Having spent nothing in the transfer window and with a depleted midfield, Arsenal rediscovered its Ox-Factor to reclaim top spot in the Premier League.
On his first league start since the opening day of an injury-curtailed season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s first goals in more than a year gave Arsenal a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
“It took him a while to get back and I’m pleased he’s now back to full fitness,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “He had shown today that he can be a very important player for us.”
The 20-year-old midfielder broke through the resilient visitors two minutes into the second half, lifting the ball over goalkeeper Julian Speroni from close range.
And Oxlade-Chamberlain slotted in a second in the 73rd minute as he slotted seamlessly back into the injury-hit team.
“They made it hard for us in the first half,” Oxlade-Chamberlain said. “But in the second half we knew if we kept the tempo up and kept wearing them down then we’d get more opportunities and we did.”
A seventh 2-0 victory of the league season pushed Arsenal two points ahead of Manchester City, which hosts Chelsea on Monday.
The win sets up Arsenal for a challenging period ahead, with Liverpool (twice), Manchester United and Bayern Munich coming up in the next four fixtures.
And the victory should dispel concerns – for now – about Wenger not spending in the January transfer window.
But it was a first half as frustrating for fans as Arsenal’s transfer inactivity. The only arrival – 31-year-old midfielder Kim Kallstrom on loan on Friday’s deadline-day – has already been ruled out injured for up to six weeks before even getting the chance to pull on an Arsenal shirt.
Signed until the end of the season as injury cover, Kallstrom might not be fit until mid-March after arriving Friday at Arsenal having injured his back earlier in the week while training with Spartak Moscow.
If Kallstrom remains sidelined, Spartak will pay his wages for up to six weeks.
Wenger said Sunday he considered aborting the deal for Kallstrom, who has made 108 appearances for Sweden.
“I would not have signed him if we had two or three more days to do something, but it was Friday night at five o’clock, so it was [a case of] you [sign] nobody or you do it under these conditions,” Wenger said Sunday. “I decided to do it because we might, because of the number of games we have now in February, we might need the players in March or April.
“There is a possibility [that he may not play] but as well there is the possibility that he scores us the winning goal that might be vitally important.”