Crystal Palace vs Arsenal preview: Gunners desperate to avoid defeat repeat
Plucky, second-bottom-of-the-table strugglers travel to high-flying entertainers. Yes, the game’s at Selhurst Park.
- Norwich 1-3 Palace (Prem)
- Dag & Red 1-0 Palace (F)
- Fulham 1-1 Palace (F)
- Bromley 0-6 Palace (F)
- Sporting 2-0 Palace (F)
- Arsenal 0-2 West Ham (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (C Shield)
- Arsenal 1-0 Wolfsburg (F)
- Arsenal 6-0 Lyon (F)
- Everton 1-3 Arsenal (F)
Crystal Palace come into this one on the back of a hard-fought 3-1 win at Norwich on the opening day. The Eagles weren't exactly at their best in East Anglia, but nevertheless did enough to eke out a victory and get off to the perfect start to somewhat take the pressure off ahead of this encounter with Arsenal.
The addition of Yohan Cabaye from PSG was widely heralded as one of the signings of the summer, with the France international – who played in four of his country’s five matches at the 2014 World Cup – showing glimpses of his talent at Carrow Road, notching the decisive third goal to kill of any Canary hopes.
Here it'll be interesting to see whether Alan Pardew deploys the reported long-time Gunners target in a midfield two again this week, or pushes Cabaye further forward and brings in either Mile Jedinak or Joe Ledley to play in a holding role. Fellow new boys Connor Wickham and Patrick Bamford will compete with Glenn Murray to be the lone frontman.
Whereas Pardew and Palace will have been delighted with the outcome of their curtain-raiser, Arsenal’s turned into the stuff of nightmares last Sunday. Tipped by many to win the league this season – or at very least look like doing so – the Gunners capitulated at home to West Ham, losing 2-0 after a flat and underwhelming performance.
While there's still plenty to play for, it's imperative that Arsene Wenger's men improve quickly if they are to avoid replicating their disastrous start to 2014/15 when just two wins in eight put them out of the title race by mid-October. More will be expected from Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, all of whom were ineffective against Slaven Bilic’s Hammers. Two losses in two games would be unthinkable.
Yannick Bolasie is in contention after only being fit enough for the bench against Norwich, though the DR Congo international may find it hard to force his way into the line-up ahead of Wilfried Zaha or Jason Puncheon, with new boy Bakary Sako also set to provide competition once fit. Marouane Chamakh won't feature against his former club, while goalkeeper Julian Speroni remains sidelined with a finger injury.
Arsenal are expected to welcome Hector Bellerin back after the 20-year-old missed out with a muscular problem against West Ham, but Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky are out. Alexis Sanchez is in line to start after being given extra time off following his involvement in the Copa America.
Key battle: Wilfried Zaha vs Hector Bellerin
Zaha was superb against Norwich last weekend, the fleet-footed winger causing havoc with his trickery and direct dribbling. For a player who needs to add goals to his game if he wants to reach the next level, it was also encouraging to see the 22-year-old get his name on the scoresheet after arriving late at the back post to guide a Puncheon cross into the net.
Arsenal missed Bellerin in their defeat to West Ham, with deputy Mathieu Debuchy struggling to deal with the excellent Dimitri Payet all afternoon. If the Spaniard can get a grip of Zaha and force the Palace wideman back towards his own goal with some forward runs of his own, the Gunners will be able to shut off a major source of the home side’s creativity.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Palace 1-2 Arsenal (PL, Feb 15)
- 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)
Pardew did a phenomenal job in SE25 last term after taking over from Neil Warnock in January: Palace won 10 times in 18 matches as their former midfielder dragged them from the relegation zone to the top half, with famous victories against Liverpool and Manchester City evidence that the Eagles are good enough to upset the division’s big boys. Having introduced a more front-foot and fan-friendly style of play while also improving results on the pitch, Pardew is enjoying far more love and adulation from the terraces than he ever experienced at St James’ Park as Newcastle boss.
Wenger, meanwhile, continues to divide Arsenal fans, who seem to be split right down the middle on the question of whether the 65-year-old is still the answer. Despite lifting two FA Cups in as many years, it's now 11 seasons since the Frenchman got his hands on the Premier League title, with the 2-0 reverse at home to West Ham interpreted by some as evidence that the North Londoners remain too inherently flawed to finish top of the pile this time around.
Pardew and Wenger memorably scuffled on the touchline when the Palace boss was in charge of West Ham in 2006, but given Pardew’s current contentedness and the thaw in relations between the pair since, Wenger should be safe from a butting this weekend.
Facts and figures
- Arsenal’s victories last season in this fixture both came by a 2-1 scoreline, with a goal in the 45th minute both times.
- Mesut Ozil has averaged 3.5 chances created per game in the Premier League in 2015; a higher ratio than any other player.
- Bakary Sako beat his opponent with more dribbles than any other player in the Championship last season (116).
More FFT Stats Zone facts
An open, entertaining clash in which Arsenal’s superior quality should just about see them through. 1-2.