Premier League leaders Arsenal opened up an eight-point gap on second-placed Manchester City with a 4-1 win over manager-less Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.
Palace sacked manager Patrick Vieira on Thursday after a 12-match winless run, and interim boss Paddy McCarthy could not end their poor form as Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka scored in the first half before Granit Xhaka furthered Mikel Arteta’s side’s lead early in the second. Palace failed to capitalise on Jeffrey Schlupp’s 63rd-minute goal and Saka scored again to make sure of victory late on.
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“Really pleased with the performance, the energy, the determination that we showed again, the way we controlled the game,” Arteta told Sky Sports. “It was tough after playing 120 minutes in the week, wondering how the team would react but they reacted brilliantly and the crowd was at it again.”
Martinelli opened the scoring on 28 minutes after he was found by Saka’s searching pass. The Brazil international evaded Joel Ward and sent an effort into the far corner, beyond Joe Whitworth.
“Very happy, we needed that win and, as I always say, we approach the games as a final and we did that today,” Martinelli said.
Saka’s assist meant the 21-year-old became the first Premier League player to hit double figures in both goals and assists this season.
He doubled the league leaders’ advantage on 43 minutes with a simple finish into the bottom corner after being played in down the right by Ben White.
Xhaka’s goal 10 minutes after half-time was Arsenal’s 13th in their last four league matches. Leandro Trossardwho provided a hat trick of assists in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Fulham last week, was provider again as he slipped through Xhaka to bundle in at the near post.
Schlupp threw Palace a lifeline on 63 minutes as he forced the ball home after Arsenal failed to deal with a corner, but the away side failed to mount a comeback as they slumped to their fourth straight defeat.
Arteta’s side made sure there was no way back for Palace as Saka fired home first-time from Kieran Tierney‘s cross to score his 12th league goal of the season in the 74th minute.
“Even when we went down we were able to create in moments. But this is high-quality opposition,” interim Palace boss McCarthy said. “They are top for a reason. I can’t fault the lads’ effort.
“They are a good group and they have to believe in themselves. Whatever happens, this group has more than enough.”
Palace remain 12th in the Premier League table but are just four points ahead of bottom side Southampton.