On August 16th, Crystal Palace travel to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal to open up the Premier League season. The new season is upon us and both squads will look to build on their successful 2013/2014 campaigns although Crystal Palace have been struck a major blow after losing Tony Pulis yesterday. Arsenal finally ended their nine year trophy drought and this year will look to push for the Premier League title. Palace stayed in the top division for the first time in the Premier League era. The two teams have very different aspirations for the new season, but will both want to start with a good result.
Arsenal will be missing Theo Walcott as he is still on his road to recovery from his ACL injury. New Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina will miss the game and may miss a few more after Arsene Wenger left him out of the squad for their Champions League qualifier against Besiktas. Arsenal will also be without their three World Cup winners Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, and Lukas Podolski, who all just resumed training at the beginning of the week and are not yet match fit. Laurent Koscielny looks like he will be fit for the match despite picking up an achilles issue during the Community Shield.
Crystal Palace will likely be without tenacious defender Damian Delaney. It looks like promising Welshman Jonathan Williams will also be missing due to injury. Palace may have defender Adrian Mariappa back in the squad as he is close to recovering from his rib injury.
- Arsenal have not won an their opening game of the season since they beat Everton 6-1 in 2009.
- Arsenal have won their last four meetings with Crystal Palace.
- The last time Crystal Palace beat the Gunners was when they went to Highbury and won 2-1 in 1994.
- Three of the last four meetings between the two teams have been 0-0 at half time.
- None of those meetings ended goalless with two goals being scored in the second half on each occasion.
What more can be said about Aaron Ramsey‘s 2013/2014 campaign. He was absolutely phenomenal for Arsenal and won their Player of the Season. Ramsey is as important and as good as any player in that Gunners team. The former Cardiff midfielder was involved in a goal (scored or assisted) every 98 minutes in the Premier League last season. In all competitions, the 23 year old was involved in 25 goals in 35 appearances. The Welshman was Arsenal’s best player last season and is their most important player going forward. Ramsey’s all around game is just as important as his goals.
Mile Jedinak was one of only seven players to start all 38 Premier League games in 2013/2014. The Australian midfielder is a stalwart for the Eagles and will continue to be one of their most important players. Arsenal will inevitably flood the midfield and Jedinak will be one of the players tasked with trying to stop those talented midfielders. The Palace captain made more tackles than any other player in the Premier League last season and won 76.7% of them. Only Crystal Palace team-mate Marouane Chamakh attempted more challenges than the Australian international. Based on the way Palace played when they went to the Emirates last season and Palace will put men behind the ball and try to frustrate Arsene Wenger’s men although anything could be possible now with Palace losing Pulis. Jedinak’s physical presence and work rate will be important in frustrating and stopping those talented players in the Arsenal team.
Arsenal are heavy favourites for this game and they should be. They’re at home, they have the more talented squad and, unlike this time last year, there is a lot of harmony among the fans and in the camp. Crystal Palace were as tough to beat as anyone at the close of last season but losing their manager will be a significant blow to their chances and I’d have to go with an Arsenal win.
Prediction: 3-1 Arsenal
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