Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 0
(Oxlade-Chamberlain 47, 73)

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second half double strike proved to be enough to sink Crystal Palace at the Emirates stadium on Sunday. Having to play a more central role clearly suits the Gunners’ star whose intuitive collection from Santi Cazorla’s pass followed by a touch and lob for the opener was only to be bettered by his fluid pass and move for the second in a mesmerising passage of play from the England man for his and Arsenal’s second.

Palace, so organised and robust in the opening forty five minutes came out to play in a more open second half, and but for a fine save from Wojciech Szczesny, almost saw Cameron Jerome net after the Gunners had just taken the lead. The win and clean sheet will be welcomed good news for Arsene Wenger whose side return to top spot until Monday’s Manchester City’s clash against Chelsea at least

The Gunners are now unbeaten in eleven games in all competitions at the Emirates stadium and have not conceded at home since Gerard Deulofeu levelled for Everton in their Premiership fixture here in early December.

Going into this game, Palace had lost four out of five games on the road, and given their dearth of away goals, an Arsenal win was always the likeliest result. Only the Premiership isn’t like that, and with Marouane Chamakh making his first return to the Emirates since last summer’s departure to Palace, there was always the possibility of the shock factor.

The Morocco striker was entrusted with more defensive midfield duties, but on a rare break out, his poor first touch enabled Szczesny to gather the ball when worse could have been possible.

Per Mertersacker and Laurent Koscielny continue their fine defensive form, with the former especially alert to the pacey danger from Yannick Bolasie. The opening forty five minutes were all about Arsenal’s possession, with little in the way of clear cut chances, as a solid Palace line held firm. Nacho Monreal saw an effort blocked by Julian Speroni, and the Palace keeper was alert to Mesut Ozil’s free kick which saw Koscielny almost head in the opener.

Speroni then denied Metersacker’s header, but the half would end goal less. Two minutes after the break however, Arsenal took the lead. Bacary Sagna was away on the right and switched the ball to Cazolra.

Spotting his midfield run from deep, the Spain midfielder pinpointed a pass which Oxlade-Chamberlain took on his right foot to cushion a lob with his left foot beyond the dive of Speroni after 47 minutes.

Palace had to rethink their approach and were now all out in immediate attack. Bolasie found Cameron Jerome, who headed down and on target, only to see Szczesny save with his legs. A more open game ensued as Arsenal stepped up the gears. Lukas Podolski hit the side netting after Cazolra and Giroud had worked an opening.

The home side were enjoying a more comfortable game, and the second goal their football merited was soon to follow, and what a move it was too.

Oxlade-Chamberlain fed substitute Tomas Rosicky and ran on to the return. The Arsenal number 15 dragged back then sped away after another neat flick from Olivier Giroud, and again his pace took him in to the Palace area.

With only Speroni in his sights, Oxlade-Chamberlian struck powerfully and low and into the Palace net. His brace and a centrally staring role left Wenger full of praise for Oxlade-Chamberlain.

” I always believed that he could play wide and central, I said that many times that his future will be central. He has proven me right today, by scoring the goals but also by the quality of his performance. It took him a while to get back.

” He was injured against Aston Villa on that famous day and it took him a while to get back. Overall I’m pleased that he’s now back to full fitness. You could see that he had some cramps in the end, that he is still a bit short,” noted the Gunners’ manager.

2-0 to the Gunners, and another vital three points kicks off a massive February for Wenger’s men.

Tougher challenges await no doubt, but in this mood, Arsenal will respond.