn’t pretty and it was far from fluid, but the performance was enough to get an important win under the lights at Selhurst Park for the second year in a row.
Martin Odegaard scored the winner, slotting home from the penalty spot after Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli had combined cleverly to win the spot kick early in the second half.
When the goal went in it looked like Arsenal were going to comfortably go on and get the win. They were dominant at that point and had Palace just where they wanted them.
But then referee David Coote decided to send off Takehiro Tomiyasu for two ridiculous yellow cards in the space of a few minutes and the game changed completely.
Palace had almost all of the ball for the final half an hour as Arsenal dropped deep protecting their lead and that of course made things slightly nervy in the final stages.
But to be honest, other than a couple of balls that flashed across the box, they never really looked like equalising.
Arteta threw Gabriel on and I thought he did really well when Palace were pumping balls into the penalty area. Declan Rice was superb and William Saliba was at his brilliant best.
You could see what the win meant to the players at the end. It ended up being one of those backs to the wall type performances because of the red card and long-term that could be a good thing.
Sometimes you need wins like that just to help build the mentality in a squad.
Thankfully the red card did not stop Arsenal winning a game that they comfortably had in their control.
It was a farce of a decision from David Coote. Both were yellow cards that fell firmly within the ‘away team’ category.
There is no chance Tomiyasu gets either yellow in those situations if Arsenal had been playing at home.
The first for time wasting was really harsh, but the second was just laughable. He barely touched Jordan Ayew. There was no shirt tug, no big pull back. Ayew just stopped running, appealed for a foul and got one.
It was a joke, especially as Ayew – who was also on a yellow card – had just escaped getting a second a few minutes before for a blatant pull back on Bukayo Saka. The inconsistency was ridiculous.
“I prefer not to make comments because for me it’s so obvious,” Arteta said afterwards.
So now Arsenal have to do without Tomiyasu for Saturday’s game against Fulham, which is hardly ideal given Jurrien Timber’s absence. But Oleksandr Zinchenko did come on for the final few minutes last night so hopefully he will be fit to start at the weekend.
Arsenal can certainly play better than they did at Palace, but there were plenty of things to like about the win.
Rice was superb in midfield. He dominated the game and that’s a really good sign.
Arteta again went with Partey in the right back role, pairing Saliba and Ben White at centre-back. That meant that Gabriel once again had to start on the bench.
I really thought he would come back in last night and his absence again led to more speculation about a possible exit.
Arteta appeared to shut down any chance of the Brazilian leaving, however, when he was asked whether his absence was linked to his future.
“Nothing at all,” he said. “It’s about games that we were expecting, how we were going to defend and attack and what I believe is the best thing.
“He’s played in both games and helped us to win both games for different reasons.
“He was really good today, he absolutely dominated the box when he came on and he’s going to play a lot of games. That’s the decision sometimes.”
When I look at the way Arteta is setting his team up so far this season, I do wonder whether his vision for this season is to prioritise a bit more strength and stability over excitement and fluidity.
He would have thought long and hard over the summer about why Arsenal missed out at the end of last season and this could be linked to his team selections so far.
Playing Partey at right-back basically gives him another body in midfield to try and control certain games. I don’t think we’ll see it every single week, but it’s clearly a tactic Arteta believes can make his team more solid.
Arsenal are a physical side now and that might be what Arteta believes is needed to go one better than they did last season.
It might not be as pretty as what we’ve come to expect, but it is effective.
Anyway, it’s another win in the bag for Arsenal and now the focus turns to Fulham this weekend. Win that and Arteta will head into September feeling very good about the start his side has enjoyed.
I’ll be linking up with James Benge for a podcast later this morning to discuss last night, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Have a great day everyone. And remember, pre-order your copy of my book ‘Revolution – The rise of Arteta’s Arsenal’ now. It’s out on August 31st.