Arsenal are in the box seat when it comes to finishing in the top four. On Monday, they have a chance to secure their position when they travel to face Crystal Palace. It will be a good occasion, as the Gunners are facing their former captain Patrick Vieira. The Frenchman was linked to the manager’s job at the Emirates Stadium before Mikel Arteta took the role. Although Palace have little to play for, they have been a difficult team to face for the top six teams this season. Manchester City only managed to take one point from them. It won’t be easy for the visitors on Sunday.
It was expected to be a season of struggle for Crystal Palace following the exit of Roy Hodgson. The squad was ageing and the rebuild looked to be a tall ask in one summer. However, Vieira came in and managed to decrease the average age of the squad, while coaching a more entertaining brand of football. Last season, neutrals wouldn’t have wanted to seek out a Palace match. That is a different story now, as they have one of the most exciting teams in the division. This weekend offers another opportunity for the Eagles to show their quality against better opposition. Home advantage gives them a real chance.
Arteta was under pressure at the beginning of the season. There were some supporters calling for him to lose him job, but he managed to turn things around and he now looks to be the right man for the job. Arsenal are fourth and clear of Tottenham by three points at the time of writing. They also have one game in hand over their rivals. The Gunners haven’t finished the job, but they are in a very strong position and they won’t want to open the door for the chasing pack. Rather, they will be looking above them, as a win will take them two points behind Chelsea in third.
Crystal Palace have only won one of their last nine Premier League matches against Arsenal.
Only Manchester City (23) and Liverpool (22) have won more matches than Arsenal. The Gunners have won 17 Premier League matches this season.
It has taken time for Jean-Philippe Mateta to find his stride at Crystal Palace. He was signed by Roy Hodgson, but he didn’t manage to get a regular run of games under the previous manager. It looked like his loan wouldn’t be made permanent for a long time. Recently, he has emerged as a favourite of Vieira’s and he often starts ahead of Odsonne Edouard. During the summer, it looked like he would be a back-up option at best. Therefore, his resurgence has been exciting to watch. He has now scored five goals across all competitions in relatively few minutes. Mateta has scored in two of his last three matches. Arsenal have a very reliable defence and it will be difficult for Palace to create clear cut chances. This is especially true if Michael Olise and Wilfried Zaha both miss out with injury. They will need the attackers on the pitch to take chances that come their way, as they could be few and far between. At the moment, Mateta looks to be the striker offering the biggest goal threat. He needs to start on Monday night.
After a disappointing ending to the summer, Bukayo Saka has shown great inner strength and determination to bounce back for Arsenal. It would have been easy for him to struggle after missing the crucial penalty in the Euro 2020 final. However, he has moved on and he is now emerging as the leader of the Arsenal attack, as they move closer to the Champions League. Saka is one of the most talented players in Europe and he is beginning to find his end product. The 20-year-old has contributed nine goals and five assists in the Premier League. This is easily his best season to date and he will believe that he can improve further on those numbers in the coming weeks. Palace don’t have the same defensive quality and organisation that they had under Hodgson. Saka can have a big influence this weekend.
Michael Olise, Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur are all facing late fitness tests, as they attempt to play a part against Arsenal. Nathan Ferguson is another doubt.
Takehiro Tomiyasu and Aaron Ramsdale are both doubts for the Gunners. The pair have both recovered over the international break, but they are still working their way back to match fitness. Saka pulled out of England duty, but he should be available to start.
This is going to be one of the tests for Arsenal as they attempt to return to Champions League football. Although they are leading the race, they will need to maintain their consistent level of performance. Palace have been a tricky team to beat, especially at home. That said, the Gunners have been excellent under Arteta in 2022. They should be able to clinch the three points.
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal