The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Crystal Palace

Premier League | Emirates Stadium | Sat 16 Aug | 5:30pm

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Football's back!

The lowdown

ARSENAL FORM

  • Man City 0-3 Arsenal (C. Shield)
  • Arsenal 0-1 Monaco (F)
  • Arsenal 5-1 Benfica (F)
  • NY Red Bulls 1-0 Arsenal (F)
  • Boreham Wood 0-2 Arsenal (F)

CRYSTAL PALACE FORM

  • Augsburg 0-0 Palace (F)
  • Brentford 3-2 Palace (F)
  • Richmond Kickers 0-3 Palace (F)
  • Philadelphia 0-1 Palace (F)
  • Columbus Crew 2-2 Palace (F)

Take a nine-year wait. Add a dramatic cup final comeback that put the 'trophyless' taunts to bed. Dash in an open top bus parade around north London, full of happiness and joy and dancing. Mix in three World Cup winners. Sprinkle £32 million worth of Chile on top, three other promising new signings and a 3-0 thrashing of the Premier League champions in the season's Wembley curtain raiser. What do you have? Arsenal.

It's perhaps no surprise, given all this, and indeed perfectly understandable, that Arsenal fans can't quite wipe those grinning Cheshire cat smiles off their faces at the moment. For years they have been mocked and for years they've had to watch on forlornly as quality player after quality player was sold without being adequately replaced. But things appear to be changing at the Emirates Stadium.

Sure, they're still selling captains - Thomas Vermaelen set sail down the traditional Gunner exit route to Barcelona. But this time it was a captain deemed surplus to requirements. Arsene Wenger holds all the cards now. The deal was done on his terms.

After splurging £40 million on Mesut Ozil, Arsenal have again spent big, adding to their squad with the signings of David Ospina, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy and Alexis Sanchez. Each one an intelligent, shrewd purchase, with Sanchez the cherry on top.

Fresh off the back of a fine World Cup, the Chilean is the closest thing the Premier League has seen to Cristiano Ronaldo since Cristiano himself. Newspaper articles have been debating whether this is the Gunners' best squad in a decade. It just might well be.

Crystal Palace had hogged far fewer headlines with their rather quiet summer dealings... until Thursday evening. Tony Pulis had been one of the league's least active managers in the transfer market thus far - a key factor in why he chose to sensationally walk away from the club just two days before the start of the season.

Pulis had actually only signed one player fewer than Wenger, but the names Chris Kettings, Fraizer Campbell and Brede Hangeland don't quite set pulses racing in the same way, and with eight players leaving the club you sense there's more to come.

Facing Palace in the first game of the season might well play into Arsenal's hands. The Gunners won both games 2-0 last season, and haven't lost to the Eagles since going down to a John Salako double in 1994. Palace fans have waited 20 years for victory over their London rivals but on the opening day it will take a monumental effort to halt an Arsenal team rapidly regaining their swagger.

Team news

Still jaded from World Cup duty (being that awesome is clearly draining) German trio Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski are set to miss out. Theo Walcott remains injured while Laurent Koscielny is also a doubt. Palace have a fully fit squad to choose from bar Adrian Mariappa, who has rib trouble.

Player to watch: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)

There can only be one. Arguably the signing of the summer, Sanchez is a next-level player capable of taking Arsenal exactly there. Arsenal appear to be taking full advantage of Real Madrid and Barcelona's recent policy of shipping out quality players once the next shiny new toy comes on the market. Remember, though, that on the final day of last season Sanchez scored an unbelievable goal that came very close to winning Barca the title.

He continued his form with a fine performance in Brazil, and his all-action, fast-paced, direct style is almost perfectly suited to the Premier League. A promising debut in the Community Shield only hinted at Sanchez's ability and at 25 he's not even reached his prime. It should be fun having him around.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Arsenal 2-0 Palace (PL, Feb 14)
  • Palace 0-2 Arsenal (PL, Oct 13)
  • Arsenal 5-1 Palace (PL, Feb 05)
  • Palace 1-1 Arsenal (PL, Nov 04)
  • Palace 1-2 Arsenal (FAC, Feb 98)

The managers

Pulis worked wonders for Crystal Palace last season, guiding them to 11th - a position that seemed impossible when he joined. A year of consolidation would have sufficed, but Pulis' departure has thrown Palace into disarray with bookies slashing odds on them returning to the Championship come May.

For Wenger, there's a real sense of renewed energy and an obvious spring in his step since winning the FA Cup in May, as anyone who saw the pictures of him playing volleyball on Copacabana beach might attest. Ten years have now passed since he last lifted the Premier League title.

As the longest-serving manager in an ever-changing league, is this the Frenchman's year? 

Facts and figures

  • Arsenal have won 0 of their last 4 Premier League opening weekend fixtures (D3 L1) including defeat to Aston Villa at home last season (1-3). They had won 8 of the previous 9 (D1).
  • Olivier Giroud has scored 6 goals in his last 6 Premier League appearances at the Emirates Stadium.
  • Palace have lost just 1 of their last 8 Premier League matches (W5 D2 L1).

    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

Morale apparently couldn't be higher at Arsenal right now and the list of genuinely quality players continues to grow. Stopping them will be too tough for a Palace side still short of fresh blood. 3-0.

Arsenal vs Crystal Palace LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone


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