Match Preview: Arsenal v Crystal Palace; Gunners looking to Clip Palace’s Wings
In terms of Arsenal, it has been a relatively quiet week and half. After the ignominy of losing to Tottenham, the Gunners turned it around with wins against Leicester in the league and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. The duration between that match and the league tie against Palace has resulted in focuses that lie elsewhere.
That is over, so are Arsenal’s weeklong respites between matches. For some time Arsenal have had nothing other than an FA Cup tie or league tie to occupy their time. The time between matches averaging around 4 to 6 days. However, that changes when the match kicks off tomorrow and the Champion’s League tie a few days after.
The return of a multiple matches in a week, signifies the final third of the season is upon us and if Arsenal are going to lay a stake to their minimum requirement of Champion’s League qualification, they can ill afford to slip up against teams below them in the table.
It won’t be easy. Since changing managers, Palace have looked respectable. Pardew has instilled a system and a sense of belief among his players and their recent run shows the effect.
Palace are blessed with speed and the likes of Gayle, Zaha, and Puncheon will be used to attack Arsenal from out wide. They’ll look to exploit that weakness and spring a surprise on the Gunners. That means Wenger is going to think very hard about the players he puts out there.
In attack many of the choices are no-brainers here. Giroud, Sanchez, Santi and Özil pick themselves. The question mark is on the right wing. If Wenger opts to strengthen his defensive support on the right, he’ll start with Danny Welbeck (reflected in our lineup below.) If he wants to attack and try and keep Palace “honest,” look for Walcott to get the nod.
At this point I am not sure you lose much in terms of attack with either of these options. Walcott is surely speedier and he is getting his scoring touch back but defensively he is suspect and isn’t prone to providing the support needed. That’s why I think we’ll go with Welbeck and give Palace the respect they’ll deserve.
The other glaring question is who is going to be playing right back and goalkeeper. Word on Thursday was that Bellerin was suffering from a possible ankle knock. That would mean Chambers would slot in. While Chambers shows potential, his use on a regular basis showed him still to be nothing more than a quite talented work-in-progress.
Bellerin who is close to Chambers in age has shown more maturity and readiness in the position. Much of that has to be Bellerin’s duration within the Arsenal setup versus Chambers. But there is an X-factor to Bellerin at his age that Chambers doesn’t have. A Chambers start, would solidify for me the use of Welbeck in front of him. Bellerin starting to me makes it a coin flip.
As for goalkeeper, the question everyone has to be wondering is, was the FA Cup tie the signal that Szczesny is coming in from the cold? While David Ospina hasn’t necessarily been bad, the tie against Tottenham exposed some flaws in his game. He is still solid, calm and dependable but at best Ospina seems like a really good number 2 to have.
That then beggars the question – is Szczesny going to grab the chance and be a real number 1. If he starts on Saturday, he will have to use the chance to stake his claim to the spot. If not, you can see a scenario where Arsenal seek out a new number 1 come the summer time.
Palace are likely to set up to hit us on the counter. The speed of the players previously mentioned and their low possession rate hints that this is where their best chances lie. If Arsenal are granted the time on the ball, they will need to be decisive in attack and take their chances early. If we can jump out to an early lead and force Palace out of their shell, the game plays into Arsenal’s strengths.
I wouldn’t expect Wenger to set up like he did versus City or Tottenham. He will of course likely show them some respect in his set up, but with Palace poor in passing and possession, he’s not going to worry about wave after wave of clinical attack. However, that doesn’t mean that the team shouldn’t be disciplined.
Against Tottenham what lost the match was simply a lack of focus and discipline to defend. Comparatively against City, Arsenal were resolute and focused transitioning from defending to attack. They kept their shape at all times.
They key will be is to use the attack to deadly effect but when the ball is lost, work to close down Palace and force mistakes in possession and if they can’t win the ball, getting back to strengthen the squad in the defensive 3rd and avoid giving away quality chances in the final third.
It really is that time of year again. We’ve been waiting for a sustained run of play from Arsenal and while we aren’t the draw-kings of the early season there is still a little too much inconsistency for my liking. That being said, I don’t care how they win. Win with flair or win with grit – they all result in 3 points.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal: Santi Cazorla. Why not? He’s been electric. His nimble-footedness is dazzling week in and week out. He’ll be central to Arsenal against Palace and for the remainder of the season.
Crystal Palace. Wilifried Zaha. He likely won’t start, but he has been given a boost of confidence by Pardew and the talent he supposed to be may soon shine again.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Arteta (ankle), Debuchy (shoulder), Oxlade-Chamberlain (fitness), Ramsey (hamstring)
Crystal Palace: Lee (shin), Sanogo (ineligible)
Head to Head:
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (15M, 61Y, 2R)
Assistant Referees: S Beck, I Hussin
Fourth Official: A Madley
UK: BBC MOTD Highlights
US: NBC Sports Extra: 10:00AM EST
Crystal Palace 0 – 3 Arsenal
Match Facts (Courtesy Opta via FourFourTwo.com)
- Crystal Palace have recovered the joint-most points from losing positions of any team in the Premier League (15 along with Spurs).
- Arsenal have won seven and lost none of the last 10 meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions.
- The Eagles have won just seven of their 29 Barclays Premier League home London derbies.
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 11 visits to Selhurst Park to play Palace in all competitions (W6 D5).
- Theo Walcott has scored seven goals in his last seven Premier League starts.
- Arsenal have conceded just five first half goals in their last 17 Premier League games and three of those came in one match (against Stoke City).
- Arsenal have won three of their six Premier League London derbies this season and all by a 2-1 scoreline. However, they have yet to keep a clean sheet in a capital clash.
- Only Swansea (12) have dropped more points from wining positions than Arsenal (10) away from home in the Premier League this season.
- Arsenal have won just one of 12 Premier League games after falling behind this season and that was against Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season.
- Crystal Palace have won just three of their last 14 Premier League games at Selhurst Park (W3 D4 L7).
What are your thoughts on this match? Can Arsenal take all 3 points at on the road to Palace? Who should start? What do you think the score will be? Let us know.