Arsenal failed to take advantage of Leicester City’s draw earlier on Sunday as Crystal Palace came from behind to draw the Gunners 1-1 at the Emirates stadium.
Alexis Sanchez gave Arsenal the lead on the stroke of half-time at the end of a quiet first 45 minutes after heading home Danny Welbeck’s diagonal cross over Wayne Hennessey, who moments earlier had denied Mesut Ozil from close range.
And just when the home side thought they were coasting home with maximum points, DR Congo forward Yannick Bolasie brought the visitors back on level inside the final eight minutes.
Arsenal boss Wenger kept faith with the outfield players who started the last three games, bringing back Petr Cech in goal in place of David Ospina. Joel Campbell replaced Kieran Gibbs on the bench.
Meanwhile, the visitors had a familiar face on their bench – former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.
Arsenal’s record in London derbies this season has been unusually poor – they had six points from seven games ahead of this weekend – and Crystal Palace looked like a tough nut to crack after registering back-to-back clean sheets.
Palace’s tactics from the word go were clear: defend in numbers, and keep Ozil quiet. They did that pretty well plus the height in Alan Pardew’s back four gave them a clear advantage when defending crosses. Their midfield strength also made it difficult for Arsenal to find any sort of rhythm.
This would be a test of Arsenal’s patience going by their close to 85 per cent of possession but little in the way of openings. Chances were few and far between in a pedestrian first half that saw Crystal Palace defend in numbers and Arsenal struggle to break them down but Alexis came alive to set up a chance for Mesut Ozil and then loop in a header from Danny Welbeck’s lofted pass.
It had been a test of Arsenal’s patience but their football had more flow in the second half with Palace forced to come out of their shell.
Ozil almost added a second with a sumptuous free-kick and Alexis’ header bounced just wide as the Gunners looked to kill the game off.
Instead, they were hit by a sucker-punch when Bolasie fired into the bottom corner. Arsenal deserved three points but just the one leaves them in fourth, behind Manchester City on goal difference.