Our long winter of international break has once again drawn to a close. Our beloved Arsenal are back in action, playing host to Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace side. If, like Ben White, you weren’t familiar with Patrick Vieira’s resume, he was a pretty good player who did some cool things for Arsenal (understatement intentional). I’m sure the Emirates faithful will give him a warm welcome back. And I then I hope the Gunners beat the tar out of his side.
Vieira has Palace off to a middling start, amassing a 1-4-2 record with 8 goals scored and 11 conceded. The Eagles drew Leicester in their last match before the break, scoring two second half goals to erase a 2-0 deficit. For a more detailed look, check out Scott Willis’ thread. Palace aren’t doing anything new or groundbreaking — they want to possess the ball, play solid defense, and look for Wilfried Zaha to do something special.
A little Crystal Palace thread. They have been a surprisingly good team!— Scott “says soccer” Willis (@oh_that_crab) October 15, 2021
Let's start looking at their 21/22 Attacking and Defensive Radars pic.twitter.com/TuhL4ZaOds
I think Arsenal should do pretty well against Palace’s style. I don’t see the Gunners, with their tendency to drop deeper once the ball reaches the middle third, having too much trouble defending from a tactical standpoint. It’s going to take a mistake or someone getting beat 1-v-1 (which is what Zaha does, to be fair) for Palace to get a chance.
As has been the case for too long, the match will hinge on whether Arsenal are able to generate any sort of consistent attacking threat and scoring chances. Aidan thinks that Emile Smith Rowe could be the key that unlocks the Arsenal attack, that he can provide that “je ne sais quoi” to create the chaos and a break from the formulaic attacking patterns to unsettle the defense and work some chances.
I agree. I also think that finding a consistent way to move the ball from the defense, through the middle third, and into the attacking third is critically important. That seems like a “well duh” thing to say, and it is. But against Brighton, possessions went awry at midfield or just inside the attacking half of the pitch and that can’t happen. I think the answer is Martin Ødegaard dropping a bit deeper to be another passing outlet for Thomas Partey and / or the centerbacks so that the ball movement isn’t as formulaic for Arsenal and “forceable” into bad spots by the defense.
Gabriel Martinelli picked up a slight knock over the international break and may not be available for the Gunners. Granit Xhaka is out long-term with a knee injury. Crystal Palace are still without Nathan Ferguson and Ebere Eze, who are both working back from Achilles injuries.
Arsenal - Ramsdale, Tomiyasu, White, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Ødegaard, Saka, Smith Rowe, Pépé, Aubameyang
Crystal Palace - Guaita, Ward, Guéhi, Andersen, Mitchell, Milivojevic, McArthur, Gallagher, Ayew, Benteke, Edouard
WHAT: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
WHERE: The Emirates
WHEN: Monday, October 18, 12 pm PT | 3 pm ET | 8 pm BT
US TV: Streaming only on Peacock.
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