Match Preview: Arsenal v Crystal Palace; Anything Worth Playing For?
If you happen to stumble across West Ham v Arsenal last weekend and didn’t know a thing about the Gunners or our season so far, you’d would have gotten the entire season encapsulated in one match. Start of brilliantly and brightly, take an eye off the prize and loose position only to suddenly grasp at the last straw and save the season – somewhat. The excruciating draw was a microcosm of not just this season but the last few.
We’re left wondering at this point of the season at what could’ve been. With a 0.96% of still winning the title this season, Arsenal are in an all too familiar place – 3rd. With all the dross in the league, it could’ve been ours for the taking. But all too familiar issues reared their heads yet again and led to the downfall of a once promising season.
The reasons for it have been debated all over social media. Simply put, when looked at dispassionately, there is plenty of blame for everyone. From the manager not seeking reinforcements in January when injuries decimated our lineups – especially the midfield to players underestimating teams and not putting in a full shift. Those and many more reasons are why the season has gone sour so far.
So on Sunday when they take the pitch, what is it that they are playing for. Pride seems like a buzz phrase. But it really has to be. There is talent spread out across this squad and it likely deserved better than they will get. Yes, they are in this position because of themselves but you look at the players and you have to ask yourselves why they aren’t running away with it.
But they aren’t and they have to finish out the season. With 6 matches remaining (5 + 1 in hand) the Gunners have to put on some sort of energized performance to show that they still have a heartbeat.
Will it amount to much? Possibly not. The supporters are as fractious as ever. The season is practically over and without even the consolation of an FA Cup run to buoy us, the season looks to be the worst in recent memory.
How they end the season will at least go some way to letting us wonder whether or not to hide under our covers until August or at least sit around and try to enjoy our summers.
Key Match Up
Last week against West Ham, Arsenal’s defence were suspect again in the air around the box. There was a lack of coordination and ability to halt the efforts of Andy Carroll and he made Arsenal pay for it. In Emmanuel Adebayor, Arsenal once again face off against a forward who is good at attacking the ball in the air and will make defences pay for it they aren’t prepared for and suitably address his presence.
Where to Worry
Without a title to play for, there isn’t much impetus left to drive the team forward. Having gotten out to a lightening quick start last week only to capitulate in the span of 8 minutes – you are left to wonder if Arsenal will have the drive in this match to push forward and finish off the season strongly.
Bucking the trend and theme of this preview, suspect Arsenal come out quick, establish the game early and put it away – without the wilting of a flower that hasn’t been watered in ages.
Players to Watch
Arsenal. Mesut Özil. Recently named as one of 6 finalists for the Premier League Player of the Year, he’s searching for 2 more assists to total Thierry Henry’s record of 20 for a season.
Crystal Palace. Emmanuel Adebayor. It’s been a long and winding road for Ade but he is back in London and faces off against his former club for the first time since he joined Pardew’s side.
Injuries and Suspensions
Arsenal: Wilshere (fitness), Rosicky (fitness), Cazorla (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee)
Crystal Palace: Appiah (knee), Gayle (thigh), Chamakh (groin), McArthur (fitness), Hangeland (calf), Zaha (shoulder)
Referee: Roger East (21M, 60Y, 0R)
Assistant Referees: R West, M Scholes
Fourth Official: M Dean
UK: Sky Sports 16.00 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 11:00AM EST
Arsenal 2 – 0 Crystal Palace
The Manager’s Take (Courtesy Arsenal.com):
“The perception is that the league is over,” the manager told Arsenal Player. “That perception can still have twists and turns until the end of the season.
“Our job is to make sure that we have a go until the last game of the season, until the last minute of the season, forget what other people believe and show that we are capable of dealing with this kind of pressure, as well as showing that our ambition is not artificial but real.
“The only little chance we have is to give absolutely everything in every single game, starting on Sunday against Crystal Palace.
“I believe the quality of our performances recently have been very strong and we want to continue to build on that.
“Of course there’s the short term, and we have to look behind us as well. Everybody will fight like mad to be in a Champions League spot, so we absolutely need a fantastic run until the end of the season.”
Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta Sports)
- Arsenal have won 10 and lost just one of their 13 Barclays Premier League games against Crystal Palace, including winning the last six in a row.
- The Gunners have won none of their three London derbies at home in the Premier League this season (D1 L2).
- Crystal Palace have taken fewer points in London derbies (4) than any of the clubs from the capital this season.
- Olivier Giroud has scored in three of his four Premier League starts against the Eagles.
- Giroud has now gone 11 Premier League games without scoring, his longest drought without a goal in the competition (606 minutes in total).
- Former Gunner Emmanuel Adebayor has scored on two of his last three appearances as a visiting player at the Emirates.
- Alan Pardew’s side have won none of their last seven Premier League games on the road (D4 L3).
- The Gunners have shipped just eight goals in their last 14 Premier League matches at the Emirates.
- Mesut Ozil has assisted just twice in his last 12 Premier League games, this after providing 16 assists in his first 18 games of the season.
- Arsenal’s next victory in the Premier League will be their 500th; only Man Utd (582) have won more often in the competition.