Aston Villa
Leicester City
Leg 2Aggregate: 3 - 2Aston Villa advances.
Game Details

Wilshere and Alexis earn 8/10 in rousing performance against Palace

Arsene Wenger won the 810th Premier League game he stood on the sidelines for as a manager in a closely-fought match at Crystal Palace. The landmark sees him draw level with Sir Alex Ferguson as the competition's most experienced manager, and he will have been relieved to be able to celebrate the occasion with a victory.

Arsenal went ahead with a cool strike from Shkodran Mustafi, before Palace equalised through Andros Townsend. However, Alexis Sanchez then came to the fore, scoring twice before a late James Tomkins goal set Arsenal nerves jangling.


The next few weeks will doubtless see speculation over Sanchez's future rise to a crescendo, much to his manager's chagrin. However, for now all the talk will be about what he produced on the field. This was arguably his best performance of the season so far, capped by two fantastic goals.

Wenger will also be mightily relieved to see his side win away from home. Arsenal have struggled on their travels in 2017-18, but found more fluency at Selhurst Park.


Once again, Arsenal's defending left plenty to be desired. It's not necessarily a question of individual errors -- the whole team just appears to be utterly naive when it comes to the art of defending.

That's nothing new at Arsenal, and their best bet is probably to try and maximise their attacking power to offset those ongoing defensive issues.

Manager rating out of 10

7 - Wenger made a big call to revert to the back three, and ultimately he'll feel the three points justified his decision. Arsenal badly needed to improve their away record, and this result is a step in the right direction.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Petr Cech, 6 -- The veteran keeper didn't have much chance with either of the Palace goals, and he is within his rights to feel aggrieved at the poor defending in front of him.

DF Laurent Koscielny, 7 -- Against Palace, Koscienly lined up on the left of Arsenal's three central defenders. It's an unfamiliar role for the Frenchman, but he acquitted himself well. With his achilles proving increasingly problematic, he generally looks more comfortable in a three than a two.

DF Calum Chambers, 6 -- By a curious twist of fate, Chambers got his first Premier League start of the season against the club who tried to buy him last summer. He did well enough, but might have got closer to Wilfried Zaha in the build-up to Palace's first goal.

Wilfried Zaha and Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere's performance vs. Palace reminded Arsenal fans what all the fuss was about before his spate of injuries.

DF Shkodran Mustafi, 7 -- What a brilliantly composed finish it was from Mustafi to give Arsenal the lead. His first-time follow-up looked like the work of a proven goalscorer. Mustafi played well on the night, largely shackling Christian Benteke. However, like all of the Arsenal defenders, he was flat-footed when Townsend swept home.

MF Hector Bellerin, 7 -- In a right wing-back role, Bellerin was tidy and a constant threat going forward. He did occasionally struggle to contain Zaha, but he's hardly alone among Premier League defenders in that respect.

MF Granit Xhaka, 7 -- The Switzerland international has largely had a disappointing season, but this was certainly one of his better performances. He regained the ball effectively and used it efficiently -- and all without losing his temper.

MF Jack Wilshere, 8 -- On this evidence, Wilshere's new contract should be a priority for Wenger. His pass for Sanchez's second goal was exquisite, and he imposed his personality on the game throughout the 90 minutes.

MF Sead Kolasinac, 6 -- The change of system afforded the Bosnian a chance to come back into the side, but he didn't cover himself in glory. Ultimately, Townsend was his man and he allowed him to run off him all too easily.

FW Mesut Ozil, 7 -- Arsenal's best player in recent weeks produced some outstanding moments against Palace, but will probably feel disappointed not to have found the scoresheet. A couple of very decent chances came his way, but he could not find a way past Julian Speroni.

FW Alexis Sanchez, 8 -- He's not been a particularly popular figure among the Arsenal fans of late, but Sanchez showed his quality with two excellent goals. The control and finish for his second strike was breathtaking. Sanchez showed why it's essential Arsenal keep him in January: he's their best hope of making the top four.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 7 -- Lacazette has found goals difficult to come by on the road, and there was no change at Selhurst Park. However, he linked the play well before being withdrawn for Francis Coquelin and laid the ball off nicely for Sanchez's first. With Olivier Giroud out injured, it's essential Wenger protects him whenever possible.


MF Francis Coquelin, NR -- Came on for Lacazette in the 75th minute as Wenger sought to protect Arsenal's lead.

MF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, NR -- Replaced Xhaka late on, but did not make much impact.

James McNicholas is one of ESPN FC's Arsenal bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @gunnerblog.


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