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Emery to keep rotating Arsenal squad despite Palace defeat

Unai Emery insists he can keep rotating to “protect” his players and seal a top-four Premier League finish.

Arsenal made seven changes from Thursday’s Europa League win in Napoli for Sunday’s league clash with Crystal Palace, only to be beaten 3-2 by the Eagles.

The Gunners’ Champions League qualification hopes took a hit in losing a game they expected to win, with Palace claiming their eighth victory on the road this term.

Unai Emery, pictured, remains confident Arsenal can still secure a top-four Premier League finish

Unai Emery, pictured, remains confident Arsenal can still secure a top-four Premier League finish (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Granit Xhaka should recover from a hip complaint in time for Wednesday’s league trip to Wolves, as manager Emery looks set to mix up selection once again.

“We have had some injuries, like with Aaron Ramsey, and we need to protect the players,” said Emery.

“For example, Xhaka asked to change in the second half against Napoli and could have played (against Palace), but with some risk.

“We need to protect our players and to use other players.

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“We are playing with a lot of players and they give us the performance; we lost but we could also have lost with other players on the pitch.”

Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur all found the net as Palace thwarted the Gunners, who had Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on target.

Shkodran Mustafi endured a day to forget, the German producing errors to contribute to all three Palace goals.

Emery maintained switching formation at half-time to chase victory had opened more spaces in behind, in his defence of Mustafi.

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“In the first half we continued with the three central defenders because I think we can be more consistent with that,” said Emery.

“In the second half we changed to play with two and we can take more possibilities in the attacking third, in the build-up, but defensively we gave them more space to take the transitions.”

Belgium hitman Benteke bagged his first goal in almost a year, ending a 19-match drought to spark Palace’s surprise win.

The 28-year-old revealed his delight at ending that lengthy wait, as Palace secured their top-flight safety for another year.

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“I’m really happy and really pleased to get back on the score sheet,” Benteke told Palace’s official club website.

“It’s been a tough, tough year for me with injury and then coming back and just waiting my turn. I’m really happy today.

“I’m happy about my performance this afternoon because it’s not just the goal; we work really hard, myself and Wilf up front.

“I’m not someone who shows emotion but inside I was really, really pleased and happy with myself.

“I will just keep doing the same that I’ve been doing before when I was scoring, when I was in form.

“The main thing for me now for the last three games is just to stay fit. I know when I’m in form, when I’m 100 per cent fit, I know what I’m capable of doing.”