Giroud Arsenal
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scores against Crystal Palace in their English Premier League game. Reuters
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scores against Crystal Palace in their English Premier League game. Reuters
Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud scores against Crystal Palace in their English Premier League game. Reuters

How do you put an Arsenal side in prime form in the English Premier League to the test? How about, making them play with ten men for nearly half an hour against a Crystal Palace side desperate for an injection of confidence that will turn their season around.

Well, 10-man Arsenal, were given the sternest of tests from Palace, a side that are managerless and have picked up just three points all season, but Arsene Wenger's men found a way yet again, while underlining that title credentials in some style to pull off a 2-0 win.

The Gunners went into the lead in the second half through a Mikel Arteta penalty, after Serge Gnabry was fouled inside the box, before the goalscorer found himself sent off for a last-man challenge on former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh.

Palace gave it a good old go, and were it not for a couple of outstanding saves from Wojciech Szczesny, Arsenal would have found themselves going back to North London with just a point. But 1-0 it remained before a brilliant Arsenal goal courtesy Olivier Giroud towards the end sealed the contest.

The win means Arsenal will stay top of the table for another weekend, with the lead from Chelsea and Liverpool, who play later on Saturday, increased to five points.

Arsene Wenger might have been expected to rest a few of his senior players, but the Arsenal manager decided to stick with pretty much the same as the XI that narrowly lost to Borussia Dortmund.

Mathieu Flamini came in midfield, while Jack Wilshere was rested. However, Flamini's return from a head injury did not last long, as the Frenchman had to be substituted for Gnabry in just the eighth minute after seemingly having some trouble with his groin.

Arsenal, expectedly, enjoyed the bulk of the possession in the early going - the stats read 80-20 in the away team's favour after 20-odd minutes - but the Palace goal was never alarmingly threatened.

Olivier Giroud had a header sent wide early on, while Arsenal's playmaking trio of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla looked to work the channels and find the space in behind with one-twos very much the norm.

Palace, with two banks of five for much of the first half, showed plenty of spirit and patches of quality during occasional forays, with Szczesny, in fact, the busier goalkeeper in the first half, having to turn around a couple of long-range efforts, including one from former Arsenal man Marouane Chamakh.

Arsenal were left frustrated at the end of the first half, and Wenger would have demanded more pace going forward in the second 45. The Gunners did just that, with some quick interplay between Bacary Sagna, Ramsey and Gnabry, finding the latter one-on-one with Adlene Guedioura.

Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry is brought down by Crystal Palace forward Adlene Guedioura. Reuters
Arsenal winger Serge Gnabry is brought down by Crystal Palace forward Adlene Guedioura. Reuters

Gnabry twisted and turned and induced a false tackle, with referee having little trouble in pointing at the spot. Mikel Arteta stepped up and powered home to give Arsenal the lead within the first two minutes of the second half.

Sensing a point could still be gotten, however, with Arsenal looking far from their best, Palace brought on their wildcard Yannick Bolasie, who immediately started causing Sagna a bit of trouble down the Arsenal right.

Palace looked capable of scoring at least a goal given the right opportunity, with balls into the box towards Chamakh looking like the best option.

Arsenal, though, also knew they were just another goal away from three points being sealed, and kept dissecting the Palace defence.

The game turned in Palace's favour just past the hour mark when Arteta saw a straight red. A long ball over the top, right after an Arsenal corner, saw Chamakh through just beyond the halfway line. Arteta seemed to bundle the former Gunner over, with referee Foy showing a straight red card.

It could have gone either way really, and perhaps a yellow could have been given considering Chamakh was a long, long way away from goal. But the referee struck to the pure letter of the law and sent Arteta off for being the last man.

Palace, with their tails and a man up, looked primed now for an equaliser and soon enough a phase of play came when they were left wondering just how it did not turn into 1-1 - the answer being Szczesny.

Joel Ward, first saw a sweet strike from 20 yards tipped onto the crossbar by the Arsenal goalkeeper, before Szczesny pulled off a quite stunning save off the ensuing corner after Mile Jedinak struck the purest of volleys which looked destined for the top corner.

Palace continued to pour forward, and with that came the danger of Arsenal, regardless of being a man down, hitting them on the counter. There were a couple of warnings, with substitute Wilshere and Ozil combining well, before the Gunners found that safety second goal in the 87th minute.

Ramsey, who else, weighted a perfect cross for the onrushing Giroud to power home from six yards out and seal the 20th, 21st and 22nd points for Arsenal.