Arsene Wenger insisted he had no problems watching Arsenal win ugly as the Gunners ground out a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Crystal Palace.
Wenger’s sides have traditionally excelled at overwhelming opponents with their flowing football, only to crumble against teams that pose a more physical challenge.
But they showed a much-needed resiliency to resist Palace’s aggressive approach at Selhurst Park on Saturday and climb to third place in the Premier League, even though they had a late scare when Glenn Murray pulled a goal back in stoppage-time and then hit the post with a header in the dying seconds.
After scoring early and late in the first half through Santi Cazorla’s eighth-minute penalty and Olivier Giroud’s close-range finish, Arsenal faced an onslaught in the second half and they rose to the challenge.
“It was about fighting and playing,” Wenger said. “Crystal Palace is a team which plays with a lot of intensity and with a very direct game.
“It was important for us to resist. We did that well. After going in 2-0 up at half-time we came out in the second half much more to protect our lead.
“When it came back to 2-1 we were a bit fortunate. But in the end it was a very important win for us.”
It was on January 18, in the 2-0 victory away to Manchester City, that Wenger’s men first showed that they could mix style with steel in challenging away games, and here they needed all the stubbornness that Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny could muster in the centre of defence, as well as Francis Coquelin in front of them.
Even so, Arsenal almost conceded a late equaliser, and Wenger admitted that it had been a narrow escape.
“Certainly, they thought: ‘It’s done’,” Wenger said. “But you know in the Premier League, it’s never done, especially at 2-0. The players switched off too early.
“But our defenders played very well here against a very physical game. We just continue to fight.”
Palace manager Alan Pardew was proud of his team’s battling spirit and of the way they refused to be overawed by Arsenal.
And, despite a second successive defeat, he believes the players will gain in confidence over the rest of the season as a result.
“The first goal was tough on us because it looked like the incident was outside the box and the second was offside,” he said.
“But we continued with the game plan and I was very pleased with the reaction.
“We took a tactical decision to take the game to Arsenal and it’s probably the best we’ve played since I’ve been manager.
“In the second half we stayed on the front foot and took the game to Arsenal.”
Pardew felt it was only bad luck, when Murray’s late effort hit a post, that denied the Eagles what would have been a remarkable escape.
“The chance when it hit that post and it fell into the goalkeeper’s hands summed our day up,” he said.
“I thought it was going to spin into the net. There was some great team play and probably the best players were on our team.
“We had some great individual performances. If there is one criticism, we should have taken our shots earlier. Our final moment in that box needs to improve but we are not far away from being a decent team.
“But we’ve lost and sometimes that happens. We’ll have to take this confidence into the game against West Ham next Saturday.”
Photo Credits : AFP