Written By Onyeka Daniel
It’s a midday fixture at the Emirates Stadium as Arsenal take on Crystal Palace with referee, S. Attwell being in charge of proceedings at the centre. Following the disappointment in the Europa League where they were knocked out by Sporting Lisbon via penalty shootout, the EPL remains the only viable means of winning a title for the Gunners and with a 5 points lead and just 11 games to go, it will be a do or die affair from here on until the last game.
With closest rivals Manchester City not in league action this weekend, they will now be looking to further open the gap by notching up a sixth successive top-flight win in a single season for the first time since autumn 2018, while also bidding to improve upon their stunning run of just one defeat in their last 16 home league outings.
Crystal Palace are having their worst possible start to a new year in recent history. In 12 games in 2023, they’re yet to see a win and it led to the sacking of their coach, Patrick Vieira yesterday after their latest loss to Brighton midweek. They also failed to score for the fourth successive game.
This has left the Eagles just three points clear of the relegation zone and a loss in this game could see them dragged into the relegation fight with few games to go. One statistics that should be worrisome for Arsenal fans out there is that five of the last ten meetings between these sides have been draws.
Following the sacking of Vieira, Arsenal were denied a reunion with the player and captain that won them their last League title but the team boost of a fine goal record, scoring at least three goals in four of their last five Premier League matches and Arteta has implored his side to immediately bounce back from their European misery.
Style Of Play
After playing a 4-4-2 formation against Sporting, expect Mikel Arteta to revert back to his 4-3-3 formation. They will definitely be on the front foot at the blast of the whistle until the very end as they look to get all three points in this game. For Palace, they can play the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 formation as they’re a slight variation of each other. Expect them to stay defensive while looking for Wilfred Zaha to launch a quick counter attack, but they will have a lot on their hand trying to keep out Arsenal from their goal.
In their last 20 games played across all competitions, Arsenal have 12 wins, 3 draws and 5 losses. Before losing to Sporting Lisbon on penalties in the Europa League, the Gunners were on a 6 game unbeaten run and will be hoping to start another run that could get them the League title. For Palace, they’ve a really poor record as they’re winless in 2023 with just 2 wins in their last 20 games. They’ve 7 draws and 11 losses in the same time frame.
Head To Head
In their last 20 games played against each other in the EPL, Arsenal have 11 wins as against just 3 for Crystal Palace while 6 ended in a stalemate. Last season, Palace were able to get 4 points from the two games while Arsenal are on course for a double for Palace after winning the first leg at the Selhurst Park.
Players To Watch
Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli will be running the show for the Gunners but the return of Gabriel Jesus will be their biggest boost while club captain, Martin Odegaard will be in bullish form as he has a 100% winning record from the eight games in which he has scored this season. Wilfred Zaha will be the key man for Palace and he will have support from the likes of Ebere Eze and Michael Olise.
Injuries And Suspensions
The Gunners will be missing Takehiro Tomiyasu, Eddie Nketiah and Mohamed Elneny through injury while William Saliba remains a doubt after picking up a knock against Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League. Crystal Palace will not be able to count on the services of Victor Guaita and S. Johnstone through injury while Junior Lokonga can’t face his parent club after arriving on loan from Arsenal during the winter transfer window. J. MacArthur, N. Ferguson and W. Hughes lack full match fitness and will likely not play a part in this game.
Should be another routine win for the Gunners as they march towards the league title but they will have to be wary of a Palace side that has just sacked their coach and whoever is in charge will be out to prove a point before a permanent manager is appointed in the coming days. (2-1 in favor of Arsenal).
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