Arsenal reignited their Premier League title challenge by thrashing struggling Crystal Palace at Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners’ fight at the top had faltered towards the end of last year as they lost three of their past five Premier League games.
But, after heading off to Dubai for a week-long winter break, Mikel Arteta’s side returned reinvigorated as a Gabriel header, Dean Henderson own goal, Leandro Trossard finish and two late Gabriel Martinelli strikes sealed the three points.
The first two goals came from corners, with the opener coming in the 11th minute when Gabriel nodded in before the defender’s header from another set-piece struck Crystal Palace goalkeeper Henderson to deflect into the back of the net.
The visitors offered little in response. Instead Arsenal added to their lead in the second half when Trossard was sent one-on-one with the goalkeeper and kept his cool to finish confidently.
With Palace already well beaten, Martinelli added further sheen to the win with two goals in injury time, both swept into the far corner.
The win moves Arsenal up to third, two points behind leaders Liverpool but having played a game more than Jurgen Klopp’s side. Crystal Palace, meanwhile, remain 14th in the table.
Having seen their title challenge fall away in the latter stages of last season, Gunners fans will no doubt have been concerned by the dip in form their side had towards the end of 2023.
Their only victory in their final five league games of the year was a narrow win against Brighton, while they suffered defeats by Aston Villa, West Ham and Fulham.
The big concern for Arsenal was their struggle to score in that run as they failed to convert the chances they were creating.
But Mikel Arteta said his side had returned from their winter break re-energised, and so it proved with this big win.
They made the most of the opportunities they created, finishing from set-piece situations while Trossard’s goal and Martinelli’s two late shots showed the sort of clinical composure the Gunners’ attack has been missing recently.
This was always going to be a tough ask for a Palace side missing several key players through injury and international duty, but boss Roy Hodgson will have been disappointed by just how little they offered as an attacking threat.
He had challenged his team to “ask questions” of Arsenal with the few chances they would create, but they failed to do that as they rarely threatened, with most of their shots coming from range.
The one positive for the visitors was the performance of Eberechi Eze. The midfielder – making his 100th Premier League appearance for the Eagles – was their top player and had their best chance with a free-kick that David Raya tipped over.
Palace have now won just one of their past 11 Premier League games and their position in the table is looking increasingly precarious. They are 14th, five points above the relegation zone but having played a game more than Luton in 18th.
The visiting fans made their frustrations known towards the end of the game as they displayed a banner saying: “Wasted potential on and off the pitch, weak decisions taking us backwards.”