It’s time to bounce back after the home defeat against Borussia Dortmund and keep our top spot in the League before The Dirty Dozen-Days. Given the circumstances, maybe it’s great that our next opponents are one of the worst teams in the league.
Crystal Palace stand firmly in the relegation zone with just three points with only one team – Sunderland – below them. They have won just one match – against Sunderland – and have lost five since then. That match against the Black Cats has been the only one they haven’t lost this season as they are also out of the Capital One Cup.
They’ve had a lot of problems from dead-ball situations as their opponents have scored a lot of goals from the penalty spot, direct free-kicks or corners. Goalkeeper Peroni hasn’t had a clean sheet this term. Their attack has also been far from the level the Premiership requires – they have scored just six goals so far and half of those came in the victory against Sunderland.
It’s no wonder that they have had a lot of problems in that area given Glenn Murray – who scored 30 goals in the Championship last term – has been injured and won’t come back before December while Wilfried Zaha, one of the most exciting prospects in English football, signed for Manchester United and was replaced by our former striker Marouane Chamakh. They were close to signing Nicklas Bendtner but Wenger was reluctant to sanction the sale of the Dane after the loan offer for Demba Ba was rejected.
Of course, all these facts about Palace doesn’t mean that all we have to do on Saturday is to appear on the pitch. It will take much more than that, especially given that our players know what kind of matches will follow after this fixture. Furthermore, with Ian Holloway out of the picture, their players might be more motivated against us to prove their worth to the new manager.
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We might see some changes to the team that lost to Borussia and some of those might be a result of the forthcoming period that we have called The Dirty Dozen-Days. Our full-backs Sagna and Gibbs might take a break and that’s where Jenkinson and Monreal might get their chance to shine. There is a certain possibility, however, that Wenger will play with his best team (with Sagna and Gibbs) in order to keep the winning momentum in the Premiership and then rest them in the Capital One Cup match against Chelsea. Mertesacker and Koscielny should occupy their spots in central defence.
Our midfielders are more to rotation. Santi Cazorla had a rather exciting cameo against Borussia Dortmund and might start from the beginning against Crystal Palace. Flamini should be back after concussion against Norwich but I wouldn’t rule out Wenger choosing not to rush him and will opt for Arteta in the starting eleven instead. Perhaps Serge Gnabry might get a start or at least get some playing time in the second half so Wilshere can rest a bit. If Cazorla is back on the left wing, that means that Rosicky will probably make the bench. If all those assumptions are true, it is unknown who will be Arteta’s partner in the central midfield: Ramsey or Wilshere as Wenger might feel that one needs rest while the other plays.
Olivier Giroud has been in top form so far. He has scored 7 goals and added four assists to his name in all competitions so far and it seems he enjoys playing with brilliant midfielders like Özil, Wilshere, Ramsey and Cazorla. He should keep up his good form and continue with a brilliant performance against Palace – they have conceded over two goals per game so far and Giroud has the ability to prolong Peroni’s woes.
Those who get a chance to start for Arsenal on Saturday should know that we will remain on the top spot for at least a week if we win the opening match of Week 9. Given that Chelsea and Manchester City play each other and Liverpool have a visit from West Brom that have been a tough nut to crack for big teams this season, we might even extend our lead ahead of the aforementioned teams.
So, let’s bring Palace down!