Arsenal will look to push further up the Premier League table when they play hosts to Crystal Palace on Thursday.
Arsenal’s run of three back-to-back wins in the Premier League has given them a useful headstart heading into the second half of the campaign. Although they are still stuck in the lower half of the league table, a win in their upcoming game against Crystal Palace on Thursday could potentially help Mikel Arteta’s men breach into the top-half, and perhaps even get level on points with Chelsea.
It could also extend their winning run to five games in all competition as the Gunners are coming on the back of a 2-0 win over Newcastle United in the FA Cup. However, they surely cannot afford a defeat as the likes of Leeds United, Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers are breathing down their necks.
Speaking of Palace, they are heading into this game on the back of a miserable run of form that saw them secure just one win in their last seven competitive outings. During this period, the Eagles have tasted three defeats, including a 7-0 thumping at the hands of defending champions, Liverpool.
Palace lost their most recent outing against Wolves, bowing out of the FA Cup on the weekend. And ahead of yet another tough challenge pn Thursday, Roy Hodgson’s will be aiming at least for a point as they look to stay afloat in mid-table. Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides as they get set to lock horns at the Emirates.
Team News & Tactics
Following the FA Cup tie a few days ago, Arteta would want to shuffle his pack and recall a bunch of his first-team players, including Hector Bellerin at right-back. Pablo Mari, Kieran Tierney and Bernd Leno are likely to retain their place in defence, but Rob Holding’s involvement in this game could depend on Gabriel Magalhaes’ fitness.
In fact, we do expect the Brazilian to start ahead of the Englishman at centre-back, alongside Mari. Unfortunately for Arteta, he may not get the privilege of starting with Thomas Partey. The former Atletico Madrid midfielder has returned to full fitness and will be available for the game. But regardless of his availability, he is unlikely to be rushed back into the eleven.
Partey’s absence in midfield should pave the way for Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos to continue their partnership in the double-pivot. They will look to offer assistance to the main number ten in Emile Smith Rowe, who is guaranteed to start after being rested in the form of a substitute appearance against Newcastle United.
Moving forward, Arsenal could shift Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into a wider attacking role. It will allow him to recall Alexandre Lacazette in the number nine slot, with Bukayo Saka alongside Aubameyang as the two wingers. Nicolas Pepe and Willian remain potential alternatives for Arsenal, though the same cannot be said for Gabriel Martinelli.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Leno; Bellerin, Gabriel, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Ceballos; Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang; Lacazette
Roy Hodgson will have to deal with a lot of potential absentees with Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho and Gary Cahill all doubtful heading into this game. It should pave the way for James Tomkins and Cheikhou Kouyate to form the central defensive pairing and provide cover for goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Hodgson is expected to make alterations to the side that faced Wolves on the weekend. Joel Ward and Tyrick Mitchell, in particular, are both set to replace the two full-backs in Nathaniel Clyne and Patrick van Aanholt. Kouyate’s absence in midfield, meanwhile, should pave the way for James McArthur to form the double-pivot alongside Luka Milivojevic.
Crystal Palace typically play with a 4-4-2 so the two midfielders could form the second bank of four alongside the two wide midfielders in Andros Townsend and Eberechi Eze. These four players could play a key role in the second line of press, denying Arsenal the opportunity to move forward and create too many attacking opportunities.
And finally, in the attacking department, the Eagles attack should be spearheaded by Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha, with Michy Batshuayi as the potential alternative.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Guaita; Ward, Tomkins, Kouyate, Mitchell; Townsend, Milivojevic, McArthur, Eze; Zaha, Benteke
- Arsenal are winless in their last four Premier League matches against Crystal Palace, their longest winless run against the Eagles in the top-flight.
- In all competitions, Crystal Palace have registered just five wins in 47 previous meetings against Arsenal, though they are unbeaten in their last two at the Emirates.
- Arsenal have conceded at least once in each of their last 11 Premier League home games – they last had a longer run without a home clean sheet between October 1983 and 1984 (18 games).
- In their 2-0 victory against Sheffield United last time out, Crystal Palace kept their first clean sheet of the season since their opening day victory against Southampton. The Eagles last recorded back-to-back Premier League shutouts between February-June 2020 (4).
- Arsenal have lost their last two home Premier League matches played on Thursday, losing 3-0 to Manchester City in March 2018 and 2-1 to Brighton in December 2019. However, they did beat Crystal Palace the last time the sides met on a Thursday, winning 3-2 in December 2017.
Player to Watch
Emile Smith Rowe
Emile Smith Rowe is definitely the man of the moment for Arsenal after the youngster once again starred in the club’s weekend win over Newcastle United. He even scored his first senior goal for the Gunners, which turned out to be the winner in extra-time. His overall impact on the proceedings was also quite influential.
This time around, Smith Rowe could play an equally important role as the Gunners look to breach the Palace defence that has shown time and again that they can remain resolute against top sides. The youngster’s smart movements and ability to drift past players, in that regard, could be influential.
In addition, Smith Rowe’s presence in the final third should also allow the other Arsenal attackers like Saka and Aubameyang to enjoy more freedom so it will be interesting to see how Roy Hodgson deals with this problem this weekend.
Arsenal 1-0 Crystal Palace
Arsenal have performed exceptionally well in recent weeks. Despite showing signs of mediocrity in their most recent victory over Newcastle United, the hosts are the likely favourite as Arteta recalls most of his star players. Palace, in contrast, haven’t done a good job recently and their task could be made much more difficult due to the absence of key defensive players. Hence, we expect a narrow win for the Gunners.