Crystal Palace vs Arsenal
Venue: Selhurst Park
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Arsenal travel to South London aiming to keep up their seven-game winning streak against a Crystal Palace side who are still goalless at home.
After an unlikely turnaround last season that saw Crystal Palace turn an opening run of seven defeats into a comfortable finish, hopes were high for Roy Hodgson as he embarked on his first full season in charge of the Eagles. However, a chronic lack of goals and a total reliance of Wilfred Zaha have seen Palace slide to the lower reaches of the league. More worrying still is this has happened after a relatively soft start to the campaign.
Games against Everton, Wolves, Bournemouth and Newcastle yielded only one point, and in truth Palace looked relatively comfortable against Everton last week but still collapsed to two late goals whilst offering little going forward. Zaha won a penalty that Milivojevic missed, and the Ivorian forward has scored three of Palace’s five goals this season and assisted one of the others. Palace are now winless without Zaha for over two years.
Arsenal, on the other hand, come into the game having won seven straight games and having produced some sublime football in coming from behind against Leicester last week.
Mesut Ozil was at his silky best and Emery looks likely to keep the German in the central number 10 role which accentuates the German’s skills whilst negating his flaws. If Ozil can repeat Monday night’s performance week in week out, Arsenal have the best number 10 in the league. History suggests he won’t, but can Emery drill the hunger and desire for Ozil to impose himself every week?
Emery will still be concerned at how slapdash the Arsenal defending still looks at times. As in previous home games against Everton and Watford, Arsenal conceded some great chances against Leicester before taking the game by the scruff of the neck. The game against Crystal Palace is unlikely to be the game that exposes these potential issues, but with Liverpool to follow Emery will be keen to show some defensive solidity if their unlikely tilt at top spot is to continue.
Emery’s biggest selection issue will be how to incorporate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang into the starting eleven after the Gabon striker notched four goals in two substitute appearances against Fulham and Leicester. Henrikh Mkhitaryan would appear to be the most expendable of the forward line based on current form. Arsenal welcomed Koscielny back to training but are still without the French centre-back as well as Mavropanos and Cech, both of whom will be hard pressed to get back in the team anyway.
Roy Hodgson is still missing long-term absentees Scott Dann, Joel Ward and Christian Benteke whilst Sorloth and Meyer are touch and go, meaning he is likely to select the same eleven that lost to Everton. Although Christian Benteke is in a terrible run of form, his mere presence may free up some room for Zaha to operate and it would be intriguing to see if Connor Wickham, a late substitute last week, is used in the striker role as Hodgson plots his way through a terrible run of games with Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United to follow.
Crystal Palace desperately need to pick up points on this run otherwise they will start the Christmas period firmly mired in the relegation mix with Fulham, Cardiff and Huddersfield. Sunday looks to be a tough place to start a revival given Arsenal’s formidable attack and winning momentum.
Predicted Starting XI’s
Crystal Palace: (4-2-3-1) – Hennessy; Wan-Bissaka, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aarnholt; Milivojevic, Mccarthur; Townsend, Kouyate, Schlupp; Zaha
Arsenal: (4-3-3) – Leno; Bellerin, Mustafi, Holding, Lichsteiner; Torreira, Xhaka; Aubameyang, Ozil, Iwobi; Lacazette
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1 Arsenal 4