Arsenal’s recent resurgence was checked by a stubborn Crystal Palace, who claimed a hard-fought point from a forgettable encounter at Emirates Stadium.
Tagged as relegation candidates as little as three weeks ago, the Gunners came into the game off the back of four straight wins in all competitions, but were unable to find their way past the well-drilled and disciplined visitors.
For a side in such good form, Arsenal were a disappointment going forward, their best effort at goal a shot on the turn from Alexandre Lacazette into the side-netting.
Their only other clear-cut chance was an angled shot from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang that Vicente Guaita palmed away.
There was more goalmouth action at the other end, with James Tomkins heading an Eberechi Eze free-kick against the bar and Christian Benteke drawing a fine save from Bernd Leno with a nodded effort of his own.
The point leaves Arsenal 11th on 24 points and Palace two points and a league place worse off, but comfortably clear of any relegation worries.
A game to forget
It was only three weeks ago that West Brom boss Sam Allardyce said Arsenal were in the middle of a battle against the drop.
To be fair to Allardyce, he had a point at the time. But that prediction has been made to look somewhat foolish by the Gunners’ subsequent three straight league wins, which included hammering the flailing Baggies.
In light of their upturn in form this result has to count as a minor blip, but it underlines the fact that Arteta’s side remain a work in progress.
Young players like Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe have added some much-needed zip and creative flair in recent games, but they were stifled here, flickering into life all too rarely against a dogged opponent.
Lacazette had scored in each of the last three league games but was marshalled well by Palace and spurned his only real chance, while Aubameyang remains frustratingly ineffective in his role on the left.
Arsenal also felt the absence of the injured Kieran Tierney and his driving forward runs from full-back.
Credit then to Palace, who had gone five games without a win before beating Sheffield United 2-0 last time out in the top flight, but now have another, deserved clean sheet.
This was not purely a backs-against-the-wall display by Roy Hodgson’s side. They sought to burst forward following transitions, using the guile and pace of Eze and Wilfried Zaha to challenge the home defence.
But for the crossbar, goalkeeper Leno and greater awareness from James McArthur, who was unable to turn in a flick on from Benteke from a corner, they would have claimed a win that would not have been entirely undeserved.
Before Thursday’s game, Hodgson described Palace’s situation – 22 points, 10 clear of the bottom three – as “somewhat comfortable”. Thursday’s point and their performance will only add to their sense of comfort.
And the good news for Arsenal is that they now have their first home clean sheet of the league season as well as the option of a fit-again Thomas Partey, who played 20 minutes after recovering from a thigh injury that had sidelined him for a month.
‘Many players aren’t fresh’
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta: “We created a lot of situations against the low block but lacked the final quality. We probably didn’t do enough to win the game.
“We are playing a lot of games and you can see fatigue is paying a price, many players aren’t fresh.
“We had a period that was fatigue related where we kept giving the ball away. We lacked the quality in the final third to win the game.”
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: “I’m more than satisfied. A hard-working performance, we defended well and maybe with a bit more composure we could have scored a goal. We were playing a team in excellent form and we go away with a deserved 0-0.
“I thought the game was end-to-end and we are happy we took something away from the game.
“Two clean sheets in a row now. If you don’t defend well it is going to be hard to win games.”
Arsenal now five without a win against Palace
Arsenal extended their winless top-flight league run against Crystal Palace to five matches, drawing four of those (L1).
Crystal Palace have kept consecutive Premier League clean sheets for the first time since a run of four in a row between February and June last year.
Arsenal have kept four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions for the first time since October 2016.
Arsenal have failed to score in seven Premier League matches this season, as many as in the entirety of last season, last failing to score in more games in a season in 2015/16 (8).
Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke had more shots than any other player tonight (6) – the last five players to have 6+ shots in a Premier League game at the Emirates have all been visiting players: John McGinn (Sept 2019), Raul Jimenez (Nov 2019), Sadio Mane (July 2020), Danny Welbeck (July 2020) and Benteke.
Crystal Palace have kept more Premier League clean sheets in two matches in 2021 (2) than they managed in their final 24 matches in 2020 (1).
Player of the match
Squad number25Player nameEze
Squad number5Player nameTomkins
Squad number27Player nameMitchell
Squad number31Player nameGuaita
Squad number18Player nameMcArthur
Squad number20Player nameBenteke
Squad number8Player nameKouyaté
Squad number2Player nameWard
Squad number11Player nameZaha
Squad number4Player nameMilivojevic
Squad number10Player nameTownsend
Squad number9Player nameJ Ayew
Squad number22Player nameMcCarthy
23David LuizBooked at 67mins
15Maitland-NilesSubstituted forPépéat 65′minutes
8CeballosSubstituted forParteyat 69′minutes
9LacazetteSubstituted forNketiahat 81′minutes
5TomkinsBooked at 42mins
4MilivojevicSubstituted forMcCarthyat 89′minutes
20BentekeSubstituted forJ Ayewat 81′minutes
Match ends, Arsenal 0, Crystal Palace 0.
Second Half ends, Arsenal 0, Crystal Palace 0.
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Corner, Crystal Palace. Conceded by Héctor Bellerín.
Attempt blocked. Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked.
Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by James McArthur (Crystal Palace).
Thomas Partey (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Jordan Ayew (Crystal Palace).
Substitution, Crystal Palace. James McCarthy replaces Luka Milivojevic.
Attempt missed. Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left following a set piece situation.
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Andros Townsend (Crystal Palace).
Attempt blocked. Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Thomas Partey.
Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Joel Ward (Crystal Palace).
Attempt blocked. Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Rob Holding with a headed pass following a corner.