Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace – PL preview
After the triumph in Naples, we face fellow Londoners Crystal Palace at home on Easter Sunday.
With their keeper, seemingly, not having knowledge of arguably the definitive events of the 20th century (for our country and globally….) Palace seems safe enough though they would want to win to ensure they’re in the Premier League next season.
They currently have 39 points and are a few places above the relegation zone. They would have to go on a negative run to get sucked into the final relegation spot. So this won’t be easy, no matter how strong at home we are.
With regard to Palace, I feel they may go cautious here, and mix defence with attack. They have players who can hurt us, and may look to how Huddersfield Town, Wolves, Everton, and Leicester City played at home. They all pressed, and targeted weak areas. We didn’t lose to any of them, but our wins vs. Huddersfield, Everton, and Leicester were due to good finishing and clinical play when required. The Wolves home draw was lucky, and thanks to Mkhitaryan scoring late.
Roy Hodgson, despite failing with England, is a seasoned and sound manager. And he will have some game plan to try and nullify us. He would know we’re weak defensively, and his best hope to get a result would be to hit our defence, and ruffle us up in midfield.
They also have Zaha and even Milijatovic who can hurt us. Zaha is arguably the highest-rated player outside the top-six, and won his side’s equalising penalty in the game at Selhurst Park.
For us, well we need the win. Our good friends will want another good result at the Etihad, and Manchester United and Chelsea will be looking to win also. We could feasibly get in third, and we cannot hope our neighbours and friends losing, or United and Chelsea slipping up. Our home form is stellar, and we need to continue this.
The win at Napoli should give us confidence, and with respect to Palace they are not on their level.
So we should win, on paper, though football is never played on paper (to paraphrase the cliché).
We need to be strong offensively, but acknowledge Palace will have an attacking game plan and could hurt us if we’re too slack.
Sokratis is suspended, and at this point, Xhaka is a doubt.
Of the available players, I’d favour this shape:
Mustafi has done well in recent games, and I’d favour Mavropanos in central defence. He was weak in the Watford game, but he needs games to sharpen himself up. Koscielny has bossed teams of late, and given Sokratis’s suspension, we need him to perform again.
The midfield three may seem conservative, though I’d favour Xhaka for the Wolves game if he’s fit for this one.
Ozil may return, and Mkhitaryan could play behind Auba.
We need to win this – but then we need to manage forthcoming games too. Wolves is our game in hand on the other top four, and whilst it’s dangerous to not be completely focused on one game, we have to be methodical.
The 4321 favours attacking shape, but also could morph into a back three or 433 if needed. Laca is available should we need him if things are desperate.
I feel it’s good to get on the front foot though, and the inclusion of Elneny ensures we retain possession. Guendouzi may be a better option, though the Wolves game is looming, and we may need our strongest midfield unscathed for that game.
Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
Palace won’t lie down, and they do have players who can cause us issues. But I feel we’ll be too strong for them, and further secure our top four position.