February 02, 2014; 16:00 BST
The last time Arsenal FC faced Crystal Palace at home was back in 2005, a match which ended 5-1 in favour of the Gunners as Bergkamp, Reyes, Vieira and Henry getting on the score sheet. Both the teams have of course changed a completely since then, in fact Mathieu Flamini, who is suspended for this game, is the only current Arsenal player who was present in that match day squad.
Arsenal go into this game on the back of disappointing draw against Southampton, although given the situation that was perhaps the best they could have hoped for with 10-men for the last 10 minutes or so in the game. That draw provided Manchester City the opportunity to grab the lead in the title race and now Arsenal will have to return to winning ways to prevent City from getting out of sight. With Manchester City facing Chelsea on Monday, this match provides Arsenal the perfect opportunity to claw their way back at the top of the table.
But Arsene Wenger believes Crystal Palace will provide a stern test. Palace have lost just three of their last eight matches in all competitions as they look to fight their way out of the relegation battle. Palace defeated Hull City in their last Premier League outing as Jason Puncheon scored the winner in the first half. They will be heading into this game full of confidence as Tony Pulis resumes his battle against Arsene Wenger.
Team news and tactics
Arsene Wenger has to contain with a lot of injury concerns ahead of this fixture and the squad is a bit stretched at the moment. Arsenal will miss out on Mathieu Flamini for this game, who has picked up a three-match suspension after his red card against Southampton in the last game. But the bigger worry was the absence of Aaron Ramsey in that match. The Welshman, who was finally fulfilling his potential this season, has missed first team action recently due to fitness concerns. Ramsey, who last started a match back in the Boxing Day fixture against West Ham, is believed to have suffered a set-back in the training ground and could now be out of action for a long period.
Jack Wilshere is also struggling with an ankle injury, will also miss out against Crystal Palace, although Wenger expects him to recover in time clash against Liverpool next week. Apart from Wilshere and Ramsey, Yaya Sanogo, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby remain the other long term injury concerns. But Arsene Wenger is pleased with the return of Tomas Rosicky, who has missed first team since the match against Aston Villa with a broken nose.
Arsene Wenger is expected to make three changes to the side that dropped points against Southampton in their last game. Kieran Gibbs will return to the left back spot as Nacho Monreal drops back to the bench, while the suspended Mathieu Flamini will be replaced by Tomas Rosicky in the midfield. With Ramsey and Wilshere out for this fixture, Arsene Wenger doesn’t have too many options for pivot, although he could also chose to partner Mikel Arteta with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the center of park for this game.
In attack only one change is expected for this game. Lukas Podolski is expected to return to the starting line-up in place of Serge Gnabry. The German international started on the bench against Southampton despite scoring a brace against Coventry in the FA Cup. He is likely to start on the left of the attack, which means one of Ozil or Cazorla will have to move to the right wing.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Arteta, Rosicky; Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski; Giroud
Tony Pulis also has his fair share of injury concerns at the moment. He is still without Kagisho Dikgacoi, Glenn Murray and Jerome Thomas, while there are concerns about the fitness of Jonathan Parr. Murray’s return will be a big boost for the side and he is expected to come back into action next week. Palace defender Daniel Gabbidon, who has been one of their most consistent performers this season, was substituted in the second half against Hull City after picking up a knock. He will undergo late fitness test ahead of this game, but is expected to recover in time and start against Arsenal.
Tony Pulis is unlikely to make any changes to the side he fielded against Hull City in their last game. If Jonathan Parr recovers in time, he could replace Dean Moxey at the left-back spot in this game, although that seems unlikely at the moment.
It will be interesting to see if Tony Pulis sticks to his favoured 4-4-2 upfront in this game. The combination of Jerome and Chamakh upfront has worked quite well for them and he even went in with two strikers upfront their away game against Tottenham Hotspur recently. But they did use a more defensive 4-5-1 formation against Manchester City with Chamakh dropping back to the bench.
The most impressive thing about Crystal Palace recently has been their defensive organisation at the back. Palace have kept two clean sheets in their last two matches and have conceded just four goals in their last six matches – even Manchester City managed to score just one against them at the Etihad Stadium, a ground where Arsenal have conceded six in their last visit.
Expected starting line-up (4-4-2): Speroni (GK); Mariappa, Gabbidon, Delaney, Parr; Puncheon, Jedinak, Ward, Bolasie; Jerome, Chamakh
- Arsenal have won 14 and lost just one of their last 20 Barclays Premier League games at the Emirates.
- Crystal Palace have scored just five goals away from home in the Barclays Premier League, fewer than any other team and never more than once in a single match.
- The Gunners have kept six clean sheets in their last seven Premier League games on home soil.
- Arsenal have won five and lost none of the last eight meetings with Palace in all competitions.
- Crystal Palace head into this matchday in 14th place having scored only 15 goals; the fewest of any side in the Premier League this season so far.
Player to watch-out for
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
The Spaniard has been in fine form recently for Arsenal and his new found goal scoring touch has been crucial for them. Cazorla has had a slow start to this season and he has grown in confidence off late. The midfielder has scored five goals in his last five matches including a brace against Fulham. With Arsenal missing out on the goal scoring abilities of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott due to fitness concerns, Arsene Wenger has stressed on the importance of Cazorla contributing to side with his goals along with him usual role in the build-up play. Santi will once again be at the heart of the Arsenal attack against Crystal Palace and their fight to win back the top-spot in the league.
Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
This is a must win game for the home side with Manchester City and Chelsea facing each other on Monday. After putting up a fairly insipid performance in the first half against Southampton, they will be looking get off to a flying start in this match. But Crystal Palace have the ability to frustrate them with their defensive organisation. It will be tight, but eventually Arsenal’s superior quality on the pitch should make the difference in the end.