11th August 2015: Arsenal undefeated for over 20 years
Evening people. Hopefully everyone’s starting to get over Sunday’s defeat because given our pre-season form leading up to the game, it was undoubtedly a seismic shock to the system. A bolt from the claret and blue. As shocking as Jose Mourinho’s treatment of his medical staff.
But with the club in no mood to talk, our fanbase evidently distraught and transfer news starting and ending with the Twitter-powered Karim Benzema saga, I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back on the club’s history against our next opponents.
Forget 49 games, Arsenal are undefeated in over 20 years to Crystal Palace in all competitions, having won the last five, all in the Premier League. Since their promotion back to the top flight for the 2013-2014 campaign, we’ve scored two goals in all four fixtures, winning the first 2-0 at Selhurst Park in October 2013 with goals from Mikel Arteta (pen) and Olivier Giroud.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain then settled the return fixture by grabbing both goals from a central midfield assignment in another 2-0 win in February 2014.
Last season, we opened our Premier League campaign by hosting the Eagles of course, and responded to Brede Hangeland’s opener for the visitors by scoring through Laurent Koscielny, before Aaron Ramsey grabbed a last-minute winner.
And our last trip to Selhurst Park in February earlier this year was settled by goals from Santi Cazorla (pen) and Giroud, with Glenn Murray tapping in a late consolation for the hosts, to induce heart palpitations in us all for a couple of minutes.
But before this recent quartet of clashes, we have to go all the way back to Valentine’s Day 2005 for the last meeting between the two sides, when a brace from Thierry Henry (one from a well-worked corner routine if memory serves) and a goal apiece from Dennis Bergkamp, Jose Antonio Reyes and Patrick Vieira secured us a handsome 5-1 win at Highbury. Andy Johnson got their solitary strike.
The first fixture that season was the last time Palace managed to stop us winning, with the Finn, Aki Riihilahti, quickly cancelling out Henry’s opener in the second half of the game at Selhurst Park in November 2004.
Arsene Wenger has faced the south London club on a further four occasions as Arsenal manager. His first two games both ended in 0-0 draws; a league game at Selhurst Park in October 1997, before an FA Cup clash in February 1998 at Highbury.
In fact, we played the Eagles three times in just ten days that month, with a 1-0 league win, secured courtesy of Gilles Grimandi’s solitary strike at Highbury, being sandwiched by our FA Cup replay, won thanks to an early goal by Nicolas Anelka and another later that half from Bergkamp, before Bruce Dyer pulled one back for the hosts.
Our overall record against Palace, stretching back to the first meeting in January 1934 – a 7-0 Arsenal win, including a brace by Cliff Bastin, third on our list of all-time top-scorers with 178 – reads played 37, won 24, drawn 10 and lost 3 in all comps.
What does all of the above indicate in terms of our next meeting? If you’re a sucker for sequences, I guess it depends on how far back you go. But I wouldn’t look further than 2013 because before that, the squads of both sides contained completely different personnel.
In which case we should score twice and win, Giroud will net the second and a Spaniard will score our first from the spot with Palace maybe getting on the score-sheet themselves. But I prefer to adhere to the mantra an old boss at work offered me in reference to the technical analysis of financial markets: ‘what the f*ck has the past got to do with the future?’.
Still, taking a little trip down memory lane provided me at least, with a welcome distraction from our humbling by the Hammers.
Actual news-wise, our third-choice goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez has joined Wolves on a season’s loan. Hopefully there’s a recall option in the event of an injury/suspension to Petr Cech or David Ospina because otherwise, we’re looking at one of the academy keepers to step up. Anyway, best of luck to the big Argentine and he joins former Arsenal youth and goal-scoring machine Benik Afobe at the Midlands club.