Saturday, 15 August 2015

Arsenal's Trip To Crystal Palace Previewed

A season which promised so much has got off to a bad start for Arsenal, but there's still a long way to go. The defeat at home to West Ham last week was a bad way to start the season and the team need to bounce back quickly. There was so much talk of how things were going to be different this season, but the way the game went was all too familiar to Arsenal fans.

Arsenal definitely didn't play well, but neither did any of the top teams with the exception of City. The difference was Arsenal lost while United and Liverpool won and 10 man Chelsea managed a draw. If things are going to be different this season then Arsenal have to get something out of games like that and stop making stupid mistakes to make the opposition's task easier.

It's not the end of the world though and the last time Arsenal lost their opening game at home they were on top of the table within weeks and spent most of the season there. They did blow it and end up finishing fourth of course and the test this season will be if they can stay competitive if they're in with a chance. A win away to Palace would quickly put the West Ham result to bed and give the team and fans some cheer ahead of the game at home to Liverpool next week.

Palace got a good win away to newly promoted Norwich last week and have strengthened a team which was impressive after Alan Pardew took the reins last season. They have been particularly impressive away from home in that time and their home form hasn't been great. Arsenal won there last season in a game where they were more than a little lucky to escape with all three points as Palace opened up their defence time after time towards the end of the game.

In team news Hector Bellerin is available again and Alexis Sanchez is now considered to be fully fit and ready to play. I didn't think it was the cleverest move to bring a clearly unfit (well not match fit anyway) Alexis on against West Ham last week and it could have gone badly for him. I imagine Alexis will start against Palace even if he's still not quite up to it and hopefully his presence will make a difference.

If Alexis is going to play then someone else has to miss out and it's not easy to know which player it will be. When Arsenal were chasing the game last week Arsene Wenger took Francis Coquelin and Mathieu Debuchey off and the team lost it's shape with the changes. Despite not playing too well the team looked far more likely to get back into the game before the changes were made and I found it hard to understand why the boss did it.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Bellerin back in the starting line up even if Debuchey was by no means the worst Arsenal player last week. I think Debuchey's defensive know how and experience might not be a bad thing against Palace, but the chances are Bellerin will get the nod. I'm not sure what other changes there might be, but Petr Cech is sure to keep his place despite a far from convincing display in his league debut for Arsenal. 

I would prefer to see Santi Cazorla in the role beside Coquelin which would probably mean Aaron Ramsey would be the one to miss out. I would be very surprised if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was left out of the team after his recent performances even if his poor touch did lead to West Ham's second goal. He looked the most likely to make something happen last week in the first half in particular and this season looks very promising for him.

The biggest question could be who gets to play as the central striker and it's a toss up between Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud. Walcott wasn't exactly impressive in the role in the Community Shield against Chelsea, but Giroud left a lot to be desired last week too. I still think the team needs a top class striking addition and I just hope the boss can bring one in before the deadline. 

As bad as losing at home to West Ham was things will get an awful lot worse if Arsenal lose again. If they find themselves six points off the pace after only two games then there will be an awful lot of questions to answer for a team who were riding the crest of a wave as the season begun. There is no doubt Arsenal have the players to win of course, but those players have to perform an awful lot better than last week.

I would be very surprised if the players were as bad as last week and I think they will go at Palace from the off. They can't come out tentatively showing weakness in their game and letting Palace know last week has affected their form. As bad as the two goals Arsenal gave away last week were it still has to be remembered that Arsenal failed to score and were not going to win the game even if the defence had played better.

They need to find their goal scoring touch again and maybe be a little less intricate in their build up at times. A little more unpredictability in their game wouldn't go astray either and players like Alexis, Chamberlain and Santi all have the ability to score from distance. As good as Palace can be going forward at times I think they are quite vulnerable at the back and Arsenal can and need to punish their defence.

The chances are Arsenal will do most of the attacking and Palace will try to capitalise on set pieces or try to hit them on the break. Arsenal cannot over commit players in attack and will have to organise themselves an awful lot better from set pieces than they did for West Ham's first goal. The first goal against Palace could be crucial and Arsenal need to make sure that goal comes their way. I think they will get it and a few more besides and get their season up and running even if it is a week late.

As usual this season my fantasy league is up and running again and it's open to all comers with a €50 prize (out of my pocket) to the winner. You can join up by using the league code 48497-14043 after you have set your team up here and good luck to all who play. There were over 1,000 teams in my league last season and there's already more than that signed up for this season.

I'm also running my Predictions League again this season and it's very enjoyable even if there's no cash prize for the winner. The code for my league is FD757-ARR after you have signed up here and of course both games are completely free to play. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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