Ten-man Arsenal returned to winning ways with a gutsy 2-0 win at Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Mikel Arteta broke the deadlock from the penalty spot two minutes after half-time. However the Spaniard was then sent off for a last-man foul on Marouane Chamakh.
Palace looked to profit and Wojciech Szczesny had to make stunning saves from Joel Ward and Mile Jedinak to preserve Arsenal’s lead.
Palace were struggling for form but Arsenal overcame the red card, an early injury to Mathieu Flamini and the memory of that midweek defeat to claim a fully-deserved victory.
At full-time, Wenger’s men were five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
SETTING THE SCENE
Wenger made two changes from the side that had seen a 12-game unbeaten run end at the hands of Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
Flamini returned after missing out through concussion. Jack Wilshere, who had picked up an ankle injury in midweek, dropped to the bench. The other alteration was straightforward - Santi Cazorla for Tomas Rosicky on the left.
Arsenal had not been beaten by Palace at Selhurst Park for 34 years and that record did not seem under threat early on.
In the third minute, Bacary Sagna crossed for Giroud to send a powerful header just over the bar and the visitors went on to dominate.
However they suffered a disruption when Flamini went off holding his groin. Serge Gnabry came on.
Territorially, Arsenal were utterly in control. The only time Palace truly broke free of their shackles in the first 20 minutes came when Barry Bannan headed over.
However that would change as the hosts built up a head of steam. Marouane Chamakh and Adelene Guedioura drove straight at Szczesny then Bannan curled an effort just wide.
The visitors were creating pressure without chances. The Palace defence creaked and groaned but just about survived.
The ultimate example came on 35 minutes when Cazorla sold a dummy to Dean Moxey but Giroud could not touch in his fierce low cross. Then Aaron Ramsey forced a fine save from Julian Speroni at the near post.
Arsenal were ahead within two minutes of the restart. Gnabry was clipped by Guedioura and Arteta coolly dispatched the penalty.
The visitors now sensed their moment and might have extended their lead. Giroud drove an effort wide and then nodded past the near post when unmarked. Once again it came from a quality cross by Sagna.
Finally it seemed that Wenger’s men had the game where they wanted it. However the game shifted in the 65th minute.
Chamakh and Arteta went shoulder to shoulder as the Palace striker broke clear and both ended up in a heap. The referee took his time before brandishing the red card to the Spaniard.
Wenger soon made changes. He withdrew both of his wide men – Gnabry and Cazorla – for Wilshere and Nacho Monreal.
As you might expect, Palace started to create pressure. Szczesny gymnastically tipped Joel Ward’s drive on to the bar then made an even better save when Mile Jedinak volleyed the corner towards goal. Both stops were simply superb.
Monreal dribbled through and nearly squeezed home a shot as Arsenal started to look towards the final whistle.
They would get there via a second goal. Ramsey broke clear and curled an inviting ball over for Giroud to nod in his fifth Premier League goal of the season.
The Frenchman celebrated with relish. After the midweek defeat, there was a little pressure on Arsenal this afternoon and they came through a number of difficulties to snatch a deserved three points.
- Arteta Goal! Red Card
- Flamini 8
- Cazorla 72
- Giroud Goal!
- Gnabry 69 8
- Wilshere 69
- Monreal 72
- Guedioura 72
- Bannan 77
- Thomas 57
- Gayle 77
- Kebe 72
- Bolasie 57