In a highly controversial game at the Emriates Stadium on Sunday, Arsenal threw away a two goal lead to draw against Crystal Palace 2-2 in a game where Gunners captain Granit Xhaka was involved in an angry confrontation with his own supporters and VAR ruled out a late winner for the home side.
The Gunners were off to a quick start after only seven minutes when Sokratis Papastathopoulos punished poor defending by the visitors from a corner. Then, lightning struck twice two minutes later from another Arsenal corner as David Luiz headed home to double the home side’s advantage.
However, Palace pulled one back after the video assistant referee decided Arsenal’s Calum Chambers fouled Wilfried Zaha in the box after 32 minutes, allowing Luka Milivojevic to make it 2-1 from the penalty spot.
Just seven minutes into the second half Palace found an equaliser when Jordan Ayew headed in James McArthur’s excellent cross at the far post.
The game and atmosphere inside the stadium turned toxic just after the hour when Xhaka was substituted to roars of delight from Arsenal’s fans, with the newly-appointed captain reacting angrily to jeers by waving and cupping his ear sarcastically to the home fans, exchanging words before taking off his shirt before disappearing down the tunnel.
Then, the Gunners began to apply pressure on the Palace defence in the closing stages and believed they had found a winner when Sokratis appeared to have scored his second with seven minutes to go, but VAR denied the goal for an earlier infringement.
It ultimately ended all square, much to the frustration of the home fans, who saw their side lose ground in the race for the top four. The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations from Palace and their supporters as Roy Hodgson’s side continued their fine start to the season
Speaking to Sky Sports after the game, Emery criticised the VAR, believing it is needs to be more consittent. “We can speak about our performance and the VAR decision. We started very well and then conceded many chances so we should have controlled possession better to get more chances at 2-0, but usually the opposite team want to push more and then they scored. We need to respect the decision, which was amazing. Last match here against Bournemouth, they didn’t check for a clear penalty on Pepe and at Sheffield (United) on Sokratis.
The Spaniard added: “VAR is positive but at the moment it is not working well. I think VAR is very important for the referees because their mistakes are very important. We haven’t checked a lot of things to not change the pace of the match. Pepe and Sokratis’ penalties were very clear but they didn’t check. Maybe they are starting to check more after this week”
“The next step is a monitor on the touchline to check because VAR is to help referees.”
Crystal Palace boss also spoke to Sky Sports following the match, praising his side’s attitude and desire: “I thought we showed resilience here and against Manchester City. Today the desire we showed was exceptional. The way Arsenal start is the way football disasters are made, but we settled down and mounted a challenge in the second half “.
Discussing the decision to award the penalty awarded to Palace, the former England manager added: “They make decisions on the spur of the moment and that was a situation where VAR showed its true self. Luckily, the decision was overturned and I’m sure Martin [Atkinson] is man enough to accept that.
Finally, discussing Arsenal’s disallowed goal, he said: “A lot goes on in the penalty box, I’ve seen it now and understand why it was disallowed. But the second goal had a clear push on James McArthur too.”
The result leaves Arsenal in fifth but a gap is now opening up – four points adrift of Chelsea in fourth – and this was another display that exposed their defensive fragility and inability to hold onto their lead as their early advantage was cast aside. This was another unsatisfactory 90 minutes for Emery and Arsenal.