MATCH PREVIEW: ARSENAL FACE VIERA-LED CRYSTAL PALCE AT SELHURST PARK
The Premier League resumes for Arsenal today as they travel over to Selhurst Park and take on Crystal Palace. With Tottenham winning emphatically yesterday, the Gunners need all three points to go back into the top four again.
The problem for the Arsenal is that Crystal Palace present a bit of a banana peel for them, in terms of this match up. Sure, the Gunners are flying high and should be filled with confidence coming into this match. However, the combination of the international break disrupting their momentum and Palace being very well coached and much improved, presents a challenge for them. No one will forget that the last time these two teams met, it was a stoppage time goal that saw Arsenal earn a draw at the Emirates.
Arsenal however are different prospect then they were back on match day 8 of the season. Back then they were still a team struggling with integrating new team members, learning to play the manager wanted and other sorts of on and off the pitch issues. They were very much a club in disarray. Now here 23 matches later, Arsenal are playing with a confidence little saw coming at the beginning of the season.
The whole feeling in the squad and around it is markedly different and the noises of negativity that still do linger are barely worth mentioning any more as everyone player, coach, staff and fan seem to be onboard with this direction.
Now none of that means Arsenal will beat Palace. Every game is different but Arsenal will be a different prospect for Palace this time and even though they are hard to beat at home. The Gunners have to believe they can go on the road and win. And why not, they now have 5 wins in a row on the road, something that hasn’t been done in years. Additionally, it could be that the Gunners face a slightly deflated Palace as Zaha and Olise are doubts for the match today.
For Arsenal, we are still waiting to hear about Ramsdale and Tomiyasu’s return. The Japanese international has played one match since December and has been plagued with an injury that came after his initial injury healed. There might be good news on Ramsdale as he was featured in the batch of training pictures the club released yesterday. However, if he is still out, Leno is a more than capable number two.
All in all, the match will hopefully be significantly different then the last time these two met.
Scouting the Opponent
Patrick Vieira has done something noticeable right with Crystal Palace. They look much better defensively, they’re scoring goals, they’re beating the teams around them and are even troubling the big teams high above them on the table. With a combination of a solid defensive base and a good transitional plan, the former no 4 has managed to get the Eagles to press high up the pitch when available – adding another element to be aware of when considering how to attack them.
Setting up in a 433 type formation, Crystal palace look to drop into a much more defensive 541 narrow formation when defending. Offensively the formation becomes much more chaotic, as they try to get up the field as quickly as possible, usually releasing the likes of Zaha, Gallagher, Olise and Mateta.
Defensively, Vieira has set out to get his team ready to work for the win. Initially setting in a mid/high block, squeezing the room between the lines, they use the front 4 to pressure the defenders and turn defense into attack. As play develops, Crystal Palace look to drop back into a 532 formation, keeping compact centrally and denying space down the spine. When passes move wide, they look to overload wide areas quickly, using the benefit of the added defensive player to create 2v3/3v4 overloads in wide areas. This does keep the Eagles vulnerable centrally, allowing room for advanced midfielders to move into positions on the edge of the box and receive passes from wide areas.
Offensively, Crystal Palace look to break quickly, preferably releasing wide players and moving bodies centrally for a crossing opportunity. That being said, the likes of Zaha and Olise are not afraid to move inside with the ball and shoot themselves. Furthermore, Crystal Palace are defending goal kicks especially high up, meaning they’re able to get in shots if the opposition uses too much time getting the ball out of their own half. While they do look very dangerous on transition, Vieira has apparently tried to ease Crystal Palace into playing out the back, which seem to still need work done. They don’t seem to be able to get the distance between Central Defenders, Central Midfielders and Full Backs correctly, meaning the FBs runs the risk of getting trapped from time to time.
Defending against Crystal Palace, Arsenal should look initially press high, trying to force turnovers on wide areas. Sitting tight on the likes of Olise and Gallagher could also quickly deny Crystal Palace a lot of mobility. If play develops, Arsenal should look to drop slightly lower than usually, as Crystal Palace seem unsure of how to open up a low block. While they do have good dribblers in the team, they do lack players who are able to link up play or receive in tight areas. In the end, defending against Crystal Palace becomes much more simple if Arsenal manage to take the lead first.
Attacking Crystal Palace, Arsenal should look to exploit the Eagles compact formation, giving Saka the chance to get into 1v1 duels with in-form Tyrick Mitchell. It seems like Crystal Palace has a habit of dropping pretty low when expecting the cross, so this could be the day Thomas Partey scores his screamer.
The Wrap UP
In the podcast, I called this a very dangerous match. It was one I think we can win but one that I could definitely see us slipping up on. That being said, I think Arsenal will come into this relishing the chance to continue to build upon what they’ve been doing. I am going to wear my heart on my sleeve for this one and forgo any semblance of objectivity and say Arsenal come out 2 -1 winners on the road.
What the Manager Says (courtesy Arsenal.com)
Yeah, we scored right at the end and it was a tough match. We had some really good periods, some periods where we struggled. We conceded two very poor goals in that game with simple giveaways that put the game into a really difficult position. The team, especially at home, is doing really well and the coaching staff are doing a great job and we know how it is to play in their stadium.
Arsenal Record vs Opponent (League only)
14W 8D 3L
Goals Scored (Season Average)
Arsenal (away): 1.54
Crystal Palace (home): 1.47
Goals Conceded (Season Average)
Arsenal (away): 1.46
Crystal Palace (home): 1.13
xG per Match (via fbref.com)
Crystal Palace: 1.68
Referee: Paul Tierney
Assistants:Constantine Hatzidakis, Neil Davies
Fourth Official:Peter Bankes
Assistant VAR: Wade Smith
Match Facts (courtesy bbc.co.uk)
- Arsenal have won each of their last five Premier League away games. It is their longest sequence of victories on the road in the same campaign since a run of eight matches between January and May 2002.
- The Gunners are one short of becoming the third club to record 250 Premier League away victories, after Manchester United (301) and Chelsea (262).
- They are only one victory away from matching their overall tally of 18 league wins last season.
- The Gunners could lose successive Monday league matches for the first time in 12 years following their defeat at Everton in December.
- They can win three consecutive Premier League London derbies for the first time since March 2015.
- Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka are Arsenal’s leading league scorers with nine goals each. Nicolas Anelka, with 17 in 1998-99, is the only player aged 21 or under to reach double figures in Premier League goals for the club in a single campaign.
- Crystal Palace have won just one of their last nine Premier League games against Arsenal (D5, L3).
- The Eagles have triumphed in only four of the 43 league encounters overall.
- Arsenal’s only defeat in 16 league meetings at Palace came in a Monday night game in April 2017.