Arsenal 4 – 1 Crystal Palace
Arsenal moved eight points clear at the top of the Premier League thanks to a routine home victory over managerless Crystal Palace.
The Gunners, aiming to become champions for the first time since 2003-04, went ahead at Emirates Stadium through Gabriel Martinelli’s left-footed strike – his sixth goal in six league matches.
Bukayo Saka doubled the lead when he collected Ben White’s pass and curled an effort past 19-year-old goalkeeper Joe Whitworth.
Granit Xhaka made it 3-0 with a first-time finish from Leandro Trossard’s assist, before Jeffrey Schlupp pulled one back from close range following a corner for Palace’s first goal in five matches.
But the excellent Saka restored Arsenal’s three-goal advantage with a guided finish from Kiernan Tierney’s pull-back to seal the victory.
Arsenal have 69 points from 28 matches, with second-placed Manchester City, who beat Burnley 6-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, on 61 points having played a game less.
Palace sacked manager Patrick Vieira on Friday and have now not won in 13 games in all competitions and are only three points above the relegation zone.
Arsenal back in business after European disappointment
For Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta, this was a perfect response after his side lost on penalties to Sporting Lisbon in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday.
Once Martinelli put them ahead with his 13th goal of the season, there only looked to be one winner, with Palace powerless to stop Arsenal.
Saka’s goal, confirmed by the video assistant referee following a check for offside, made it 2-0, with Xhaka adding a third in the 55th minute.
Palace got a goal back, but it was no surprise that Saka soon scored again to take his total to 13 for the campaign.
Arteta will also be delighted with the character his team have shown as they have bounced back from setbacks.
This victory was their sixth in a row in the league since a 3-1 home loss to City threatened to derail their title hopes.
But they have recovered in style and go into the international break in pole position.
Palace tamely slip to fourth successive loss
This was Palace’s first match since sacking ex-Arsenal captain Vieira, a move former Gunners defender Martin Keown called a “panicked decision”, with the home fans regularly singing Vieira’s name throughout Sunday’s game.
The Frenchman had been manager since July 2021 after Roy Hodgson’s departure and had won 22 of 74 games in all competitions.
Palace last won on 31 December with a 2-0 victory at Bournemouth before a run of no wins, five draws and seven defeats saw Vieira sacked.
Hodgson, 75, has been tipped for a temporary return, while under-21s boss Paddy McCarthy took charge of the team on Sunday.
McCarthy suffered a blow before the match when central defender Joachim Andersen sustained an injury in the warm-up and had to be replaced by James Tomkins.
Wilfried Zaha hit the post in the 10th minute and had a shot saved by Aaron Ramsdale early in the second half, before Schlupp’s consolation as Palace slipped to their fourth successive league defeat.
They have almost two weeks before their next game, with a vital month coming up in April as they look to extend their 10-season top-flight spell.
But their fate still lies in their hands, so their managerial decision is going to be a vital one.
In April they face six of their relegation rivals – Leicester, Leeds, Southampton, Everton, Wolves and West Ham – and how they get on in those matches will go a long way to deciding their future.