Monday, 10 April 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Crystal Palace Previewed

The weekend hasn't gone too well for Arsenal so far with the rest of the top six all playing and winning which means nothing less than three points will do against Crystal Palace. As it stands they still have every chance of overhauling Liverpool, City and United with games in hand on all of them and three points against Palace would put them ahead of United on goal difference. A top four finish is most certainly not anything like a trophy, but it's infinitely better than finishing outside the top four.

Arsenal still have eight games to go after the Palace game and bizarrely two of those games have still to be scheduled with only six weeks until the end of the season. At this stage it looks like their games against Sunderland and Southampton away from home will come on May 10th and either May 16th or 17th. Of all the teams chasing a top four place their finish to the season looks the toughest and they're the ones struggling for form most of all too.

They at least got back on the horse in their last two games with a 2-2 draw at home to City followed by a 3-0 win at home to West Ham. They have to continue their revival against a Palace team who are desperate for points to avoid relegation and who won away to league leaders Chelsea last week. They did lose at Southampton in midweek though and they only have three points to spare over the bottom three.

Their fortunes have improved an awful lot in recent weeks with four wins in a row before that defeat to Southampton and clean sheets in three of those games too. As it stands no other team has taken less points at home than Palace and only the bottom two clubs have scored less goals at home. They have actually taken more points away from home than they have at home, but their recent form means they cannot be underestimated.

From a selection point of view I think Arsene Wenger should probably go with the same team which beat West Ham despite having both Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available to him. The performance was far from exceptional, but it was certainly better than it has been in a long time. I for one would like to see more of the Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny partnership in midfield as I think the two of them together might just offer the balance the midfield has been painfully missing.

There is a case to be made for Olivier Giroud returning instead of Danny Welbeck I suppose or even Welbeck pushing wide and Alexis Sanchez playing through the middle where he is clearly at his best. I think more of what we saw in the second half in particular against West Ham is what's required though and an unchanged team might be the way to do just that.

Palace have their players to watch of course with both Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke proving a real hand full when they beat Chelsea, but Arsenal certainly have players better than both of them. As good as Palace might have been against Chelsea they also rode their luck at the back and could easily have conceded a hat full of goals. If Arsenal are in any way clinical in front of goal tonight I think they should see this game out with a couple of goals to spare.

Of course I'll be perfectly happy with any sort of victory, but the better the performance the more likely it is to inspire confidence in a team which has been short of it for so long now. There are tougher challenges to come before the season ends, but they need to get ones like this out of the way for those challenges to even become important. I have a feeling they will do just that tonight and I must admit it's great to have some confidence in the players for a change and I only hope they can live up to the billing.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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