Arsenal’s top-four hopes suffer major blow with loss to Palace

Arsenal’s hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four suffered a potentially fatal blow as they suffered a humiliating 3-0 defeat at relegation-threatened Crystal Palace yesterday.

Victory had been imperative for an Arsenal side that had won only two league games since January but the abject display with Andros Townsend, Yohan Cabaye and Luka Milivojevic all scoring for Palace only heaped more pressure on manager Arsene Wenger.

Sixth-placed Arsenal, who have finished in the top four in 20 consecutive seasons under Wenger, now have 54 points from 30 games — seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City, who have played a game more.

“It’s damaging of course,” a seemingly dispirited Wenger told Sky Sports when asked about how serious the blow was to their chances of Champions League football next season. “That’s the most difficult thing for us tonight.”

Rejuvenated Palace, winners of four of their previous five league games under Sam Allardyce, started confidently and opened the scoring when former Tottenham winger Townsend swept the ball home at the end of a smart passing move after 17 minutes.

Palace striker Christian Benteke then had a goal ruled out for offside before Cabaye’s superb curled effort and Milivojevic’s penalty in five second-half minutes completed a miserable night for Wenger at a raucous Selhurst Park.

Palace stay 16th but now have 34 points from 31 matches, six more than Swansea City, who occupy the final relegation place in 18th and have played a game more.

“All we can do is apologise for that performance,” Arsenal’s Theo Walcott said after Arsenal fans had sung ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ at their players.

“It was a great three points and a well needed-three points,” Townsend said.

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