Arsenal had to settle for a 1-1 draw away to Crystal Palace in the Premier League after Jordan Ayew’s deflected goal cancelled out Aubameyang’s opener, before the Arsenal skipper was sent off by VAR for an ugly tackle on Max Meyer.
It had been such a routine and ruthless start for Arsenal, who have so often been guilty of failing to reap the rewards of their dominance. But the goal itself was a brilliantly patient and incisive 18-pass move that ended with a simple finish.
Afforded time and space to conduct from the centre of defense, David Luiz swept away the entirety of Palace’s midfield with one simple ball to Mesut Ozil.
Alexandre Lacazette dropped deep, sucking both Palace’s centre-halves with him, laid the ball off to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who side-footed home one of the simplest of his 14 goals this season.
The gaps in Arsenal’s defense, although marginally tighter, were still visible, Wilfried Zaha finally began to find space in front of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, while Jordan Ayew chopped in circles around David Luiz.
Just seven minutes into the second-half, disorganized and distracted, Arsenal were caught napping from a set-piece, the ball ricocheted around the box before Ayew’s shot deflected into the roof of the net.
The type of messy, mistake-laden goal Arsenal have so often conceded this season.
Arteta desperately attempted to stop his side from panicking into old patterns, and yet it was Aubameyang, so often the talisman this season, whose slide tackle on Max Meyer threw Arsenal into disarray.
The irony too was unavoidable as Palace’s fans, who displayed banners calling for the removal of VAR at the start of this game, saw it turn the match in their favour.
Initially awarded a yellow card by referee Paul Tierney, a straight red card was awarded after a VAR check. There’s no telling how significant Aubameyang’s absence could be in Arsenal’s next three games.
Nicolas Pepe almost snatched a winner in the final stages of the match when he found space on the corner of the penalty area, only for his shot to fizz off the inside of the goal post.
Palace Keeper Vicente Guaita then did brilliantly to prevent Lacazette from what would have, ultimately, been a smash-and-grab winner at Selhurst Park.
Roy Hodgson’s injury-ravaged side had begun this match so flatly, and yet this is now their fourth match undefeated against the Gunners. They remain in the top half of the table, one point ahead of Arsenal.
Despite still showing their evident improvement, particularly in the first half, this was a reality check, a return to old mistakes and, ultimately, a reminder that Arsenal’s problems are still too deeply entrenched for any immediate fix.