Title-chasing Arsenal welcome a reinvigorated Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, February 2, 2014 (8:00 AM Pacific, 16:00 GMT) in what should be viewed as must-win clash for the Gunners.
Arsenal lost grip of top spot in midweek after only managing a draw against Southampton, but Arsene Wenger would have secretly been happy with the result after seeing his side get dominated. The Gunners now return to the Emirates, which has been a bit of a fortress for them, having lost only once in their last twenty matches at home, and prepare to welcome Tony Pulis’ Crystal Palace.
The Gunners cannot afford any slip-up against Palace, especially with the knowledge that either Manchester City or Chelsea are bound to drop points when they square off against each other on Monday night. A win for Arsenal will see them return to top spot temporarily, but it will certainly not be easy against a well-drilled Palace side, who have enjoyed a revival of late.
Tony Pulis has worked his magic again and has been able to guide his Crystal Palace side to 14th place. It represents a remarkable turnaround for the Eagles, as they looked doomed when the Welsh manager took over. However, with things so tightly crammed at the bottom half of the table, Palace still have a lot of work to do in order to allay fears of relegation completely.
A daunting trip to Arsenal is on the cards next and if they come away with anything from that game, it will be considered a bonus. In saying that though, Pulis does have a good record against the Gunners during his time at Stoke City and he certainly knows how to set up a side to annoy and frustrate Arsene Wenger’s men.
Arsene Wenger has a couple of injury problems in midfield to contend with, heading into the match. The likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby are all ruled out of the clash due to injuries while Mathieu Flamini will be unavailable for selection after picking up a straight red-card against the Saints in midweek. Tomas Rosicky is recovering from a broken nose and is also a doubt.
Mesut Ozil and Mikel Arteta will be starting in the middle, while Santi Cazorla could be pushed inside to complete the midfield trio. New signing Kim Kallstorm will also be in contention and could well be handed a swift debut, considering the lack of numbers in midfield for the Gunners.
Lukas Podolski could start on the left wing, while either Serge Gnabry or Alex Oxlade-Chamerlain will be deployed on the opposite flank. Olivier Giroud will be leading the line for Arsenal once again.
Crystal Palace were the most busy team on transfer deadline day, recruiting no less than five new players. However, Pulis will be wary of thrusting his new signings straight into the lineup, given that his side has been performing so well lately.
Kagisho Dikgacoi, Danny Gabbidon and Jonathan Parr are doubtful for the clash, while Glenn Murray remains a long-term absentee. If Gabbidon does not recover in time for the match, new signing Scott Dann may be handed a debut but other than that there should not be many changes from squad that beat Hull City.
Julian Speroni should keep his place in goal despite Wayne Hennessey arriving at the club recently while the defence will consist of Adrian Mariappa, Damien Delaney and Dean Moxey. Joel Ward will probably continue in midfielder alongside Mile Jedinak with in-from Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie deployed on the wings.
Pulis may elect to sacrifice either Mauroune Chamakh or Cameron Jermone and play with an extra man in midfield, which means that Joe Ledley could also be handed a debut. Thomas Ince will most likely start from the bench.
Arsenal: W W W W D
Crystal Palace: W L W L W
26/10/2013 Crystal Palace 0 – 2 Arsenal
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Prediction
Despite their minor hiccup in midweek, Arsenal head into the clash in fine form and have almost been invincible at home. Palace, on the other hand, have a woeful away record and have only managed to score 5 goals on their travels so far this season.
Arsenal are certainly heavy favourites for the clash, but it is against teams like Palace with whom the Gunners tend to struggle a bit. Arsenal can beat any side who attempt play open football, but Wenger’s side have come unstuck against teams which put men behind the ball and try to stifle the opponent.
Palace are very good at frustrating bigger teams and Pulis will undoubtedly have his well-drilled side do the same against Arsenal on Sunday. If Palace can somehow keep Arsenal from scoring early on, then who knows, they might get something out of the game.
However, it will be very difficult for Palace at the Emirates against a quality Arsenal side. The Gunners should win this one comfortably. Arsenal 2 – 0 Crystal Palace.
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Television
The match will be televised on NBC Sports Network (USA), and BBC One (UK).
Arsenal vs Crystal Palace Highlights
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