Arsenal — Crystal Palace (Premier League)
The Gunners host Crystal Palace in the aftermath of the transfer window dead-line. Arsenal will go for the three points in hope they could make up from mid-week’s draw that cost them top spot of the League. The Eagles have their own agenda, quite simply get as much space as possible between them and relegation zone. One side will come up short. Who do you bet in?
Arsenal failed to stay atop of the Premier League table and thus gave way to Machester City. And I say failed because keeping the spot was way in their range. And yet it was as if Arsène Wenger’s men entered the pitch with a 44 minute delay. Until Laurent Koscielny’s attempt absolutely nothing happen in Arsenal’s game. Mind you they were losing half way through the first period. The lack of drive, of attitude if you will, was just utterly disconcerting. It was one of those “I knew this was coming” moment. We’ve seen it time and time again with the Gunners. They have this spell when they can’t maintain the same level as in the rest of the season. Midweek’s 2-2 stalemate left them 2nd with 52 points, 1 behind City and 2 above the Blues. It also put an end to 7 wins in-a-row. Not a drama, just a good opportunity that was lost.
This week Arsenal announced a new deal with a shirt manufacturer that will allow them to spend big. At least that’s what supporters must be expecting. And they will need it, if they are to contend major spenders City and Chelsea for the League. And let’s not forget Champions League battles too. Besides Palace, in the next two and a half weeks the Gunners will go head-to-head with Liverpool — both in the League and FA Cup —, Manchester United, and European Champions Bayern Munich. They could do with some reinforcements. At the very least some symbolic signing that stated their ambitions for the season, just like Ozil did in the summer.
Mathieu Flamini will be serving the first of a 3-match-ban due to the straight red card he received against Southampton. Abu Diaby and Theo Walcott are long-term casualties. Aaron Ramsey suffered a setback in recovery from a thigh injury and should remain absent for the next 6 weeks. Rosicky may need to play with a protective mask but is expected to start. It will be too soon for Jack Wilshere, though, more likely he’ll be back against Liverpool.
Probable line-up: Szczesny — Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs — Arteta, Rosicky — Gnabry, Ozil, Cazorla — Jerome, Chamakh.
Crystal Palace has been busy in the transfer window deadline. Jason Puncheon made his loan deal permanent, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey is coming from Wolves and finally Celtic accepted a bid for Joe Ledley.
Tony Pulis work is starting to show, the Eagles are now an organized squad and can put in place a solid defence. A few recent clean sheets are proof of that. Offensively, however, they are shy, only 15 goals gathered in 23 fixtures. They have notched two consecutive League victories, to Stoke and Hull City, in both of them the Puncheon scored the only hit. Pulis has favoured a 4-4-2 formation since he took over at Selhurst Park but he might want to rethink the tactical scheme for this one. Tim Sherwood tried that before and was far from successful.
Dikgacoi, Glenn Murrey and Jerome Thomas are ruled out. Jonathan Parr is in doubt.
Probable line-up: Speroni — Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delany, Parr — Puncheon, Jedinak, Ward, Bolasie — Van Persie.
Arsenal have a pretty impressive record in home games, 13 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses in all competitions. In the last 8 ties against Palace they won 5 and lost none. But Tony Pulis’s Eagles have performed remarkably well against top sides. Chelsea and Manchester City got the results but had to work for it. So will ´the Gunners, I suspect.