Following a terrific display against Manchester United and a permissible display against Leeds, Arsenal look to continue their winning ways on Saturday when they travel to Crystal Palace. Palace Manager Roy Hodgson and his Eagle’s side will be a tough test for Arsenal, who currently sit above the Gunners by a single point in the league table.
Since taking over [a dumpster fire] 850 days ago from Frank De Boer, boss Roy Hodgson has been an admirable servant to a club who seemed doomed to relegation. Since his appointment, the Eagles are 38-25-43 and have finished 11th/12th in his two seasons. While Hodgson can be fairly mundane in respect his style of play, he will surely be happy sitting ninth in the table with a record of 7-7-7. Talk about consistency...
“Palace are quite predictable under Hodgson - hard to break down and go through [Wilfried Zaha].”
Hard to break down is an understatement. Palace have let in only 23 goals against (fourth best) in their 21 matches played so far. Their defense has been stifling for Premier League opponents to break down - and a key reason why they are in the top half of the table. Considering they lost Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United over the summer, Palace can take a lot of pride in what they are doing in the defensive third.
But there is a tale of two cities...
While the defense is impressive, the offense is a polar opposite. A mere 19 goals scored is second worst in the Premier League — only Watford have less (17). Their leading goal scorer Jordan Ayew only has five goals in 20 appearances (averaging one goal every 335 minutes). Palace’s other primary contributor Wilfried Zaha has had a poor season as well, with only three goals and two assists in 20 starts. The Eagle’s will need to sort out their offensive issues if they want to finish the season strong.
Palace have struggled as of late, most recently being kicked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Derby County. In their last six Premier League games they have one win, four draws, and a loss. With only eight points separating the Eagles and the relegation spots, Palace will need to turn things around to ensure safety.
A slew of injuries has hit Palace recently. Per Football.London: Defenders Scott Dann, Mamadou Sakho, Joel Ward and Patrick van Aanholt are currently sidelined, while Andros Townsend, Jeffrey Schlupp and Christian Benteke have also been missing in recent weeks. Despite an injury scare earlier in the week. Roy Hodgson stated that Zaha has been declared fit for tomorrow.
Arsenal will have painful memories of the last time they met against Crystal Palace — which I am sure everyone recalls. For those who don’t: After throwing away a two goal lead to Palace at home, the Arsenal captain [at the time] Granit Xhaka was jeered by the Gunner’s fans during a substitution for showing little effort to get off the pitch in a timely fashion. The subsequent fallout has led to Instagram posts, press conferences, and Xhaka being stripped of his leadership role on the team.
Recently, Arteta spoke about Granit Xhaka’s future with the club after months of speculation about a transfer to Hertha Berlin. It seems as though things may have settled down since then:
Mikel Arteta on Granit Xhaka's Arsenal future...— Football Daily (@footballdaily) January 10, 2020
"I convinced him to stay" pic.twitter.com/d6kmt7gbbC
Away from the drama, Mikel Arteta will be taking charge of his second away match after three games at home. If the Gunners want to give Mikel Arteta his first away win tomorrow, they are heading to an ideal venue in Selhurst Park. Palace are known for being poor at home (18th in points accrued last season), and have a league-worst nine goals scored at home this season. This is good news for Arsenal’s current streak of two(!!!!) games with a clean sheet. Rob Holding’s return against Leeds along with Hector Bellerin being assessed ahead of Saturday, Arsenal’s defense can only improve from here... right?
In Arsenal’s last six against Crystal Palace, the team’s are an even 2-2-2. They combined for at least three goals in those six games, so expect entertainment when the two clubs face each other tomorrow. Arsenal have not won against Palace since January 20th, 2018.
Currently, Arsenal are nine points out of the Champions League spots and seven spots from relegation. With a competitive league top-to-bottom this year, the Gunners have a chance of gaining ground on the top four if they can beat Palace this week and Sheffield United next week.
After those two games? Arsenal travel to fourth placed Chelsea. Buckle up!
WHAT: Arsenal at Crystal Palace
WHERE: Selhurst Park, London, England
WHEN: Saturday, January 11th, 4:30 AM PT | 7:30 AM ET | 12:30 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN
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