15 August 2015

We've gone from Chamakh to Özil, but what do we have to show for it?

This is it. Just one game in, and Arsenal’s 2015-16 campaign already hangs by a thread. Every single one of our dreams of building on last season’s promises lies shattered into a billion tiny pieces—every. Single. One.

Okay, so I exaggerate a bit. Still, after how we opened against West Ham, there’s bound to be some trepidation about the trip to Selhurst Park. Let’s soothe those jangled nerves, shall we?

Now, that's a study in contrasts, innit?
Yes, Palace opened their own campaign with what looks a swashbuckling 1-3 win over re-promoted Norwich, but keep in mind that the Canaries had a goal disallowed to keep the score 1-2, and Palace's new man Cabaye scored the third in the closing seconds of stoppage-time. While we can hardly afford to write them off, let’s not panic over the possibilities. They won; we lost; both squads move on to the next fixture. Palace have not beaten us in any of their latest four tries. If anything, our loss to West Ham has been, as Coquelin describes it, a “wake-up call.” We were off our game, looking listless and toothless by turns, and the Hammers punished us. The squad, stung by that setback, know that they can’t start the season with two humiliations in a row, will surely come out like a pack of rabid vampires that have spent too long in the desert and are really, really thirsty…erm. You take my meaning; I’ll practice the similes.

Crystal Palace are likely to try to blunt that assault with a hunkered-down 4-4-1-1, conceding possession and daring us to pick apart a gritty, stubborn thicket of defenders. Cabaye gives them more incisiveness on the rare counter-attacks that they do launch, with Wilfried Zaha and Jason Puncheon trying to fly down the wings. Monreal and Debuchy will have to mind their positioning and be ready for a fair few footraces down the flanks. Through the middle, Glenn Murray is unlikely to test Kos or Per very much, but they’ll have to be aware of his ability to win balls out of the air for Zaha and Puncheon to run onto. Sadly, we may be shorn of any Chamakh jokes as the former Gunner doesn’t look to feature in Pardew’s plans—he didn’t even make the bench against Norwich.

At our end, we’ll certainly have to tighten up the shoddy defending that allowed West Ham to score; just as important, we’ll have to find someone who can score for us. While the introduction of Alexis late on seemed to smack of desperation, it also highlights our struggles to score when he isn’t on the pitch in the first place. It will be a challenge to unlock Palace’s parked-bus, but I’d expect Arsène to name an XI that has more of an attacking edge to it. It seemed last week that he wanted to find room for both Ramsey and Cazorla on the pitch, and the absence of Alexis meant that Cazorla went to the left. While the Ramsey-Coquelin pairing could be something thing in the long term, we do have to turn our attention to the short term. For now.

LAST 3
  • Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (21.02.2015)
  • Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace (16.08.2014)
  • Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace (02.02.2014)
FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first met 1 November 1969, a 1-5 win to Arsenal.
  • Crystal Palace has not defeated Arsenal in any competition since 10 November 1979—25 matches. 
  • Arsenal have scored at least two goals in their last five matches against Crystal Palace.
INJURIES
  • Rosický, Wilshere, and Welbeck have been ruled out.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Čech; Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Debuchy; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Walcott; Giroud.
PREDICTION 
  • Despite Palace’s stubbornness, Arsenal should find a way through in order to overcome last week’s setback.
  • Crystal Palace 0-2 Arsenal.