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Player ratings: Palace v Arsenal

December 30 2017

Andros Townsend

Andros Townsend

Crystal Palaceís eight game unbeaten streak came to an end under the lights at Selhurst against Arsenal. See how Mike Scott rated the players.

A strong Gunners display proved too much for a Palace side who took until the break to finally get going. In the final few minutes, it looked as though they might just find yet another injury time goal to salvage something, but it proved a step too far and it ended 3-2. Palace now sit a point above the relegation zone, but the prospect of the champions elect Manchester City up nextÖ

Julian Speroni - 6

Speroni had one of his busiest games of the season, with Arsenal having one of their more productive, slick-moving games. He will be desperately disappointed with the first goal, parrying a fairly tame shot from Alexandre Lacazette into the oncoming path of Shkodran Mustafi. A minute later though, he saved a curling shot from Mesut Ozil to prevent the home side going down 2-0.

In the second half, he could do nothing about the goals. At one point, a searching cross nearly put Speroni and Tomkins in trouble; how much Speroni controls his area was demonstrated by Tomkins diving out of the way at the last minute after being barked at by his keeper, allowing the Argentinian to scoop it up.

Martin Kelly - 6

Thereís not much of a tougher assignment in the Premier League than looking after Alexis Sanchez for an evening, especially when heís decided to properly put on a show. In truth, much of Sanchezís first half notable activity was tracking back and snuffing out Palace moves, but in the second half he really started to cause Kelly issues.

All of Palaceís backline did what they could, but moments of brilliance (including Arsenalís second from Sanchez) were just too much for Kelly to quite handle. He was subbed for Timothy Fosu-Mensah (5) with 10 minutes to go, who had little time to reassert his claim for a place.

James Tomkins - 7

Yet again, Tomkins was the anchor at the back for Palace; he can take a lot of the credit for the visitors not getting out of sight in the game. He was unlucky that Sanchezís fizzing shot nutmegged him to give Arsenal the lead for the second time, but otherwise he was there to block shots, clear lines, get a head on crosses and marshal the two banks of four. He was in the right place at the right time to bury Palaceís second too.

Scott Dann - 6

Finding himself captain again seems to have had a positive impact on Dann, who was noticeable more vocal than earlier in the season, pointing and gesticulating like a man who knew how much Sakho would be missed on a night like this one.

Dann, like Tomkins, largely neutralised Arsenalís moves through the centre. Time and again in the first half Palace seemed to be able to hook the ball away just when it looked like Arsenal had threaded the ball through. He will be disappointed with himself over his positioning for the opener, but he wonít be the last player this season to be beaten by a quality Arsenal frontline.

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Jeffrey Schlupp - 6

Schlupp had a difficult night; it wasnít enough to see Ozil and Sanchez bombing down the wings, he had a menacing-looking Hector Bellerin to deal with too, who had a huge influence on attacks. As a result, Schlupp played more of the traditional full back roll than perhaps he usually would. He was still run ragged even then, particularly in the second half, but Hodgson could barely ask for more from a player whose natural inclination is to bomb up the pitch on the counter.

Luka Milivojevic - 6

The Serbian had a really tough day at the office too, finding himself camped just in front of the central back two for most of the first half, putting in more last ditch challenges and hooking the ball out of danger more often than anyone else on the pitch.

He was guilty of some wayward clearances and passes that simply meant Arsenal came back at Palace in waves, but there wasnít a lot in front of him to work with; the front two looked isolated miles ahead of a retreating midfield.

Yohan Cabaye - 6

Cabaye put in a shift alongside Milivojevic for much of the first half, attempting to prevent Arsenal passing the ball through a swathe of bodies. He did try his best to start some counter attacks, but very little of substance came from the Palace attacking players before Hodgson had a word with them at half time.

It wasnít long into the second period when the Frenchman was deemed to be a little off the pace, and he was subbed on 53 minutes for James McArthur (6), who complimented Milivojevic well in front of Dann and Tomkins, but could do nothing to prevent a few moments of real skill from a rampant Arsenal attack.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek - 6

For the first ten minutes and then in bursts in the second half, Loftus-Cheek had some serious impact on the left of midfield, linking up well with Zaha. Unfortunately, he had few opportunities to create or get on the end of any chances in and around the box, so the majority of his efforts were in the middle third. This wasnít helped by the fact that he had a job on his hands helping out Schlupp in keeping Hector Bellerin quiet. This has to be the reason Hodgson continues to play him there, because he seems to be crying out for being swapped with Zaha.

He was swapped for Bakary Sako (6) with 20 minutes to go, when defensive duties were sacrificed in favour of causing havoc; Sakoís impact was more minimal than recent games, although he was enough of a nuisance to help get Palace a consolation.

Andros Townsend - 7

Arguably, Townsend was Palaceís most effective attacking player and totally deserved his first league goal of the season. He set the tone early on, finding Zaha by threading a ball through four defenders following a decent run from midfield. The move won Palace a corner, but showed his intent.

Sadly, the home side became increasingly blocked in for the majority of the first half and he only really got his freedom back in the second. He marked Sead Kolasinac well to deny the Bosnian the kind of influence heís used to. Palace are going to need Townsend to put in performances like this for the second half of the season.

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Wilfried Zaha - 7

To use a terrible football cliche, it was a proper game of two halves for Zaha. Apart from a dangerous first few minutes, Zaha was a frustrated man in the first period, held at bay by a surprisingly effective Arsenal back three, who didnít let him pass anywhere near as often as any other team have in the last few games.

Some people have said he was lucky to not see red for arguing with referee Michael Oliver following a series of challenges he felt were unfair; he ended up with another yellow. In the second half, especially following Palaceís second, he took on the roll he has in countless recent games; threatening with runnings into and around the left of the box.

Christian Benteke - 5

You canít fault Benteke for his win ratio for 50/50 balls in the air he won against Arsenalís defenders, but there was little else to enjoy for the Belgian. Rarely in positions to receive crosses and cause problems in the way he did last season in the same fixture, he was anonymous for long periods.

Bentekeís link up play with Zaha that won the game against Leicester didnít materialise and it seems like, unless Hodgson does tinker with Loftus-Cheek and Zahaís positions, heís going to keep seeming like a fringe player in many games. Far too isolated, he cut a lonely figure up front and he was on the end of yet another barrage of social media-based abuse after the game.

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