47 min Schlupp makes room for a long-range shot that hits Gabriel and spins behind for a corner. It’s swung in by Eze and dropped by Ramsdale, who is grateful to grab it at the second attempt.
47 min Ayew’s cross is missed by Saliba and hits White, prompting appeals for a penalty from the Palace fans, if not the players. Nothing doing.
46 min Peep peep! Arsenal begin the second half.
Meanwhile, in Germany
Congratulations to Bayern Munich on winning their 11th consecutive Bundesliga title.
“Good to see Xhaka has started the season in the usual form,” says Rachel Clifton. “Now that David Luiz has gone, he brings that edge to the Arsenal team: which version will show up – the good player or the absolute [redacted]?”
Peep peep! Arsenal lead through Gabriel Martinelli’s close-range header. They started thrillingly, with Gabriel Jesus looking superb, but Palace slowly came into the game and Odsonne Edouard had a couple of chances just before the break.
45 min Edouard has two shots blocked in the space of five seconds, the second by Xhaka in the six-yard box. Very good defending. This is Palace’s best spell of the game, by a distance.
44 min Xhaka is booked for diving. He’s not having it, but it looked a good decision by Anthony Taylor.
43 min “What constitutes handball?” says Mary Waltz. “It’s like the phrase ‘salt to taste’ in a recipe. For some a teaspoon, others a cup.”
42 min: Good save by Ramsdale! A few lively challenges near the halfway line, culminating in a foul by White on Zaha. The free-kick is driven beyond the far post by Eze towards Andersen. He powers a header back across goal that finds Edouard, whose stooping header is too close to Ramsdale. It was still a good save from Ramsdale, diving to his right, but Edouard should have given him no chance.
40 min “Re: summer night fixtures – those early rounds of the Intertoto Cup were perfect for those kinds of games, especially against Scandinavian teams,” says Alex Adams. “That evening sunlight just mixes perfectly with floodlights; the grass almost glows.”
Damn it. I had 12 December in the ‘first Intertoto Cup mention in the MBM’ sweep.
39 min It’s a closer game now. Arsenal still look comfortable but Palace are having an even share of possession and have started getting some joy from Andersen’s long passes.
37 min Clyne takes a loose ball off the toe of Xhaka in the Palace area. It feels like a second Arsenal goal, even at this stage, would probably kill the game.
35 min Palace appeal unsuccessfully for a penalty when a high ball drops onto the slightly outstretched arm of Gabriel. I thought VAR might look at it, because his forearm seemed to be away from his body, but I haven’t a clue about handball any more.
32 min Andersen’s long pass is pulled down deftly by Zaha. He runs at White in the area, twisting one way and then the other, but Saka comes on his blindside to nick the ball. Good defending.
32 min Palace are having a slightly better spell, sparked by that Ramsdale clearance. But Arsenal still look very comfortable in defence.
30 min “I am watching the game and I am just so impressed by Zinchenko so far,” says Olivier Cardon. “Smart, quick, safe… Probably easier to stand out here than in City’s sea of talents and Pep’s hyper-precise tactics… He can really be a game changer for Arsenal. And Jesus ain’t bad either.”
And he’s not even playing in his best position. You’ll have great options in midfield when Tierney is fit to play at left-back.
29 min A dodgy clearance from Ramsdale hits Edouard but rebounds safely to Gabriel. If nothing else, that might stir the Palace crowd.
28 min “Do you or anyone else love a night match when it’s still light outside for a lot of it?” says Ruth Purdue. “Summer ending or springtime?”
Absolutely, especially European knockout games. I remember those.
26 min Jesus turns Andersen thrillingly on the halfway line, then seems to be pulled back. Anthony Taylor gives nothing.
26 min Here’s the opening goal from Gabriel Martinelli.
26 min “Just a quick note to say how much I like the Arsenal kit,” says Andy Bradshaw. “Is the colour called ‘red pants left in wash’?”
It is now!
25 min Zaha’s cross towards Edouard is cut out by Saliba. Palace look a bit tentative in attack.
23 min Arsenal have had 66 per cent of the possession and five shots to Palace’s none.
22 min Jesus wriggles past a couple of players in the area before being dispossessed. “He looks sharp,” purrs Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports. His touch and movement have been first-class.
It came from a training-ground corner on the right. Saka curled it very deep to the unmarked Zinchenko, who cleverly ran into space beyond the far post. He headed it back across goal, and Martinelli’s softish header from six yards went through Guaita.
Arsenal take a deserved lead!
19 min “Rob, darling,” says Ian Copestake. “When you said ‘Jesus in particular’, were you expressing your surprise that Arsenal are playing football well or just channelling Father Ted?”
That would be an ecumenical matter.
18 min A half decent Palace attack, with Eze finding Zaha on the left. He teases White in the area and drives a cross that is booted clear by Xhaka.
17 min See 13 min. It’s really one-sided, albeit without many clear chances.
15 min “I think we all know that Romario counted goals scored in friendlies, testimonials and pre-match warm-ups,” says Gary Naylor, “but are pre-season tournament goals included in a player’s record? That might throw the Moneyball guys.”
Nothing could throw those guys. You could put a year’s supply of Nando’s on the other side of the office and they wouldn’t flicker.
13 min Arsenal continue to dominate possession. Palace haven’t been able to threaten on the break, which is usually a strength, and at the moment it feels like a matter of time before Arsenal score.
11 min “What do you make of Arsenal’s buys?” asks Andrew Hurley. “Saliba who has hardly been mentioned in pre-season could be one of the best ‘additions’. Jesus looks to have fitted in well but they might need another forward, and one more midfielder.
“It’s worth noting for all the criticism of the Kroenke family they have supported Arteta with a bigger net spend than most if not all clubs in Europe.”
I think they’ve bought extremely well, not just this summer but throughout Arteta’s time. I haven’t seen much of Saliba but he sounds like a serious talent. This first XI is really strong now.
10 min Here’s that Martinelli chance in the fourth minute.
8 min Jesus and Xhaka combine to find Zinchenko, whose deflected shot is pushed away by the falling Guaita. It’s all Arsenal, and moments later Partey has a shot blocked by Schlupp.
7 min “Glad that I can get at least one round of PL action in a sunny and warm East Sussex before heading back to wet and wintry Australia next week,” writes Waz. “Will be very strange watching at a time other than super early in the morning. Might actually get a full round in for once. Bring it on!”
6 min Arsenal look really bright, Jesus in particular.
4 min: Martinelli misses a great chance! Jesus goes on a sensational run, nutmegging Doucoure and then zig-zagging past Andersen on the edge of the area. He pokes a shot that is blocked and rebounds across the area to Martinelli, who slides it wide of the far post from seven yards. What a chance.
3 min Nothing much to report. Arsenal are playing 4-2-3-1, with Odegaard as the No10; Palace’s shape looks like 4-1-4-1.
1 min Ebere Eze has the first touch of the 2022-23 Premier League season. We’re off!
Here come the players, led by Marc Guehi and Martin Odegaard. The sun are shining, the home fans are belting out Glad All Over, and my tail is wagging.
Back back back back back back back back back back
One last bit of pre-season reading
“Gabriel Jesus is a proper player,” says Ian Copestake. “He’s just got an annoying face. This is something that has not held me back, however, thanks to the internet.”
“Hey Rob,” says Bill Hargreaves. “Saw an article that wasn’t especially complimentary of Arteta’s leadership style the other day, and it got me to wondering about a diversity of styles amongst PL coaches, and how different styles would have different long-/short- term strengths or weaknesses, and suit different squads and cultures. An e.g would be SAF and the culture at Man Utd – difficult to follow, difficult culture to introduce different coaches?”
Actually, one of Ferguson’s strength was introducing different types of No2s (oh behave yourself). But yes, it’s an interesting subject – for example, I’m not sure Arteta’s approach would be as successful with more experienced players, whereas Conte is the opposite. And some coaches develop their style more effectively than others, as we’ve seen from the relative decline of Jose Mourinho.
It’s a lovely, warm evening in south London, and the atmosphere is building. I don’t know what else to tell you.
“Rob, we’re invited to email you with our thoughts,” says Charles Antaki. “Surely it’s too early in the season for thoughts? I certainly don’t have any, and I doubt that any experienced Arsenal fan would: swirling mists of uncertainty, sure. Fogged-up images of potential looming disasters, certainly. Clear, firm ideas as to what’s going to happen, absolutely none. Maybe, considering last season’s start, it’s better this way.”
Indeed. As I know from bitter experience, July and August are not the time for thoughts.
“As an Arsenal fan I have a feeling at the start of this season that I haven’t had for many, many years,” says Matt Emerson. “It’s actual Optimism, rather than it’s nastier, mendacious cousin Hope. This will all change by 8:20 I’m sure, but it’s nice to welcome it back, however briefly…”
I was trying to remember the last time Arsenal had such a good young side. The late 2000s/early 2010s, I guess, but then you have to go back to the early days of George Graham.
“A big hello from California,” says Mary Waltz. “Some might see Rob’s comparison to a dog insulting but I find it a great compliment. Glad to have the Premier League and MBM back again. And my Everton squad lost their best player to Spurs and their second best to injury so the cloud of doom has already formed over my head. Some things never change. Let’s get started!!!!!”
“Evening,” says Martin Segerstråle. “So, will Gabriel Jesus now prove he is a brilliant striker who didn’t fit the Pepball system, or have Arsenal bought another Bendtner? I just feel actual quality players shouldn’t be system-dependent.”
I’m not sure he was unsuited to Pepball. He just wasn’t quite good enough to be a regular No9 for a team that aspires to be the best in the world. But Pep still liked him – Jesus started a lot of big games, albeit often in wide positions – and it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t do really well at Arsenal.
Everything you need to know about the new season. Okay, not everything.
Barney Ronay’s season preview
No surprises in either XI. Cheick Doucoure is the only summer signing to start for Palace, while Arsenal include Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus. Their defence includes another debutant: William Saliba, the France international who excelled on loan at Marseille last season.
Crystal Palace (possible 4-3-3) Guaita; Clyne, Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell; Eze, Doucoure, Schlupp; Ayew, Edouard, Zaha.
Substitutes: Johnstone, Ward, Milivojevic, Mateta, Hughes, Ebiowei, Richards, Riedewald, Plange.
Arsenal (possible 4-2-3-1) Ramsdale; White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko; Partey, Xhaka; Saka, Odegaard, Martinelli; Jesus.
Substitutes: Turner, Tierney, Holding, Cedric, Lokonga, Elneny, Nketiah, Pepe, Nelson.
Referee Anthony Taylor.
Premier League previews
A bit of Palace transfer news
Christian Benteke is joining Wayne Rooney’s DC United in the MLS, ending a mixed 10-year spell in English football. At times he was banter fodder, at others he was spectacularly good.
The lovely thing about dogs is that they’re always thrilled to see you. Even if you pop out to post a letter and come back two minutes later, you’ll be greeted as if you’ve been away since 2017.
A similar thing happens whenever a new football season begins. We all do a big jig of excitement to celebrate the fact that football is BACK, even though it hever really went away. This year we had the Nations League in June and the Euros in July, not to mention a gazillion extensively covered pre-season friendlies and 482,195 transfer exclusives. Doesn’t matter. Loyal old football-loving dogs that we are, we’ll always start wagging our tail before the first game of the season. Wag wag wag.
This will be a unique season – the first, and possibly last, to have a World Cup for a winter break. A night game at Selhurst Park, which pound for pound produces the best atmosphere in the Premier League, is a good place to start.
Crystal Palace v Arsenal is 12th v 5th in the parlance of 2021-22, though both teams – like everyone on the opening wekend, before reality’s incisors have gone to work – are looking upwards. Palace have realistic ambitions of a top-half finish, which would be only their second since the miracle season of 1990-91, while Arsenal fancy their chances of finishing in the top four for the first time since the happy, innocent, isn’t-the-world-a-reasonably-nice-place spring of 2016.
Palace have gone under the radar this summer. They’ve made some interesting, relatively low-key signings, most notably Cheick Doucoure, but the main topic of discussionk has been about how they will cope without a player who wasn’t theirs in the first place: Conor Gallagher, who is back at Chelsea after a brilliant loan spell. On the plus side, the excellent Eberechi Eze is back after missing most of 2021-22.
Arsenal’s transfer business has been universally praised. Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko were good enough to play hundreds of games for England’s best team, while Fabio Vieira has the potential to be a star.
For richer and poorer, Arsenal have been all about potential under Mikel Arteta. There is no more exciting young team in England, maybe Europe. Now they want to prove that you can win something with kids. A fourth-place trophy would do for starters.
Kick off 8pm.