Two former Arsenal midfielders pit their wits against one another in the Selhurst Park dugouts on Monday night as Patrick Vieira’s Crystal Palace welcome Mikel Arteta’s Gunners for a Premier League London derby.
The Eagles managed to hold Manchester City to a goalless stalemate before the international break, while Arsenal’s top-four charge gathered momentum with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa.
One week on from being inducted into the Premier League’s Hall of Fame for his endeavours as the driving force of Arsenal’s midfield, Patrick Vieira will surely envisage no better way to celebrate the accolade than by getting one over his former club, and his current squad are no pushovers.
The Eagles boss will hope that the recent international break has not disrupted his side’s momentum, as Palace strung a six-game unbeaten run together in all tournaments and advanced to the semi-finals of the FA Cup after putting four unanswered goals past Everton, with Chelsea now lying in wait at Wembley.
With Brighton & Hove Albion failing to get the better of Norwich City on Saturday, Palace remain 12th in the rankings at the time of writing, and top-half side Aston Villa are only two points ahead of them following their recent loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Keeping three clean sheets on the bounce in all competitions is just what the doctor ordered before Palace try to quell Arsenal’s youthful attacking forces, but for all of their resilience in recent weeks, a record of two wins from their last 10 Premier League matches is still underwhelming.
Furthermore, the goalless draw with Man City stretched their winless run at Selhurst Park in the Premier League to five games since overcoming Norwich City on December 28, and Arsenal have been nothing if not ruthless on rival turf since the turn of the year.
Once again irking rival supporters and players with their joyous celebrations at Villa Park – Ashley Young in particular did not take kindly to those in yellow expressing their delight – Arsenal ground out another hard-fought but crucial victory to remain in the driving seat for a top-four finish.
Bukayo Saka’s well-taken strike settled the contest before the half-time whistle blew – although Emiliano Martinez, to the amusement of Arsenal fans, possibly should have done better – and stand-in goalkeeper Bernd Leno was mobbed by his teammates after a vital save right at the death
Having posted three wins from four in the month of March, Arteta’s feats were recognised with his second manager of the month award, and while the Spaniard’s side are clinging onto fourth spot at the time of writing, Tottenham Hotspur could temporarily usurp them with victory over Newcastle United on Sunday.
Arsenal’s games in hand, of course, cannot be overlooked – although they face two daunting challenges with Chelsea and Manchester United before the end of the month – and their postponed North London derby with Antonio Conte’s side is yet to be rescheduled.
Nevertheless, the Gunners have stuck to the task at hand admirably with six wins from their last seven in the Premier League, and they have also triumphed in each of their last five away from home in the top flight – not since 2013 have they enjoyed a longer streak on the road in the competition.
However, Arteta’s men had to rely on a last-gasp Alexandre Lacazette equaliser to salvage a 2-2 draw against Palace at the Emirates – the fifth stalemate in the sides’ last seven meetings – but Arsenal’s young guns starred in a 3-1 Selhurst Park win last May.
Crystal Palace Premier League form:
Crystal Palace form (all competitions):
Arsenal Premier League form:
We say: Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal
Had Olise and Zaha not been nursing their fitness woes ahead of this game, Palace fans could be forgiven for expecting their side to take something from the derby, especially seeing how these two outfits love a stalemate.
Vieira’s men still possess the attacking nous needed to breach a Ramsdale-less Arsenal backline, but Arteta’s side will aim to pick up where they left off and have that winning formula away from home right now, so we can only back the Gunners to remain in control for fourth spot with a narrow victory.