Arsenal look a new team these days. They’ve won four straight, three in the league, and the once inept offense may be finding it’s groove. Granted, those wins were against “easier” teams (Chelsea excluded, or maybe included). Cross-London foes Crystal Palace, who visit the Emirates today, will provide a stiffer test. The Gunners haven’t beaten the Eagles in two seasons; they drew both meetings last year and drew/lost under Unai Emery in 2018-19.
Last month was a strange one for Roy Hodgson’s side. They put five past hapless West Brom. They shipped seven against Liverpool. They were played off the pitch by Aston Villa. They drew Tottenham and Leicester City. Palace were fifth in the table at one point this season. They’ve since slipped to 13th.
They are capable of giving anybody a good game. Wilfried Zaha has rediscovered his scoring touch after an extremely down campaign last season; his 8 goals put him 8th in the Premier League this year. Palace’s Achilles heel this season has been their defense, which is in the bottom quarter of the table in terms of goals conceded. Granted that number looks a bit better if you take out even a few of the goals they conceded against Liverpool, but the point stands.
Much has been written about the improvement in Arsenal’s attack and the key role that Emile Smith Rowe has played in the resurgence. He takes up spaces that nobody else on the roster gets into, and his movement and combination play has coincided, not surprisingly, with a rejuvenated Alexandre Lacazette. The French striker playing fulcrum for Smith Rowe, Bukayo Saka, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to pivot off is working quite well.
Interesting fact: if Bukayo Saka scores or assists a goal today, he’ll be the first teenager with four straight matches with a goal involvement since Cesc Fabregas in 2007 and the youngest to manage that since Wayne Rooney in 2004, per Opta via Sam Dean.
Arsenal are, perhaps surprisingly, in pretty good shape health-wise. The scare with Gabriel Martinelli turning his ankle in warmups turned out to be not as serious as thought, and he could return to the lineup as soon as Monday against Newcastle. Gabriel Magalhaes has recovered from what was described a “mild” bout with COVID-19 and is available for selection. And even Thomas Partey could make the matchday squad.
Crystal Palace are a healthy side as well. Defender Mamadou Sakho is the only question mark — he injured his thigh over the weekend. Roy Hodgson may elect to discipline youngster Eberechi Eze, who went to watch QPR play over the weekend, beyond the already-assessed fine and could bench him today.
Arsenal enter action today just 9 points off a tie for third place. Another win would put them firmly back in the conversation for the European places.
Arsenal - Leno, Bellerin, David Luiz, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Ceballos, Saka, Smith Rowe, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Tonight's team news…— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 14, 2021
@DavidLuiz_4 starts alongside @RobHolding95
@MaitlandNiles lines up at left back
@DaniCeballos46 partners Granit Xhaka
Crystal Palace - Guaita, Ward, Tomkins, Kouyate, Mitchell, Townsend, Milivojevic, McArthur, Eze, Benteke, Zaha
COME ON YOU PALACE#CPFC | #ARSCRY— Crystal Palace F.C. (@CPFC) January 14, 2021
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Thursday, January 14th 12 PM PT | 3 PM ET | 8 PM BT
US TV: NBCSN. Stream here (TV provider log-in) and FuboTV
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