The FourFourTwo Preview: Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Premier League | Selhurst Park | Sat 21 Feb | 3pm

Billed as

YAYA SANOGO CHAOS SQUAD IN DA HOU- oh, he can’t play.

CRYSTAL PALACE FORM

  • Palace 1-2 Liverpool (FAC)
  • Palace 1-1 Newcastle (Prem)
  • Leicester 0-1 Palace (Prem)
  • Palace 0-1 Everton (Prem)
  • So’ton 2-3 Palace (FAC)

ARSENAL FORM

  • Arsenal 2-0 M’brough (FAC)
  • Arsenal 2-1 Leicester (Prem)
  • Spurs 2-1 Arsenal (Prem)
  • Arsenal 5-0 Villa (Prem)
  • Brighton 2-3 Arsenal (FAC)

The lowdown

When Alan Pardew took the reins at Crystal Palace in January, the former Selhurst favourite vowed to make things interesting again on his new (old) stomping ground. A team that had scored only three goals in the eight games before his arrival would need considerable sexing up.

“A player or two” would arrive, said the Wimbledon native, before citing the difficulties of bringing in proven Premier League quality up front. By the transfer window’s end, the ex-Newcastle chief had unleashed the frustrations of a shackled spell at St James’ Park by snapping up five new players for the first team, including former Magpie Shola Ameobi and Arsenal youngster Yaya Sanogo on loan – Palace’s fifth and sixth strikers, respectively.    

Palace had the raw materials to succeed before Pardew came along, as the likes of Jason Puncheon, Dwight Gayle and Yannick Bolasie have proved in recent weeks. The 53-year-old has simply given them a new lease of life. Since his arrival in south-east London, Palace have picked up 10 points from a possible 15, an immediate upturn which already means the Eagles are already looking up and not down, five points above the relegation zone.

“He is ambitious; we needed a philosophy,” cried James McArthur. “He has installed belief in the players,” Puncheon declared to FFT, before Wilfried Zaha lauded the confidence boost of “a manager who trusts me”. Neil Warnock was a good man to follow indeed, it seems.

Next up for Pardew’s merry men, however, are an Arsenal side unbeaten in their last 11 visits to Selhurst.

Middlesbrough were dispatched in the FA Cup last weekend, after an edgy win over Leicester kept them within two points of third-placed Manchester United. With just five separating Louis van Gaal’s men from seventh-placed Liverpool, whoever blinks next could pay a heavy price.

The Gunners may have an eye on next week’s Champions League clash against Monaco, but first Arsene Wenger has another score to settle with his old mucker in the opposite dugout.

Team news

Sanogo is ineligible due to the terms of his loan deal from the Emirates, but may not have been fit anyway with a hamstring problem. McArthur should return after sitting out the cup defeat to Liverpool, while skipper Mile Jedinak is in line to make his first Palace appearance since December 28 after Asian Cup duty and subsequent ankle knack. Jerome Thomas, meanwhile... wait, he’s still there?

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back for Arsenal after groin troubles, but Aaron Ramsey (hamstring) has recently joined Mikel Arteta (ankle) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder) on the mid-to-long-term injury list.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Arsenal 2-1 Palace (PL, Aug 14)
  • 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)

Player to watch: Jason Puncheon (Palace)

Still the Eagles’ biggest and most consistent threat, the former Barnet man is the player most likely to expose Arsenal’s weaknesses on the flanks.

Puncheon is direct but unselfish, and dribbles far less frequently than team-mate Zaha on the opposite side – in Palace’s last league game against Newcastle, Puncheon completed 1 of 2 attempted take-ons compared to Zaha’s 3 of 10.

Yet the elder wideman was far more productive, creating 4 chances with his dangerous set-pieces and drifting inside effectively to give the Magpies extra problems in the middle. Where Zaha waits for support, Puncheon is the support.

The managers

Yes of course it’s too easy to mention Pardew vs Wenger in 2006, but we know you love it.  

These days the pair are practically trying to court one another. Before Wenger’s Arsenal faced Pardew’s Newcastle in December, the latter declared that “the stadium should be named after Arsene”.

The Frenchman replied that Pardew had “done very well through a difficult patch at Newcastle, with strength and dignity”.

“We had a problem one time and after we sorted it out,” quipped Wenger. Pardew’s distaste for sexegenerians is over, it seems. Urgh, get a room.

Facts and figures

  • The Eagles have won just 7 of their 29 Premier League home London derbies.
  • Arsenal have won just 1 of 12 Premier League games after falling behind this season and that was against Crystal Palace on the opening day of the season.
  • Arsenal have won 3 of their 6 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.
    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

Palace are quite capable of scoring, but Arsenal to edge it 2-1.

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone