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MATCH PREVIEW: Arsenal v Crystal Palace: A New Season. A New Hope

Ah, it’s that time again. No more meaningless friendlies or friendlies with meaningless trophies. Now everything counts. Now we get to once again live and die with every kick and save. We scream, we cry, we sing our bloody lungs out. You just got to love meaningful football.

Ah, it’s that time again. No more meaningless friendlies or friendlies with meaningless trophies. Now everything counts. Now we get to once again live and die with every kick and save. We scream, we cry, we sing our bloody lungs out. You just got to love meaningful football.

The anticipation in the Arsenal corner of the Premier League universe is dripping with anticipation. Will all the moves that have been made so far, equal improvement? Will Arsenal have learned enough from the previous season, to build upon their successes and drive further forward? These and many questions wait to be asked and answered.

There is a general feel good feeling around the club right. Even with the crisis du jour (seats being empty) doing the rounds, you get the sense that nothing can break through the anticipation of that first whistle that signals the start of the first match of the season. It’s been a while since we Gunners have been this excited about a season. Sure, some remain skeptical, but the moves this summer and the FA Cup win from last season has done wonders for the psyche of everyone connected to the club from the inside and out (the supporters)

Arsenal take to the field against an opponent many worried would  give them a hard time as they were managed by Tony Pulis. Pulis’ Stoke were always problematic and he always delighted in getting under Wenger’s and Gooner’s skin. But the manager who took control the day Palace met Arsenal last season, leaves the club 48 hours before the season starts. His departure puts a dark pall on Palace and likely creates chaos on a team many expected to be markedly improved over last season.

Still, Arsenal need to go and play their game. Against City in the Charity Shield, the first half was what I think we can expect from Arsenal as they continue to grow into the season. Whether Wenger persists with the 4-1-4-1 when Özil is back in the squad remains to be seen, but the formation allowed Wenger to use both Ramsey and Wilshere to their strengths and made Arteta more of true DM. The overloading of the midfield allowed Arsenal to boss the middle of the pitch and create clear cut chances.

Expect though, that unlike against City, Arsenal will enjoy most of the possession in this match. Even with Pulis gone, you can expect Palace to retain (for now) the defense first mentality he brought when he came to the club last season. The key will be for Arsenal to unlock Palace early and force the visitors to get out of their game plan early. The ability for Arsenal to create chances in open play will be enhanced with the speed of Alexis. But we likely won’t see that much until Arsenal get that important first goal.

Palace are a club in disarray and they will want to come out of the Emirates with as much intact as they can, which means they will likely be looking to close up shop early and hoping to catch the Gunners with too many men forward.

Last season against the “smaller” teams, Arsenal played a patient waiting game, working to tire out the opposition and pull them apart. During the run that got them to the top through early February, this worked to deadly efficiency. We get to see if they can retain that composure and patience and force Palace to get out of their shells.

With the creativity and speed and the ability to play both Wilshere and Ramsey, I think we can expect this to be a creative master class. Of course we all thought the same last opening day against Villa. However, the team seem intent on focusing on the errors of last season and improving on the successes.

In the end, I think the departure of Pulis combined with the determination of Arsenal, are too much for the visitors. Look for an Arsenal win all the way.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey. My early candidate for player of the year. If he stays fit for more than 80% of the campaign he will be instrumental in leading the Gunners to more silverware.

 Palace: Marouane Chamakh. In fairness I have a soft spot for the man with the single spike on his head. He started off so well with us and then drifted in to obscurity when the dutch twat returned. You could make a case that he’d love to score against his former squad.

Projected lineups:

Arsenal (4-1-4-1) v Palace (4-4-2)

Injuries & Suspensions:

Arsenal: Gnabry (knee), Ospina (back), Walcott (fitness)

Palace: Mariappa (rib), Thomas (knock), Delaney (knock), Williams (hip/knee)

Match Officials:
Referee: Jonathon Ross
Assistant Referees: Betts, Scholes
Fourth Official: Madley

Broadcast Info:
UK: Sky Sports 1 17.30 BST

US: NBC Sports Network 12:30 EST PM

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal 3-0 Palace

Match Facts (courtesy FourFourTwo)

  • Arsenal have won none of their last four Barclays Premier League opening weekend fixtures (D3 L1); including defeat to Aston Villa at home last season (1-3). They had won eight of the previous nine (D1).
  • Palace have won just one of their five opening weekend fixtures in the Premier League (D2 L2).
  • 2013/14 was the first time that Crystal Palace managed to avoid relegation from a Premier League season.
  • If Arsenal win this match, they will have recorded 100 Premier League victories at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Mikel Arteta has scored two goals in three Premier League games against Crystal Palace.
  • Olivier Giroud has scored six goals in his last six Premier League appearances at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Arsene Wenger’s side have won their last five Premier League games in a row; they have not been on a longer run of consecutive victories since March 2012 (7).
  • Tony Pulis’ side have lost just one of their last eight Premier League matches (W5 D2 L1).
  • Arsenal have won seven and lost just one of the 10 previous Premier League encounters with Crystal Palace.
  • The Gunners were the most accurate team in terms of shooting last season; hitting the target with 54% of their attempts at goal.

What do you think? Will Arsenal win this one handedly? Will it be a dog fight? How to feel about the upcoming season?

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