16th August 2015; 1330 BST
After the disastrous start to their campaign, Arsenal FC would be looking to win their first league game of the season. On the other hand, Alan Pardew’s high flying Crystal Palace would be looking to build on their 3-1 opening day victory at Carrow Road against Norwich City. The Gunners have a tremendous record at Selhurst Park and will be looking to improve on it come Sunday afternoon.
Arsenal FC had a near perfect pre-season, winning all of their games and capping it off with the brilliant display against Chelsea FC in the Community Shield. However, the shock defeat against West Ham at the Emirates exposed the long existing frailties in the Gunners squad.
A lack of leadership on the pitch is evident and the weak mentality of the squad also came to the fore. The absence of a genuine back up or a possible upgrade to Francis Coquelin within the squad is a major worry, considering the Gunners do not presently have someone to go to when the Frenchman is having an off day. The lack of a prolific goal-scorer is also evident as Giroud is known to be wasteful at times.
Crystal Palace have been one of the in-form teams since Pardew took over the club in January and have been victorious in 11 out of the 19 league games that he has presided over – a club record. The club have been given a massive boost by the arrival of Frenchman Yohan Cabaye from PSG, the deal evident of the huge financial muscle that lower Premier League clubs have courtesy of the astronomical TV deals. The Eagles were in prime form against newly promoted Norwich City and would be looking to register their first home win of this season.
Team News and Tactics
The Eagles are without the services of four first-teamers including former Arsenal FC striker Marouane Chamakh, who is out with a hamstring injury. Palace will also be missing strikers Fraizer Campbell and Kwesi Appiah, with the former out with a suspected hamstring injury. Trusted custodian Julian Speroni has been nursing a hand injury and would be unavailable for selection.
The club is expected to line up in Pardew’s preferred 4-2-3-1 with Alex McCarthy expected to continue between the sticks for Crystal Palace. The duo of Scott Dann and Damien Delaney will be looking to retain their starting berths at the centre of the Eagles’ defence.
On the wings, Pardew is likely to use the impressive Bolasie and the mercurial Zaha to torment the Arsenal FC full-backs, while Jason Puncheon will probably be seen in the number 10 role. New multi-million signing Yohan Cabaye is expected to partner James McArthur in the middle of the park, while Glenn Murray will likely be chosen to lead the line. Fullbacks Joel Ward and Pape Souare are likely to retain their places and will have the difficult task of containing the Gunners’ pacey wingers.
Possible lineup: McCarthy(GK), Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare; Cabaye, McArthur, Puncheon; Zaha, Bolasie, Murray
Alexis Sanchez, who returned to training only last week and was not fit to start against West Ham, is expected to make his first full start for the Gunners this season. Arsenal FC are without the services of Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck, with the duo expected to be three weeks away from a return to action. Tomas Rosicky has undergone a knee surgery and is expected to be out till November. Hector Bellerin, who missed the season opener due to a muscle injury, is back in contention for a starting berth at Selhurst Park.
Arsenal FC’s only signing of this transfer window – former Chelsea FC great Petr Cech – is expected to retain his place in the side after the nightmare debut against West Ham, where he was at fault for both the goals that the Gunners conceded. The formidable and trusted central defensive pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny will start for Wenger’s side, with Monreal starting on the left of the defense.
Aaron Ramsey could be sacrificed to improve the stability in the Gunners midfield as it was evident in the last match that all the Arsenal FC’s no. 10 were looking to occupy the same positions. Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey were all guilty of coming in each other’s spaces and thus restricting the mobility of the Gunners’ midfield. Olivier Giroud could start up front once again for the North Londoners, with Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on either wing.
Another possibility could be that Walcott starts ahead of Giroud, with Oxlade-Chamberlain sacrificed for Aaron Ramsey. However, the 22-year-old former Southampton man has been Arsenal FC’s best player in pre-season. As such, it would be something of a surprise if he were to be dropped on Sunday. The Gunners have functioned well when Santi and Coquelin have occupied the double-pivot role and it is time Wenger stops experimenting with his starting lineup and formation and instead sticks with the tried and tested midfield which was instrumental in the amazing run of the club since the turn of the year.
Mesut Ozil should ideally retain his number 10 role in the squad and act as the fulcrum for all of Arsenal FC’s attacking threat. The German, however, needs to step up his game following the first pre-season that he has spent with the Emirates outfit since his club record move from Real Madrid in 2013.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Cech (GK); Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud
Player to watch out for:
Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal FC)
The Chilean superstar was brought on late in the game against West Ham as Arsene Wenger went for broke in search of goals against the well-organized Hammers. Sanchez had only returned to training a couple of days before the game against West Ham and was not risked with a start and was thus seen on the bench. However, with another week of training under his belt, the former FC Barcelona winger would be raring to go and Arsene Wenger would be hopeful that the 26-year-old performs even better than he did last year. In his first season in the trials and tribunals of the English Premier League, Sanchez managed to score 16 goals in the league. The forward would be looking to improve on his goals tally this season and could prove to be instrumental if the Gunners are to challenge for the Premier League title.
- Crystal Palace are winless against Arsenal FC in 11 games. The Eagles’ last victory came at the Highbury in 1994.
- The Gunners are unbeaten in their last 12 visits to Selhurst Park in all competitions. They have only ever been beaten once at the home of Crystal Palace and that was in November 1979.
- Crystal Palace has never won their opening two matches in the top division. The win over Norwich City was only their second opening day victory in 44 years.
- Arsenal FC have not started the season with successive league defeats since 1992-93, the inaugural Premier League season.
- Pardew has equalled the record for most wins in the Premier League by a Palace manager, 11. The Frenchman has only presided over 19 games so far. However, the Eagles have lost half of their home games under Pardew (W4, D1, L5).
- Only Chelsea FC earned more away points than Arsenal FC’s 34 last season. The Gunners have not lost any of their last six away games.
- Crystal Palace kept the fewest clean sheets at home last season – 3
- Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC have collected the highest points in the calendar year 2015 – 42.
Crystal Palace 2 – 1 Arsenal FC
The Eagles have been boosted by the arrival of Yohan Cabaye and would be looking to take advantage of the shaky start to Arsenal FC’s premier league campaign. The Gunners were originally billed as one of the top contenders for the Premier League title, however, if the showing against West Ham is anything to go by, they are far from living up to that billing. Alan Pardew would be looking to get the three points in his first home game of the season and the Eagles have the required fire-power to pull off an upset.