Arsenal managed to return to winning ways during the week as they ran out comfortable winners over West Ham, but they are sill facing a difficult battle to finish in the top four. They are going to be going up against Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace on Monday night and it won’t be easy for them as the Eagles are fighting for their lives towards the bottom of the league. This is a fixture that the Palace manager will be looking forward to as he gets to go up against one of his long-term rivals in Arsene Wenger.
After an initial bad start to life under Allardyce, Palace have climbed to 16th place and are currently three points above the relegation zone with a game in hand over most of their rivals. The former England manager is experienced when it comes to these situations and he looks set to complete another successful fight against relegation with Palace. They had won four successive Premier League matches before their loss against Southampton during the week. The players will be full of confidence and fancy their chances to cause an upset on Monday night.
The supporters continue to protest at the Emirates Stadium, but there is a growing expectancy that Arsene Wenger will remain at the club past the summer. There is a two-year contract on the table and it would be a surprise if he didn’t sign it. Although the majority of people feel that it is the right time for the Frenchman to leave, his stubbornness is preventing that from happening. The main focus now has to be on securing a top four finish. Despite the positive steps made during the week, they remain outsiders and can’t afford to drop points against a side like Palace. This is a must win match for the Gunners and it will be interesting to see how the players react under the pressure.
Crystal Palace haven’t had much luck in this fixture during recent seasons, with their last victory over Arsenal coming in 1994. In fact, the Gunners have won 10 of the last 14 meetings. They met earlier this year at the Emirates Stadium and it was a routine win for the home side. It will be remembered for Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick goal, while Alex Iwobi also netted on that day.
James McArthur is facing a late fitness test for the home side, while Yohan Cabaye and Loic Remy are major doubts. Scott Dann, James Tomkins, Patrick van Aanholt, Steve Mandanda and Fraizer Campbell are all injured.
Laurent Koscielny, David Ospina, Petr Cech, Lucas Perez and Santi Cazorla will all be unavailable for the away side as they all continue their recovery from various injuries.
After some criticism from certain pundits earlier this season, the Ivory Coast international has improved dramatically and he is now a lot more influential on the pitch. He has also added consistency to his game and there has been speculation linking him with a move to a bigger club. It was his performance against Chelsea that grabbed the headlines as he scored the first goal and got the assist for the winner. The winger has certainly matured since his time with Manchester United and he will be keen to deliver a similar level of performance against Arsenal on Monday. The Gunners will still be nervy at the back after a disastrous run of results, which means that they can be got at by Zaha. The 24-year-old has a lot of pace to burn and is able to beat defenders with his trickery. If Palace are to get a positive result on Monday, they need their winger to be at his best as few others possess the quality to trouble Arsenal.
It has been a season to forget for the German international as he hasn’t played as much as he would have liked due to injuries, while his performances haven’t been as good as he would expect. That isn’t to say that his contribution of six goals and six assists is bad, but a player with his talent will be disappointed with that. He has recently returned to the team after illness and he will be desperate to prove his worth before the end of the season. His future remains up in the air and he will be aware that he needs to finish strongly if he wants to move to a big club in Europe. The midfielder managed to get on the score-sheet against West Ham and performed well across the ninety minutes, which will provide him with confidence ahead of Monday’s match at Selhurst Park. He is a proven match-winner and he could be the difference on Monday night.
Crystal Palace have the best goal difference (-11) of the bottom six clubs, which gives them an advantage in the battle to stay up.
Arsenal’s win over West Ham during the week was Arsene Wenger’s 450th Premier League win as a manager.
This is a difficult match to call as Crystal Palace are fighting for their lives and possess players that can cause problems for Arsenal. If the Gunners start slowly and let the home side build up momentum, there is a real chance that Sam Allardyce’s men could take something from this game. However, Arsenal are normally strong finishers and they have a good fixture list that should allow them to rebuild their confidence. They took the first step against West Ham and I think they will record another victory on Monday night to increase the pressure on the teams above them.