Preview: Arsenal vs. Crystal Palace
Having been denied a reunion with their former Invincibles captain, Arsenal welcome managerless Crystal Palace to the Emirates Stadium for Sunday afternoon’s Premier League London derby.
The Gunners can surge eight points clear at the top of the table with victory, while the Eagles gave Patrick Vieira the boot on Friday amid a 12-game winless run.
On Thursday night, one of the greatest, if not the greatest, goals ever scored at the Emirates Stadium flew into the back of the net from 46 yards, but unfortunately for Arsenal, it was one that proved to be the catalyst for more Europa League heartache.
Fresh from a 2-2 draw in the first leg of their last-16 clash with Sporting Lisbon, Granit Xhaka sent Arsenal ahead before Pedro Goncalves caught Aaron Ramsdale off his line with an unbelievable long-range strike, forcing extra time and a penalty shootout in which Gabriel Martinelli fluffed his lines from 12 yards.
Some glass-half-full Gunners fans were quick to label their continental exit as a blessing in disguise – a sentiment not shared by Mikel Arteta – as the surprise Premier League title contenders focus all their efforts on keeping Manchester City at bay during the business end of the season.
An extremely comfortable 3-0 success at Fulham last weekend – Arsenal’s fifth Premier League win on the bounce – saw them maintain their five-point lead over the champions, and that advantage will extend to eight with a win as Pep Guardiola’s side compete in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Scoring at least three goals in four of their last five Premier League matches, Arteta has implored his side to immediately bounce back from their European misery, but a different kind of bounce may be in effect for their capital counterparts in the wake of the division’s latest sacking.
The St Patrick’s Day witticisms were out in full force when Crystal Palace relieved Patrick Vieira of his duties on March 17, as the 46-year-old – along with coaches Osian Roberts, Kristian Wilson and Said Aigoun – departed following an ugly 12-game winless run in 2023.
A 1-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday – courtesy of a Solly March strike – proved to be the final nail in the Frenchman’s coffin, but Palace at least managed to snap their horrendous streak of failing to have a shot on target in three Premier League games on the South coast.
As the Eagles board search high and low for a replacement – with Under-21s coach Paddy McCarthy preparing for a baptism of fire at the Emirates – Palace’s on-field recruits can only pray for an immediate new manager bounce to come into effect at the Emirates, as they are entrenched in 12th place in the table and only three points clear of the drop zone.
Not since overcoming Bournemouth on New Year’s Eve have the Eagles prevailed in any competition – losing four and drawing one of their last five Premier League away games – and their unwanted streak without a goal now stands at four games, but the Emirates is often a kind ground to those in blue and red.
Indeed, Palace have avoided defeat in their last four Premier League away games at Arsenal – throwing away two points in a 2-2 draw last season courtesy of Alexandre Lacazette’s late leveller – but the Gunners opened the new top-flight campaign with a straightforward 2-0 win at Selhurst Park back in August.
Arsenal Premier League form:
Arsenal form (all competitions):
Crystal Palace Premier League form:
We say: Arsenal 2-0 Crystal Palace
Understandably fearing the classic new manager bounce given what happened against Sean Dyche’s Everton, such concerns from Gooners should prove unfounded against a shot-shy Palace side rocked by a change in the hierarchy.
Even with jellied legs working against them, Arteta named several first-teamers on the bench in midweek and has an abundance of options for change, so we do not expect any shocks to be sprung on the Emirates turf as Arsenal increase their advantage at the top.