Arsenal Look For Second League Win Under Arteta With Trip to Crystal Palace – Match Preview
Arsenal look to build on their recent successes as they travel to Selhurst Park to take on Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace. A win would be the team’s third in a row and only the second time this season that they managed to string to wins together. However, it won’t be an easy task.
When They Last Met
The last time Arsenal met Crystal Palace was at the Emirates in 2-2 draw that was filled with drama. Less so for the score but the repercussions of Granit Xhaka’s slow walk and telling off of the fans (in frustration) and ultimately losing the armband.
The match was emblematic of everything that was wrong with Emery at Arsenal. The tactics were stagnant and countered by Palace. Poor defending and poor attacking play were par for the course on the day.
The match ended in frustration for everyone and continued the path to Emery’s eventual dismissal.
Scouting the Opposition
Crystal Palace have had a dream start to the Premier League season. They currently sit one place and one point above Arsenal. Roy Hodgson has done an amazing effort turning Palace into a top tend side.
Every time I played there, I suffered. It was always tough. It is a very complicated stadium. He is a manager with incredible experience and what he is doing there, it is very impressive and it will be tough.
Mikel Arteta, Arsenal Head Coach
Palace when playing an opponent like Arsenal, Chelsea or any of the teams that are good on the ball typically play in a 4-5-1 medium block that transitions into a 4-3-3 on the counter.
Hodgson has coached his side to remain compact, leaving very little space for the opposition to play through. Ideally, Palace want to deny teams with strong midfielders the opportunity to break their lines. Against Arsenal last time, this set up resulted in a lot of unthreatening passes between Arsenal’s defence and midfield.
However, there were are moments when Palace can a little more aggressive in their defensive play. Against Chelsea, they opted to pressure Kante with MacArthur. This pressure denied Kante the time and space to turn upfield and start Chelsea’s attacks. Kante then was forced to play back to Chelsea’s defenders and break down any potential attack.
Against Arsenal at the Emirates, the attacking threat came when they won the ball Palace would look to quickly move their wide players higher up the pitch and create overloads against Arsenal’s fullbacks. At the Emirates Arsenal saw a lot of either Kouyate, Townsend and Ward or Zaha, Van Anholt, and MacArthur creating options for each other in attack. Crystal Palace’s second goal was created from one of these overloads.
Palace have been a formidable opponent this year. It’s a team well-coached and causing difficulties for the big teams. It won’t be an easy feat and Arteta will have his work cut out for him if he expects to get win number 3 under his belt.
Arsenal’s Tactical Improvement
By now everyone knows that Mikel Arteta has thrown down the gauntlet to the Arsenal players on his expectations for them and for the team. Laying out what he calls “non-negotiables,” Arteta has gotten Arsenal to look like a team again. And when they haven’t he’s leaned into them to get them to play the way he wants.
One of the most noticeable changes though lies in Arsenal’s tactical setup. With simple tweaks to the 4-2-3-1 system Arsenal were playing and an emphasis on commitment on and off the ball Arsenal look better poised for this match then they did when Palace visited the Emirates.
The first adjustment was closing down the space between the midfielders, especially between Xhaka and Torreira and letting each of the players play their preferred role. Torreira as a six providing cover to Xhaka’s more box-to-box instincts. But the reduction in space has also aided in Xhaka’s defensive ability as he now has less space to cover and has support around him both from deep and higher up the pitch.
Most noticeable though is the freedom Mesut Özil has not been given with the support from Xhaka behind him. Mesut Özil is best when he is free to float in the half-spaces between the opposition midfield and back four. He finds that space, pulls out to the wide areas, comes in, each time looking for the ball and the openings that will allow him to make the pass behind the opposition defence and for the forwards to run on to.
It’s the simplest of fixes to Arsenal’s overall play since Arteta took over. But it never happened under Emery and Özil when he played was often forced to come deep and get on the ball. This forced him into 1v1 situations where he would have to dribble past a defender. This was never suited to his game. He wants to find the space to create the pass and set up a shot on goal. He is never going to make a skilful move to beat a player from a deep position.
The addition of the inverted fullback, usually Ainsley Maitland-Niles, the tweaked positioning of Torreira and Xhaka has really fixed our attack by letting Özil be Özil. By doing this, and focusing on keeping the ball, Arsenal’s attack has been more effective and at times energetic. It’s resulted in happier players, more committed player and players buying into what Arteta is trying to do tactically. And it’s made Arsenal look better.
What to Expect at Selhurst Park
It’s not going to be an easy match. Arteta though sees a team growing in confidence and responding even when they are down, like this past Monday versus Leeds in the FA Cup. Palace will look once again to deny space and time to Arsenal to build-up play but with the players starting to feel like themselves again, they will know what’s expected of them and they will play like it.
Palace will make it hard on the Gunners but in the end, the Gunners are going to come away with this one with the three points.
Crystal Palace 1 – 2 Arsenal
What the Head Coach Is Saying (courtesy Arsenal.com)
The first thing I wanted to change was the energy around the team and around the club as well. It is slightly better than how it was, or much better I would say. Obviously the fact we are winning games helps, and as well what I am seeing at the training ground since the day I moved is much more like I want to see.
Arsenal record vs opponent (league only)
21P 13W 5D 3L
Crystal Palace: DLWDD
Average Goals Scored Per Game
Arsenal: 1.10 (away)
Crystal Palace: 0.90 (home)
Average Goals Conceded Per Game
Arsenal: 1.30 (away)
Crystal Palace: 0.90 (home)
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants: Ian Hussin, Marc Perry
Fourth official: Keith Stroud
VAR: Craig Pawson
Assistant VAR: Andy Halliday.
Match Facts (courtesy BBC.co.uk)
- They are unbeaten in five away matches in all competitions since the sacking of Unai Emery (W1, D4).
- Arsenal’s 27-point total is their lowest after 21 games of a top-flight season since 1982-83, when they also had 27.
- The Gunners could win three successive games in all competitions for the first time since September.
- They have kept clean sheets in three of their past five matches in league and cup.
- Arsenal have won just one of 10 matches against other clubs currently in the top half of the table (D4, L5).
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored eight of Arsenal’s 11 away league goals.
- Head coach Mikel Arteta won all five of his league appearances as a player against Crystal Palace.
- Crystal Palace are unbeaten in the past three league meetings, winning one and drawing two.
- However, Arsenal have lost just two of their 19 away league matches at Palace (W10, D7).
- There have been 23 goals scored in the last five league encounters.