Another away game brought another humiliation for an Arsenal team that is so dysfunctional as to make a mockery of Arsene Wenger’s continued management of the club. If their 3-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion felt like a nadir then this was even worse. Utterly outplayed by Crystal Palace, this Arsenal no-show was yet another refutation of the case for Wenger to sign a new deal.
Arsenal got everything wrong all over the pitch. Their defence was a mess, shredded by Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke with every attack. On another night Crystal Palace could have scored five or six, strange as that may sound. Arsenal put up no real fight in midfield and up front they never looked like scoring. Rarely has a team been so comprehensively beaten by one ten places beneath it.
This is a huge win for Crystal Palace, moving them six points clear of Swansea City with another game in hand on them. But ultimately this was about Arsenal, their failings and their problems. They are now seven points adrift of fourth and it is impossible to see them making that gap up playing like this. They have an FA Cup semi-final to worry about too, against a Manchester City who let them off the hook last weekend.
But even big games and competitions are insignificant compared to the only questions that matter at the club: whether Wenger should stay as manager, and whether he will.
On that first count this evening was emphatic, a far stronger case against Wenger than the West Ham United defeat argued for him. All of Arsenal’s failings in the late Wenger era were on show here: the exposed defence, the lack of fight, the passivity with and without the ball.
Arsenal looked even worse because they were up against a Palace side who, for all the resource imbalance, could do the things Arsenal have let slip. This was about a team who knows its strengths and weaknesses, who adjusts for opponents, who has a clear plan to win the game, a team who is simply well-coached, being lucky enough to stumble on an opponent who is none of those things. Yes, the Palace players played well and the Arsenal players played badly but that does not happen in a vacuum. This was Allardyce’s triumph and Wenger’s failure.