There was, as the saying goes, little for the end-of-season highlights reel here. Arsenal will not mind, given they navigated their way through an almighty scrap, and the celebrations of their coaching staff at the end were a reminder that the points are ultimately what matter. A refashioned side has not yet approached last season’s footballing heights but the time to draw any conclusions remains far off. Two victories from two, however they have come, give Mikel Arteta some reassurance they have rediscovered the winning habit that escaped them in the spring.

Perhaps opponents with a full suite of senior forwards would have punished them after Takehiro Tomiyasu was dismissed midway through the second half. Arsenal had broken through eight minutes after the interval through Martin Ødegaard’s penalty and looked in full control until the defender was harshly shown a second yellow card for fouling Jordan Ayew. Crystal Palace barely have a kitchen sink to reach for but threw what they could at their depleted visitors, missing a couple of half-chances, and Arsenal were visibly relieved when the final whistle came.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Arteta said of a performance in which his side, packed with defenders by the end, did the dirty stuff to perfection late on. “We played the way we wanted to against 11 men. Then we had to play half an hour with 10 men, which is a contest we didn’t prepare for. The players had to adapt but they were fantastic, I don’t think we gave anything away.”

Arsenal looked in total control, far likelier to score a second than find themselves pegged back, when Ayew spun Tomiyasu on the right flank near halfway and went to ground. Contact appeared accidental at best, although with yards of space in front of him there was little obvious reason for Ayew to dive. David Coote reached for his pocket and, because he had already booked Tomiyasu for timewasting at a throw-in, gave himself little option but to inflict the ultimate punishment.

“I prefer not to make comments because for me it’s so obvious,” said Arteta, unable to resist offering his view on the second booking. He was also unimpressed by Coote’s response to the earlier incident, disagreeing when it was put to him that Tomiyasu had held on to the ball for 23 seconds. “It wasn’t, I think it was eight seconds,” he said. “We might have to play with a stopwatch.”

Roy Hodgson had his own reservations about the sequence that gave Arsenal the breakthrough they had threatened either side of half-time. Eddie Nketiah had missed two clear chances but showed up for a third when Gabriel Martinelli, thinking quickly, slipped him through with a quick free-kick. He was sharper to the ball than Sam Johnstone, who indisputably sent him flying, but Hodgson was surprised a subsequent VAR check did not go Palace’s way. Thomas Partey appeared to block Jefferson Lerma’s attempt to cover the pass from Martinelli but the contact was deemed insufficient.

Takehiro Tomiyasu (No 18) is sent off for a second booking

Takehiro Tomiyasu (No 18) is sent off for a second booking. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP

“I’ve seen the video replays and there’s a block,” Hodgson said. “There was a player designated to get in that area and stop that free-kick and he couldn’t do so.”

Nonetheless Ødegaard sent Johnstone the wrong way and Arsenal deserved to lead, even if Nketiah had continued to keep everyone guessing about his true level. When Bukayo Saka prodded him through on the half-hour he was razor sharp to see off two defenders but rolled his finish against the far post. Shortly afterwards Declan Rice, who had a fine game, released him cleverly only for a dinked effort from inside the six-yard box to clear the bar.

Palace had looked marginally the more incisive early on, Eberechi Eze making Aaron Ramsdale save from range and Odsonne Édouard seeing a mazy run foiled by Ben White. Occasionally Ayew would cause trouble down the right but Hodgson’s attacking resources are scarce now that Wilfried Zaha has departed and Michael Olise, hailed in song by the crowd for rejecting Chelsea, remains injured. Jean-Philippe Mateta, linked with a move away, might have offered a useful spearhead off the bench but Hodgson said he had reported sick with a sore knee.

Their bluntness made for a flurry of huff and puff as the minutes ticked down, Édouard fluffing a presentable header and Tyrick Mitchell blasted wildly over with the headlines awaiting him at the death. “I don’t know if I could have asked much more of the players,” Hodgson said. Both teams had arguably caught each other at a good time, but Arsenal made the opportunity count.