Crystal Palace v Arsenal: probable starters in bold, contenders in light
Arsenal are in familiar territory. After the shock defeat to West Ham, which actually did not feel that shocking, they must, to borrow the well-worn Arsène Wenger line, show that they have the quality to respond. “It’s how you respond that makes your season,” Wenger said, for the 187th time. Alexis Sánchez is champing at the bit to be unleashed from the start but it will not be easy at Palace, where morale is high
Palace come into the game on the back of a 3-1 drubbing of Norwich City on the opening day of the season and will be looking to get the better of Arsenal, who will have a few nerves dangling after a shock defeat at the hands of West Ham. Alan Pardew has made some astute signings this season and will be looking to push for a finish in the top 10, as he had managed with Newcastle during his time at the club.
The arrival of Yohan Cabaye, formerly wanted by Arsenal, will be a major boost to their midfield while the form of Yannick Bolasie can put pressure on any defence in the league. The Congo international is being scouted by Tottenham, but a win over Arsenal will go a long way in reassuring him of his value to the squad.
Meanwhile, Arsenal were brought crashing down to reality at the Emirates last weekend following their brilliant run of form in pre-season. The Gunners beat Chelsea to win the Community Shield and were being backed by pundits for a genuine title challenge this season, but the fans were in for a massive shock by the team’s performance.
Petr Cech, heralded as the man to lead Arsenal to their first title in over a decade, was at fault for the first goal as he came running in for a block but came nowhere near the ball. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was culpable for the second just after the beginning of the next period, as he gave the ball away near the penalty box.
The England international has been praised for his influence against Chelsea but the 21-year-old has to work on his concentration if he has to warrant a starting place in the squad, having made the same mistake three times this year.
Anything less than a win here for Arsene Wenger’s men will set the alarm bells ringing and put pressure on the manager to invest in the market, which he has been very hesitant to do this summer.
What managers say
Alan Pardew: “I think he would have made a great Arsenal player but, let’s be honest, he has an abundance of talent in the midfield and I don’t think that, if Yo had gone at that time, he would have got into that Arsenal team. He would have had to fight. He’s a fantastic player, we are honoured to have him and he is definitely the level of Arsenal players. I don’t think Arsene Wenger or anyone at Arsenal would disagree with that. We have a player who could definitely play in their team and that is a nice feeling for us.”
Arsene Wenger: “Every defeat makes you a bit smaller, but it is our job to take it in perspective with 37 games to go. We have the history behind us from the second half of the campaign last year which shows we have the quality to always respond and to be consistent, so let’s focus on our quality. Defeat is part of the season and of course that was not planned, but we know it is how we respond to these kind of things that will make our season.”