Arsenal 2 Crystal Palace 2
Sokratis 7, Luiz 9, Milivojevic 32, pen, J Ayew 52

Arsenal were controversially denied a late winner at the Emirates when Sokratis thought he had grabbed his second goal of the afternoon against Crystal Palace. The Gunners had fired themselves into the lead on seven minutes when their Greek central defender struck his effort into the net after Palace failed to clear a Nicolas Pepe corner. Two minutes later and the other centre back David Luiz followed up to double the Arsenal lead, again from another Pepe corner and all the indications were that the home side would go on to dominate their London rivals. Palace however  had other ideas, but will give a massive thank you to VAR. Wilfried Zaha looked to have flung himself to the ground as Calum Chambers left out a clumsy leg. Referee Martin Atkinson booked the Palace winger, only for VAR to rule that it was a penalty and the yellow card should be rescinded. Luka Milivojevic sent Bernd Leno the wrong way from the penalty spot to halve Arsenal’s lead. Palace drew level in the second half when Jordan Ayew was allowed to head in from James McArthur’s cross. When Granit Xhaka was substituted for Bukayo Saka, cheers rang out in N5, the Arsenal captain reacted by waving his arms and cupping his ears to his supporters who had clearly not taken kindly to his slow departure from the pitch.

Xhaka stormed off straight to the dressing room having already removed his shirt. Unai Emery later declared that Xhaka “was wrong,” although no apology and been forthcoming from the Switzerland midfielder. With time running out, Arsenal lay siege to Wayne Hennessey’s goal. He denied Luiz and Alexandre Lacazette, but was beaten when Sokratis fired in from ten yards. The Greek defender ran off to celebrate what many inside the Emirates thought was the winner, only for referee Martin Atkinson to be told by VAR that an infringement had occurred in the build up when Chambers and Milivojevic tussled. Replays showed absolutely nothing conclusive, and if anything, the Serbia midfielder had pushed Chambers away in the initial phase of the move.

Atkinson should have gone to the pitch side monitor to take another look for himself to confirm his initial decision of a goal. Why he didn’t, he will only know and much to the frustration of not only the majority inside the Emirates stadium, but also for the integrity of the game as a whole. This was a refereeing howler not to follow up on the pitch-side monitor. Atkinson choked. Brough in to help, the game, VAR is now ruining it. There seems to be a weekly pick and mix approach to it’s application with many now concluding that the game would be better off without it.

Kieran Tierney was given his first Premier League start and Emery entrusted the trio of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Pepe to bag the goals. Having raced into an early lead, the surprising thing was that Arsenal thought that the job had been done, and Palace sensed their chance. They had won this corresponding fixture last season and with Zaha linked with a summer move to N5. It looked odds on to happen, until Arsenal baulked at the Palace transfer valuation. We know the deal never materialised, however, the Gunners were able to finance a deal for the more expensive Pepe instead.

Zaha, the Premier League battle hardened speedster was too much to handle, and almost raced through for a one on one from deep inside his own half late on as another Arsenal attack floundered, until Matteo Guendouzi’s rugby tackle arrested the run of the Ivorian. The young France midfielder was shown a yellow card, it could have been worse.

The problems for Emery seem to be mounting despite Arsenal sitting in fifth spot in the Premier League, four points off Chelsea in fourth.

Emery was asked about the effect of VAR and said that he was baffled at how events unfurled, and especially for the winner his side were denied.

“I think he [Martin Atkinson] needed to watch it again. He needed to do that. VAR is positive and it will be better, but only when them and us can manage it better with the rhythm and the decisions. I checked in the dressing room after we finished the match.

“That is the next step. We lost two points to that tonight. The next step is that they will check. We have cameras on the pitch, but here I don’t remember a single referee going to check on the touchline. I don’t remember that. The next step will be that. VAR is to help the referees, but also to watch or to take the best decision with your own eyes.”

The Arsenal Head Coach refused the confirm or deny if Xhaka will continue to be Arsenal’s captain. Having appeared to have burned his bridges with the Arsenal fans, there would appear now way back for the Arsenal number 34.

“It’s not the moment to speak about that. First, I want to speak with him and the club, and we want to stay calm before we speak about that. He was not right to do that.”

Arsenal next travel to Liverpool in their midweek Carabao Cup clash at Anfield.