Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: February 21st, 2015 15.00 PM BST
It’s going to be the first Arsenal match on a Saturday at 3pm (British time) since the horrific defeat against Stoke on December 6. We will head to Selhurst Park to play against Crystal Palace.
The hosts have been in a fine form, losing just one league game in their last seven – Everton at home, 0:1. Their new manager Alan Pardew looks capable of leading his side to safety. True, they are just five points above the relegation zone, but they have done well against their rivals in the relegation battle (away victories against Leicester and Burnley, and away draws against QPR and Aston Villa).
We’ve been showing some fantastic form too (aside from that hiccup against Spuds), winning four out of five in the league and three out of three in the FA Cup. One of the main reasons we are not closer to the top is our away record, having won just five out of thirteen on the road (38.4%) and collected just 18 out of 39 points available (46.1%).
We brought home 35 points (out of 57 points available) from our trips last term (61.4%). In order to get closer to that percentage, we have to avoid hiccups in matches like the one that will take place on Saturday.
Our team for the game might be heavily influenced by the forthcoming matches against AS Monaco and Everton respectively next week.
David Ospina might return between the sticks, despite Wojciech Szczesny picking up a clean sheet against Middlesbrough.
Hector Bellerin is still a doubt for the match, which may mean Calum Chambers will get the nod as our right full-back.
Kieran Gibbs put on a good display against Middlesbrough, and picked an assist in the process. Nacho Monreal, who has more defensive discipline than the Englishman, might return to the starting line-up.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny should start in the middle of the defence again.
Francis Coquelin should return to protect the back-four, especially as Mathieu Flamini is a doubt for the game. Given that Aaron Ramsey is unavailable and Jack Wilshere lacks match fitness, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil might be our super-creative combination in the middle once again.
However, given that Alexis Sánchez had problems with his knee recently, Wenger might drop the Chilean to the bench in order to have him fresh for the Champions League match. Tomas Rosicky would fill the role in the midfield while either Özil or Welbeck would join Walcott and Giroud in attack.
We have won all three matches against Palace since their return to the top flight, but none of them were easy. In this fixture last term we took the lead through a Mikel Arteta penalty earned by Serge Gnabry. An Arteta red card left us in trouble however, and we needed a couple of great saves from Wojciech Szczesny to keep our lead, before Olivier Giroud’s late header put the game to bed. In the reverse fixture, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second-half brace secured three points for the Gunners. This term, we had to dig deep to get a narrow victory in injury-time.
Nobody can predict what Arsenal team will turn up against Palace considering our recent away form. We need three points in our battle for the top four and if some results go our way, we might even reach third place. I’d say we’ll get a 1:0 victory thanks to a late goal from super-sub Danny Welbeck.
Head to Head
Premier League (EPL) 16 Aug 2014 Arsenal FC 2 – Crystal Palace 1
Premier League (EPL) 02 Feb 2014 Arsenal FC 2 – Crystal Palace 0
Premier League (EPL) 26 Oct 2013 Crystal Palace 0 – Arsenal FC 2
Premier League (EPL) 14 Feb 2005 Arsenal FC 5 – Crystal Palace 1
Premier League (EPL) 6 Nov 2004 Crystal Palace 1 – Arsenal FC 1
Chambers Mertesacker (c) Koscielny Monreal
Crystal Palace 0 v 1 Arsenal