Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal – Premier League preview
It’s north vs. south London on Sunday, and the media as usual term this a “London derby”. Yes, technically it’s accurate. We’re both in the same city, so we’re geographically close. However, derby to me denotes rivalry, hate, and animosity. This for us only applies to Spurs – and Chelsea at a stretch. Palace hasn’t really been a serious rival to Arsenal in any respect, though they did sell us Ian Wright, so they’re not all bad.
That said, despite our winning run, caution is advised here.
Yes, Palace is near the bottom. Bar Zaha, they may not have many other threats.
And Hodgson isn’t the best of managers out there or at least hasn’t achieved much at the very top level for many years. Yes, he has pedigree no doubt (managing Inter at one point), but his spells at Liverpool and England have tarnished his reputation somewhat.
However, there are some key points Hodgson could take here, and manifesting from our recent games:
- Poor defence
Our defensive issues are still apparent and haven’t been corrected as yet. Palace will look to get Zaha to attack our back-line and they overall may press us high up the pitch. They will look to get an early goal or two, and it’s critical that we ride this out.
They will look to rough us up and dominate the midfield, and playing Torreira and Guendouzi from the start is crucial. Teams are still employing the “later Wenger” tactical plan against us – rough us up, boss the midfield, and press us. It’s not working, possibly since our attitude and play have changed somewhat. But then teams who haven’t prospered against us that much hasn’t been clinical enough to exploit it. Palace needs to be if they are going to get a result.
- Catch us when we’re weak
I’m beginning to think that our recent trend of 45-minute football is intentional. Maybe Emery acknowledges that we’re still weak, and it’s just best to ride it out and use our superior attacking strengths to win games. And to be fair, it’s pretty much working. It’s possible that Emery is realising that the teams we’ve played lately have not had the attacking prowess to dominate us. Maybe there is a defined game plan, to weather their physical storms. Thus far, the ship has not sprung leaks.
Hodgson is a seasoned manager and would be astutely monitoring our games to see how to beat us. I’d be surprised if he didn’t since they need the points.
It’s been a long-held adage in football that to counter technically superior sides, one needs to out-muscle them, stifle them, and “out-tactic” them. It’s one reason why we suffered in the later Wenger period since we didn’t have the physical guile and strength to out-muscle them in the “winning years”. Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp, etc. could do this – but the crop of late couldn’t in contrast.
Our success here should depend on riding the Palace storm, and it will come, since they are at home, and they will have no choice but to get at us.
But then I think we can ride the storm, and get another win in our stellar run.
Hopefully Emery is minding these points too, and in turn, will analyse Palace to see how to exploit them. Keeping tabs on Zaha is primary, but if he can be stifled, then they surely cannot handle our attacking prowess.
Ozil didn’t play in Portugal, and should be looking to continue his fine Leicester performance.
I don’t anticipate many changes from the Sporting game, though possibly Auba and Laca may play together. Will we see Ramsey? As Xhaka is now a deputy-full back, he may start. Though it may not be as a number 10, but in a more orthodox mid position.
As for the result, I believe we can win again, but Palace will look to attack us, and I think they will get a goal. Spurs are playing Man City, and we should capitalise on this, since they could drop points. If we can pull further ahead of them, all the better. I’m hoping Aguero advances his Golden Boot push on Monday, and at the expense of Kane, naturally….