Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Preview: Return of £34M Star to Boost The Gunners
A win on Boxing Day to erase the painful memories of back-to-back losses is always great, but it becomes just about perfect when that win comes late in the game. Oliver Giroud’s late header secured a 1-0 win over West Brom, and the result gives more than just three points ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit. The victory keeps us in touch with the likes of Manchester City and staying in the race is all that matters during a packed schedule.
Crystal Palace will be another tough match for us. In many ways, it could be a repeat of Monday’s match – nine men behind the ball and trying to score on the counter-attack.
Chelsea may be receiving a lot of plaudits right now, but they struggled a lot more against West Brom despite Tony Pulis’ outfit adopting the same tactics. In contrast, we were rather fluent in attack and should have scored much earlier than Giroud’s late goal. This performance will give the team a lot of confidence ahead of the game against Palace, who appear rejuvenated already following the arrival of Sam Allardyce.
Allardyce was unable to prevent his players from wrestling in the box during set pieces against Watford. Palace conceded a penalty as a direct consequence, and ended up drawing the game 1-1. Old habits die hard, and Wenger should consider having a word or two with the referee to make him aware of similar actions on Sunday.
Even though Wenger was critical of the refereeing performances in the losses against Everton and Manchester City, there is no denying that we were at our fluent best only in patches. This is certainly not good enough, and the rollicking from the manager appeared to work against West Brom. The team had 17 shots with eight on target, while also controlling the game with 66% possession.
History is certainly in our favour with Palace’s last away win against Arsenal coming back in 1994 when we were still at Highbury. In the last four league meetings, the Gunners have put 10 goals past Palace, although the most recent meeting in April did end in a 1-1 draw.
The Emirates has certainly been a fortress with the club’s only home defeat this season coming on the opening day against Liverpool. The draws against Middlesbrough and Spurs are the sour points, but there is enough quality to be able to overcome a Crystal Palace team without an away win since September 24th.
We do have to be careful about Crystal Palace’s threat going forward. They have scored in each of their last eight away matches without exception – in some cases even three or more goals.
We are likely to be better equipped in defence with Shkodran Mustafi expected to make a first-team return for the first time since December 10th. Interestingly, we have never lost a league match when Mustafi has been in the team. Theo Walcott remains doubtful once again.
Even though Crystal Palace are likely to be toned down by Allardyce, they would still possess a far bigger threat going forward. I would expect them to score at least a goal even if they are going to lose.
For a second tip, I would back Alexis Sanchez to score anytime. The Chilean is in incredible form after scoring six goals and creating four in his last seven matches.
Both Teams to Score – 19/20
Alexis Sanchez to score anytime – 4/6