Saka’s double sends Arsenal eight points clear
Arsenal will go into the international break eight points clear in the Premier League title race after defeating Crystal Palace 4-1 at home on Sunday.
Arsenal took full advantage of Manchester City’s absence this weekend, with Gabriel Martinelli opening the scoring and Granit Xhaka also on target.
Palace’s first goal in five league games lifted their hopes briefly in the second half, but Arsenal was never going to pass up the chance to tighten their grip on first place as they chase their first English title in 19 years.
Arsenal’s ninth victory in London derbies this season, a new English league record, took them to 69 points from 28 games with reigning champions City on 61 having played a game fewer.
Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal side bowed out of the Europa League on penalties to Sporting on Thursday but they showed no sign of a hangover from that disappointment and a sixth successive Premier League win looked in the bag by halftime with Martinelli opening the scoring from Saka’s pass in the 28th minute.
It was the perfect response by the Brazilian whose penalty miss against Sporting proved so costly in midweek.
Bukayo Saka doubled the lead in the 43rd when he guided home a low shot beyond Palace’s teenage goalkeeper Joe Whitworth after being played in by Ben White’s pass.
Arsenal was running riot when Xhaka made it 3-0 10 minutes into the second half after an assist by Leandro Trossard.
Schlupp replied just past the hour and there were a few jittery moments with Wilfried Zaha firing inches wide before Saka made sure with his 12th league goal of the season in the 74th, guiding in a first-time shot from Kiernan Tierney’s pass.
Palace, who sacked manager Patrick Vieira this week and are without a win in 2023, stay in 12th place but are only three points above the relegation zone.
With Spring in the air in north London, there was a feeling of euphoria at the final whistle with Arsenal now assured of an eight-point lead going into April as the season pauses briefly for England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine.
Arteta said he was impressed at how his team bounced back from the midweek Europa League exit.
“Really pleased with the performance, the energy, the determination that we showed again, the way we controlled the game,” Arteta told Sky Sports.
“It was tough after playing 120 minutes in the week, wondering how the team would react but they reacted brilliantly and the crowd was at it again.”
Palace’s stand-in manager Paddy McCarthy said there were positives to take from the match, despite the scoreline.
“Even when we went down we were able to create in moments. But this is high-quality opposition,” he said. “They are top for a reason. I can’t fault the lads’ effort.
“They are a good group and they have to believe in themselves. Whatever happens, this group has more than enough.”